University of Wisconsin–Madison

That’s Not How We Do Things Here

There’s a lot of beautiful things about Spain and Spanish culture: the expectation that after a meal, you’ll take your time to drink wine slowly and talk with your dining companions, the love and dedication to family, and the weekend time dedicated to relaxing inside. That being said, sometimes it feels like Spain is telling me that getting things done is Not Allowed because of how difficult it can be. For example, the process of getting a flu shot here took way more time and preparation than it ever would in Madison, where they give out so many free flu shots you’re basically walking into needles every time you enter Gordon’s. Here, flu shots are mostly for kids or old people, not college students, and I had to jump through a couple hoops to get one. I had to call the doctor and make an appointment, and then before my appointment, I had to buy the actual vaccine at a pharmacy around the corner from the doctor’s office and then run it over to the doctor so he could inject it into me. Here’s the catch: if the vaccine gets warm, it’s not effective. So I had to hurry up and get it to the doctor’s office, where the kindly secretary put it in the fridge while I waited for my appointment. The stress of holding a cold box of vaccine in the pleasant afternoon sun was comical, waiting for the light to change so the seven euros I spent on the shot wouldn’t be in vain.

Another example of Spanish culture is that a lot of students here don’t really study on a week to week basis, they mostly study for the final exam a week or so beforehand and just cram. Which might explain why my quest to find a library ended in vain last Saturday when I wanted to get a start on one of my many final papers (Who said abroad classes were a joke? They lied). I began the day by traveling to Lavapiés, a neighborhood that I’ve explored on several class outings and have been learning about. There’s a public library there built inside a building that was semi-destroyed during the Spanish civil war; it’s very cool from the outside and supposedly a good atmosphere for studying. When I got there with Mariel, we found out it was only open on weekdays. We probably should have called it a day at that point, but we went to a nearby café called La Infinito, where we had studied once or twice before. In Madison, studying in coffee shops is my method of choice, but here it’s definitely not as common, and taking a laptop to some public locations can be risky.

The library built in a relic of Civil War-era Spain
The library built in a relic of Civil War-era Spain

After a few hours at the café, we decided to risk another library adventure. One library looked promising: it was in the neighborhood Salamanca, a half-hour metro ride away, and was open until 7 on Saturdays. When we finally got there, we found that wifi only worked if you had a public library card (a new rule starting November 2nd), and not only that, but not a single outlet in the library worked. There’s only so much work you can do without a computer. Defeated, we returned to Mariel’s apartment to attempt to study for the hours left in the afternoon, a huge bar of chocolate serving as a consolation for our thwarted efforts. Lesson learned: study during the week, and keep your weekends for playtime, because studying on a Saturday is not the Spanish way of doing things.