From Guildford to Madrid

Hi everyone!

For this blog post I wanted to spend some time comparing the UK culture to the Spanish one. Before coming to university, I was quite intrigued by this difference and probably some of you are too. Hopefully this post will give you a clearer idea on what it’s like to live in the UK compared to Spain. 

I was inspired to do this post during the Christmas holidays, when I invited two of my best friends to join me in Madrid. My friends both live in the UK, speak native English and had never been in Madrid before. We actually met on the first week of our International Relations course and we’ve been ever friends since. I’ve learnt a lot about British culture from them, and I thought it was about time to return the favor. 

We had been wanting to do the trip for some time, but because of Covid we kept postponing it. It finally happened a few weeks ago! 

Showing my coursemates the neighbourhood of Lavapies

Here are some of the things that culturally chocked them and that I found interesting/funny:

  • The first difference is obvious and it’s the fact that in Spain cars drive the other way (like in most parts of the world). What we did realize though, is that in Spain pedestrians are more important than in the UK. For instance, you will always have priority when passing through a crosswalk and cars will always stop. In the UK you frequently have to wait for a car to stop until you can cross. 
  • Something that surprised my friends were Spanish greetings. While in the UK you usually say hi from a distance or shake hands when meeting someone, in Spain everyone goes directly for the two kisses. Fun fact: I read in a National Geographic article that the Spanish tradition comes from roman times, and it was then adopted by Christianity. Even though I consider the Spanish greeting to be more heartwarming, the English greeting is probably more Covid-friendly. 
  • My friends noticed there where substantial differences in the gastronomic and drinking cultures. While in the UK it is very common to go to a pub and order a pint, in Spain wine is very present in the drinking culture. Beer is very common in Spain, however there is always space for a nice wine such as an Albariño o Tempranillo. Moreover, I realized that while in the UK iced coffee is very popular, in Spain when they’ll probably give you a regular coffee and a glass with ice so that you mix it yourself. 
  • Another big difference is the use of social media. In Spain the predominant platforms that are used are WhatsApp and Instagram. In the UK Snapchat is still very popular, a platform that has long been forgotten in Spain. 

Overall, the trip was very fun and enlightening as we got to discover the differences through the eyes of a local and a foreigner. I believe cultural differences such as these are what makes studying in Surrey more interesting and enriching.