Conversations on Studying Abroad

Culture Shock is REAL - Study Abroad Barcelona

Feb 18, 2020 9:17:00 AM / by Nina Vrtjak

Barcelona blogger Nina is learning to live on Spanish time this semester, and she's loving it! Find out how she's adjusting to the lifestyle in Barcelona in her latest blog.

I am taking a writing class this semester at CAPA called “Writing in the City”. It’s a great way to get my creative juices flowing as the professor presents us with a topic and allows us time to write freely about it. Last week, knowing our class had the time to get settled in Barcelona, he asked us to write about things that we noticed are different between Barcelona and our home towns. My classmates and I quickly got to work because the differences between our current and our actual homes are abundant. My class shared their thoughts on the contrasting places that we felt worthy of reporting.

The first thing observed is the difference in sound volume. I will admit, I am a loud person in general, but here in Spain, I noticed very quickly that I speak significantly louder than those around me. My roommates and I were having brunch in a cafe and we realized that everyone could hear us talking and not many other people were speaking at all. The same situation has happened on the bus and metro. We have learned to be aware of our surroundings and try to ensure we are not sticking out like a sore thumb and not disrupting the normal day to day lives of the locals.

When they say things happen on “Spanish time” they are not joking. It is demonstrated often that the people here are not too concerned about rushing their lives. This became apparent at the same lunch mentioned above. Once our plates were finished and cleared, we sat around wondering if someone would bring us a check. After about 25 minutes of confusion, we asked our server to bring us our bill so we could carry on with the day. I learned that service is different here, when food is taken to go. In America, it is customary that you order, pay, and then receive the food. In Barcelona, you often receive your food and then sometime later are expected to pay. I believe this has to do with the fact the Spaniards are not always in such a rush. It is taking me some time to adjust to this carefree time standard. We could all benefit from slowing down to enjoy ourselves.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring 2020_Barcelona_Nina Vrtjak_Best café con leche Ive had so far in Barcelona at the Gates Hotel

A fun thing I’ve noticed that is different in Barcelona is how dogs are treated. Barcelona is a very dog friendly city which is helping me not miss my own furry friends at home too much. Unlike America where dogs are prohibited from most public buildings and restricted to leashes, dogs often roam freely alongside their owners in Spain. There have been a few times I will see a dog on its own and think it is homeless until I see their owner turn the corner and call their pup with a quick whistle. The dogs are also all smaller as Barcelona is a city with mostly apartments and little grass. I love that this is allowed here as there is always a dog to to pet and play with no matter where I am at.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring 2020_Barcelona_Nina Vrtjak_Dogs staying close to their owners at Park Güell.jpeg

Being across the world has made me very observant of my surroundings. I have had to shamefully push many doors open after crowds watched me confidently pull. I quickly learned I would have to walk extra steps in order to cross the streets on every plaza. My stomach has shrunk because portion sizes are smaller in every way. While the language and lifestyles may seem confusing at first, adjusting my life has not been difficult. The people around me have been very helpful to show me their native ways and am I very excited to bring parts of my Spanish lifestyle back to America!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring 2020_Barcelona_Nina Vrtjak_ (1)

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring 2020_Barcelona_Nina Vrtjak_Art Class on top of the Bunkers


Thanks, Nina!

Nina Vrtjak


Nina Vrtjak is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Accounting and Human Resources major at University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.

Nina's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

New call-to-action

Topics: Barcelona, Spain, Local Culture