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“Que Será, Será / Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
Pictures are worth 1000 words, right?
This is Alicante, in 2000 words mas o menos. (More or Less)
Today when skyping with a friend from home, she began discussing her incredibly busy schedule, in which almost every moment of her day was devoted to work or school, and without even realizing it I began nervously tapping my foot, and wringing my hands. I have only been here in Spain for 2 and a half months, have I really forgotten how to be a busy, driven, and productive American student? What has Spain done to my motivation?!
Spain is clearly a very different country from America, however; one of the greatest dissimilarities I have found is actually beyond clearly cut cultural norms, it lies in the attitude and expectations that Spanish society places on their youth. Here, the youth, (los jóvenes) are, at first glance, given a lot of power in Spanish society. Since the economy is bad, and especially horrible in Spain, the youth are not necessarily expected to have jobs. They go to school, and eventually the University, at times until they are almost 30 years old. During this period of time, unless they finish their degrees, get offered a job, or get married, they are still living at home with their parents, who in turn, feed them, clothe them, and basically ensure their well being.
Now in America, anyone living with his or her parents, without a job, between the ripe ages of 27-35 years of age would probably be classified in Webster’s Dictionary under the term “Loser”, however, in Spain, it’s a completely different ball game. Just the fact alone that individuals reaching and exceeding the age of 35 are still considered “youth” is quite an interesting differentiation from the continually driven concepts enforced in American society. Yet, when pondering the fact itself, living at home does have its benefits. The Spanish youth are allowed to basically free-load and enjoy life without having to stress about how to make next weeks rent. They are still intellectually challenged at the University, but, they don’t have to continually have a map of the future in their back pocket, which they need to pull out daily just to make sure they are ‘on track’. So where’s the negative? Why have American’s not caught onto this Spanish trend?
Well, first off, the American dream just wouldn’t stand for it. Can you imagine “In the future I want a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a significant other, approximately 2.4 children, and a dog named max…” turning into, “In the future I want to live in my parents basement for as long as possible becoming extremely familiar with European films and roaming the streets at night with my friends…” Nope. Definitely not happening.
Although, I’m not entirely sure that the Spanish youth actually enjoy the financial freedom that they have. This past weekend my padres left to visit their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren in Madrid, leaving me alone with my 27-year-old sister. I have grown quite fond of my hermana española, however, in the past 2 and a half months, I haven’t really gotten to know her entirely that well. Besides our shared fascination with The Beatles and the movie Across The Universe, my hermana doesn’t really make it to many family meals, and spends the majority of her time out of the house with her friends.
This past weekend when I returned home to eat dinner on Friday night, I saw what I thought were the makings of a Spanish house party taking place in my living room. Upon closer inspection I realized, my hermana had just invited about 13 of her closest friends over, and instead of the rowdy party that I had expected to find, they were all gathered around the dinning room table, eating dinner, and playing cards. I was a little shocked until I realized how unordinary this was for them. To have a place of their own to just hang out, no questions asked. In Spanish society homes are mainly made to occupy family, and it is not very common to have friends over in large quantities. Not to mention, living with your parents puts some boundaries around who, where, and when you can have guests. Automatically, I was so thankful for my tiny little apartment back at school where my friends and I like to hang out watching old Friends episodes or the newest episode of Glee. I guess I never realized how extraordinary that sort of experience was until I saw it being unordinary for someone else.
After that experience I have come to see positive and negative aspects on both sides of this cultural divide. I despise the way that even thinking about next semester’s courses makes me begin to bite my nails, and I still believe that the stress and expectations of American students gets to be a bit much, however; along with all of the stress there is undoubtedly some form of success, and the great feeling of being somewhat independent, of being just on the brink of adulthood. Yet, is the final outcome worth all of the stress that just becomes a daily and accepted occurrence in the life of an American student?
One element of Spanish society which I have absolutely fallen in love with is the stress-free attitude that Spaniards have. The idea of always being “tranquilo”(calm) and “no te preocupes”(Don’t worry) is like an anthem that courses through the culture. I have actually begun to enjoy the way my Spanish professors don’t have exact dates for assignments, and may not start class exactly on time. How buses may be a little (up to 30 minutes) late, and you may be late to class but tranquilo, tranquilo, no te preocupes. Que será, sera (whatever will be, will be). At first, coming from a very calculated schedule, I hated this concept, but the idea began to grow on me. Besides, most things that happen, can’t be altered, so why stress out about them, right? With this newfound ideal, I may be able to handle the stress of next semester’s class…maybe.