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Intercultural Challenges
More intercultural challenges
Universitat de Barcelona
41.386608, 2.1640199999999368
Topic Mealtimes

Since I have been a buddy for three months, I have been able to see different situations in which exchange students had some troubles due to their cultural backgrounds. The most common uncertain situation that I could observe - specially the first days - among all of them was related to mealtimes.

It is widely known that Spain is probably the only country where lunch is usually at 2 pm and dinner is around 9 pm. Spaniards are generally used to it, but for most of the foreigners is extremely difficult to adapt to what they consider is a weird mealtime. Thus, if they come only as tourists and visit the country for a short period of time, they are normally able to eat following their usual routine, as the vast majority of restaurants located in city centres are open from 13:00 pm. However, if people from abroad come to Spain to either study or work, they will have fixed schedules given by the university or company. This means they will have to cope with the Spanish mealtimes, since courses tend to finish around 2 pm and the lunch break given by companies is usually between 2 pm and 3 pm.

The chosen strategy by exchange students mostly coming from countries like Germany or Sweden was to adapt to uncertainty. Even though some of them were thinking about having a big snack around 12 pm because they were afraid of being hungry, at the end they realized it was better to adjust to the Spanish mealtimes, where it is more common not to snack but to sit down for a longer time for each meal. Thus, despite being starving around 1 pm during the first weeks in Barcelona, nowadays they are pretty accustomed to have lunch at 2.30 pm. A German student in particular observed that in Spain is usual that people take their time to sit down for meals and talk, so he saw this as an opportunity to socialize with local students who had lunch at the university.

Moreover, it can also be remarked that they sought information before coming to the city, so they bore all in mind the fact that our schedule is different from theirs. Obviously, I tried to book restaurants earlier than what I use to do when we were all meeting at the beginning, as I understand that it might be difficult to make our body to adapt to a new routine. This way they could feel more comfortable and adapt gradually to our mealtimes.

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