American culture is rampant here, from the food to clothing to music. I'm flattered and it lessens the homesickness, but the culture portrayed is an idealized and stereotyped culture. The phrases and icons on clothes make me laugh, but at the end of the day it’s not authentic, and I’m worried manufacturers are portraying an 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. However, 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 a seemingly glitzy foreign country.
*To preface, I live in the province of Málaga in southern Spain, so I can’t speak directly for the other provinces.
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 as they shopped.
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, 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 today I nearly cheered.
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 to say you're becoming made of rubber. You have your life in your home country, full of traditions, routines, normalcy. You know what to expect most of the time, and 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 gym classes is the music. I’ve gone to a ton so far (if you want free time, do this program), 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 at the time. After every class I've 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:
• Bang Bang Remix - Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj*
• Technologic Remix - Daft Punk
• What You Know Remix - Two Door Cinema Club
• Shot through the Heart - Bon Jovi
• Hanging Tree Remix - The Hunger Games series
• Livin’ on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
• The Rockafeller Skank - Fatboy Slim
• The Rockafeller Skank mashed with house remix of Wonderwall
• Take on Me calypso remix - A-ha
• Highway to Hell - ACDC
• Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (cooldown) - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
• The Nights - Avicii (is there a better place to mourn musicians than spin class?)
• Azukita - Daddy Yankee, Steve Aoki, Play N Skillz, Elvis Crespo
Stay tuned for the inevitable "Better Now", and my dream choice, "Life is a Highway".
*I can’t speak enough about the feeling you get as an American abroad, 10 in the morning on the Saturday, and you hear Jessie J screaming at you about a battle axe. 100% was first in the class.