by Sally Sorte
-Yes, I feel like a cup of coffee-
With an endless supply of German beer at my fingertips, and sometimes bonking my elbow, the twelve hour flight cruised right by. Either because of two-dimensional maps, or because greek life has gotten to me, I forget that flying straight over the Atlantic isn’t always the most direct route to the eastern (in comparison to us) continents. We flew over the North Pole, ice pipe cleaners crystallizing across my window, and although I didn’t spot any elves or auroras, we dashed through the cold pink clouds of an amazing sunrise.
I view the three stages of culture shock as analogous to dating. You have your lovey dovey honeymoon period at the beginning, then the differences and annoying habits accost your attention, but if you’re able to get through these speed bumps then you’re on your way to long term success.
My honeymoon ended as soon as I stepped out of the taxi onto the corner of la calle Don Ramon de la Cruz (the street names here are a mouthful) with my suitcase, backpack, and carry-on (half as much as the girl from USC who split the taxi with me) into 39˚C-plus degree heat and nobody answered the buzzer.
A few other things I wasn’t prepared to encounter: plain toast for dinner (the abuela says jam is only used at breakfast), water is scarce in Spain (so turn off the shower while you scrub, and then back on to rinse, hence I have new appreciation for my lufa), thievery on the metro is rampant (stash your cash in your money belt or bra), second hand smoke feels pretty first hand when it’s blown in your face (oxygen masks are only cute on TV), and all the cool kids pee their pants, since public restrooms don’t exist.
On the other end of the spectrum, Madrilenes share Whitman’s perspective on litter—it’s trashy; the night life is raging; the drinking age is much improved, no fake necessary; whenever I get lost (which is often) I find yet another museum or architectural phenomenon; I don’t have to pretend to be Canadian; the insults are hilarious (Multaplicase por cero! Go multiply yourself by zero!); and the shopping is off the chain.