American culture is rampant here, from the food to clothing to music. It makes me proud, but the culture portrayed is an idealized and stereotyped culture. The phrases and icons on clothes make me proud that people want to be like us, but at the end of the day it’s not authentic and I’m worried manufacturers are portraying this inaccurate representation of daily life in the US. Life in America isn’t all Mickey Mouse and hamburgers, and everyone doesn’t live in New York City. Still, that’s why I’m here, to introduce the realities and give everyone a flesh and blood example of how diverse and complicated life can be in this be-all foreign country.
*To preface, I live in the province of Málaga in southern Spain, so I can’t speak for more central locations.
While clothing and food is more or less stereotyped, music is a different story. American music is everywhere, and I love walking into the grocery store and stopping in my tracks because I hear Shallow. Seriously, Shallow. More shocking is how no one joined Lady Gaga in her rifs.
I’ve been battling whether I should share these stories, but after today’s spin class I have to. Classes are infiltrated with iconic songs (good and bad), and it’s beautiful proof of the reach we have in the States to influence popular culture globally.
Gym classes in Spain are hilarious. There’s always two or three people - especially in spin - who are pros. They have the towels, the custom shoes, the bike shorts, and it’s their job to get everyone else in class pumped up. When we go into third position, it’s time to whistle. When we start to climb a big hill, it’s time for them to look around the class, bob their head, and inspire us with their barred teeth and locked eyes. When we hit our peak, it’s time to scream.
This is not what I want out of a gym class. I want to struggle along for 45 minutes to an hour, and leave feeling incrementally better.
As it turns out, the Spanish way of working out is infectious, and I nearly cheered today.
Moments of cultural difference are everywhere, small and large, and the more you lean into them, the better off you’ll be. A way to describe moving abroad is becoming made of rubber. You have your live in your home country, full of traditions, routines, normalcy. You know what to expect most of the time, it’s all pretty rigid, stayed. When you move abroad, you need to become more flexible. Basic actions like greeting people, waiting in line, or working out, are reexamined through a new lense, because you need to consider whether to adopt the intricacies of this new country’s traditions and routines. In this case, being flexible means cheering and smiling during workouts. Not too strenuous.
The other best part of Spanish spin class is the music. I’ve gone to five classes, and during every single one I have been shocked and amazed at the American song choices. I laugh, and am proud that Spain loves our music, however out of place it seems in at the time. After every class I have written down all of the songs I could remember, and here they are. This is going to be maintained as a live blog, so you can check back over the next few months and see what else I’ve been sweating to.