What are certain things that you should be culturally aware of when teaching in Spain?

Diary submitted by Nicoletta, Valencia, 2020

During my TEFL internship in Valencia, I l found that there were a few cultural differences that I had to get used to being a native English speaker from England. First of all, the term Cultural Awareness is defined by the Collins Dictionary as “Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values.”

One of the main aspects of the Spanish working life that I had to become accustomed to were the working hours. Generally, the daily working hours in England start from 9:00 am and end at 5:00pm . It became quite a shock when I found out that my working hours in Valencia would be quite different to what I am normally used to, my normal working day would begin from 10 am and I would finish at 20:30 in the evening and I would also have a gap between 11 am to 4:00 pm. When I first began my placement, I found the hours to be quite difficult to adjust to however, slowly but surely I began to learn to be more productive during my free hours which is known  ‘siesta’  to complete tasks such as food shopping. According to an article from the Guardian the

“At the moment, Spanish workers start their day around 9am, break for coffee mid-morning and then work until 2pm. The lunch break lasts two or three hours, after which they return to work until about 8pm.” 

Another important point to discuss is the manner of which some Spanish students translate their thoughts from Spanish to English. There is a sense of forwardness and directness with most romance languages which can be seen as impolite and rude when translated directly into English. This can be quite evident especially if the students have a lower level of English such as an A1/A2 level. It is important not to become disheartened as most of the time there is a lack of understanding of the customs of English politeness and as a teacher it can provide you an opportunity to teach your students more about English culture and customs. 

In conclusion, there are specific things to be culturally aware of when teaching in Spain especially in terms of the lifestyle and use of language. It may come as shock when first starting out your placement however with time and more understanding of how society functions  it is something which you can grow accustomed to. 

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