Think Twice: Culture shock

Think Twice: Culture shock

Jana Isern, Staff Writer

Ring Dance is getting closer for juniors and I feel that over the past two weeks it’s become a huge talking point. Almost everyone I’ve talked to can confirm that this, the two months leading up to it, is crucial in terms of preparing. It’s the time to buy dresses, confirm tickets, figure out dates, and plan the event.

Well, I have absolutely no idea how these dances work. All I can base my knowledge on is the terribly inaccurate movies I watched as a kid that were very poorly dubbed in Spanish while growing up in Catalonia. The excitement, pressure, and expectation that comes with this dance is a huge culture shock for me. 

Thinking about the dance has made me realize that there are still so many little instances that leave me clueless. Customs, traditions, and just simple everyday behaviors are so different and I find it so interesting how different origins can influence so much of what we’re taught. I would say my upbringing is strongly Mediterranean. So, I made a small list of several things that I consider to be very “American.” 


I am a huge fan of wearing pajamas and comfy clothes any day at any time, but in Spain, no one wears pajamas except to bed. I think it should be normalized everywhere. As soon as I get home, the first thing I do is put on pajama pants. After breakfast, it used to be imperative that I changed into “street clothes” as my mom calls them. There is this huge pet peeve in my house that I think can be generalized to most Mediterranean households: Pajamas are for bed only. If you wear pajamas the whole day you become lazy. My favorite spirit day is Pajama Day because it’s the only day I can leave the house wearing pajamas and have a justified excuse. 

Ice in water 

This is very unusual to me. Apparently, it’s very normal to be given a glass of water with ice. I just find it impractical because then you can’t chug down your water without your teeth hurting. Maybe Americans have incredible teeth that aren’t sensitive to ice-cold water, or maybe they don’t chug their water. Either way, I’ve been taught my whole life that ice is for soda or literally any other beverage that is not water. In fact, I have to remind myself every time that I have a guest over to ask if they want ice in their water. In my house, we have a jug that is filled with water and stored in the fridge, or we fill it with the water dispenser on the fridge, which by the way is also a very American thing. The water stays cold and we bring it to the table when we eat so that we don’t have to get up every time we want water. 

Fist bumps 

I like fist bumps. They are useful in so many situations, but I never know what to do when someone sticks their fist out. I always have a slight hesitation of complete confusion about what to do next, or I completely misread the situation and fist bump at the wrong time. I have to remind myself every time that I need to fist bump that person. I find it weird, but then again the way of greeting where I’m from is kissing twice on the cheek. It just takes me a second to realize what I’m supposed to do when I see a fist bump. The number of times I have high-fived or fist-bumped people who unintentionally had their hand out is embarrassing. 

Month/day dates

I don’t have much to say. They are extremely confusing. Why does the month come before the day? It makes no sense, and every time I go to the doctor’s and they ask for my birth date I have a tiny panic attack because I completely forget how numbers work and how to say my birth date in numbers. I usually end up saying it out in words because in my head putting the month first is complete nonsense. I am constantly asking people around me if I wrote the date right. I was born 7-10-05. (Oct. 7, 2005.)

School spirit

School spirit is huge here. Spirit weeks, pep rallies, sports, clubs, dances, field trips, school events. So much. I feel like I’m in one of those movies I used to watch. It’s one of my favorite things about America. School becomes more than just the place of learning and studying. Even graduation is more extravagant with the gowns and caps and the long ceremony where you get called on stage and everyone watches you receive your diploma. 

Peanut butter

It is absolutely disgusting. I have tried it many times and I think I dislike it more every time. I can see how it would taste good mixed in with other flavors, but I will never fully understand the appeal. The funny thing is, Americans will get defensive about it. I think peanut butter would be the equivalent of olive oil in the Mediterranean. Every household has a bottle and it is used in absolutely everything, both sweet and savory foods. Regardless, I don’t think I will ever enjoy peanut butter. 

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now, but trust me there is so much more. Americans are very peculiar. I will continue adapting and every once in a while I will have a deer-in-the-headlights moment where I will stand there completely clueless.  But regardless of how long I live here and how hard anyone tries, I will never ever eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I will never reach that level of “Americanness.”