How to absorb foreign culture

Authored By Brian

DIA Supermercado logoYes, I have food. It sounds like such a simple task: acquire something to eat. But then you throw on top of that not speaking the language very well, not knowing the neighborhood very well, not knowing where to look to find that kind of information (like Yahoo?) and finding a well-stocked grocery store is quite a chore. But today, courtesy of DIA Supermercados, I have conquered. I dealt with the fruit lady, the meat man and the check out lady and it only cost me 25 euros. I even found pinto beans! I think Dia is one of those places that charge you for the plastic bags if you don’t bring your own. That’s kind of weak.

Have you ever wanted to do something, set about doing it and then realized that you should have done it a little bit differently? I’m at that point in my trip right now. I’m caught between loving being abroad and wanting to do more of it with wanting to go back home where I have my friends and racing and a comfortable chair. It’s not that I don’t want to stay but as I’m getting more settled in, I’m realizing there are a number of things I should do differently if I want to stay.

Number one is get a job. I mean a job working with locals. I’m too detached from frequent contact and it’s hurting my ability to learn Spanish and local culture. I’m substituting with Spanish radio and TV but nothing beats the full-time challenge of straining to listen to everything everyone is saying and then composing a response. I’d probably want to take it easy and only work part-time to allow for traveling but some daily interaction would be nice. It would also counter my natural tendency to be a hermit.

Number two is get transportation. A car is probably a pain unless you have parking but a motorcycle or scooter would be perfect for getting about. Mind you, I love the public transportation here but there are still times when personal transportation is a little better for what you want to accomplish (e.g., carrying heavy groceries). And when living in a new place, a car might be worth the hassle to accommodate out-of-town travel. Madrid has this crazy Xanadu facility outside of town where you can go snowboarding for 12 euros an hour year-round. Spanish hero and WRC champion Carlos Sainz also has an indoor karting facility out that direction but either the suburban trains don’t run there or they would take forever.

The one thing I have done well is isolated myself from other foreigners. Most of the people I hang out with here are native Spanish speakers and I like that.

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