Face to Face over Texting
One of the most interesting observations I made while in Spain was how they socialize. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Spanish have strong family values, are a more physical culture when communicating, and also have high access to smartphones.
Like in the United States, this high access to smartphones can be seen everywhere. One can see it in parks, restaurants, and just while walking around. The difference between the United States and Spain is that once a parent takes a picture of their kid at the park, they put their phone away. Once someone’s friends or family get to a restaurant, the phones are set down and not picked up again. Once someone has found their way walking and are done using their maps app, the phone is gone.
In Spain face to face communication is valued over texting and messaging. Even though social media is a big part of their lives, just like in the United States, it is reserved for when people are alone. It was amazing to see everyone talking and communicating so much when I was in public. You could tell people genuinely cared about what you were saying and always gave each other their undivided attention.
While in Spain I learned a new word, sobremesa. The literal translation of this word is “over table.” The meaning of this word is essentially after meal chat. Sobremesa occurs after you have eaten a meal out with friends or family and the chat can last for hours. This is time where you literally just talk after you’re done eating and maybe you enjoy a coffee or wine.
In Spain the servers aren’t trying to rush you out when you’re done eating. They expect you to sit there and talk for at least an hour after a meal with your companions. Once with a couple of friends we were in a rush after eating lunch. We asked for our bill right when we finished eating and the waiter looked confused and quickly ran off for our check. The relaxed and chatty culture was such a different experience than anything I have encountered in the U.S.
Late Night Talks
Another interesting phenomenon I observed was how late people would stay out just sitting and talking. No matter what hour I was walking around at night- all the way up to the next morning- I could find people just sitting having a conversation on a bench. It could be 3 or 4 am and people would still just be sitting outside with friends, smartphones in their pockets, talking to each other.
It was wonderful to see people conversing like this. I saw nothing like this in any other country I visited, only Spain. It would be beautiful if more cultures adopted this practice.