By NATASHA HERRICK
When I go to a restaurant in the United States, I plan for about an hour of time out of my day, give or take depending on the restaurant and the people I am going with. When people go to restaurants in Barcelona, it feels as though there is no allotted amount of time. They stay at a restaurant until they are done eating and talking, even if it is three hours later.
In Spain, I have grown to appreciate the value placed on this quality time with others. I was getting lunch with my RA the other day. She explained that she noticed that while people she knows in Spain often say, “Hi,” as they pass by, they do not always ask her how she is doing. The instances when people ask her how she is doing are only when they really want to know what is going on in her life. Meanwhile, she finds that Americans always ask her how she is doing, but often start looking around the room if she gives them a detailed response.
This is not to say that Americans do not care how someone is doing, but perhaps we forget it takes actual time to see how someone else is doing. I think that most Americans value the importance of leisure time and spending time with others. But maybe we get a little lost by expecting that free time to exist without remembering we have to make time for the free time itself.
During Halloween weekend in Barcelona, my friends and I made plans to go to my cousin’s apartment the day after Halloween to carve pumpkins. In Spain, they celebrate a holiday known as “El Día de Los Muertos,” the day after Halloween. Like any other holiday in Spain, or just lunch time for that sake, it is difficult to find stores that are open. It is even more difficult to find somewhere to buy pumpkins. At first, I was annoyed. Then, I recognized that for those pumpkins to be readily available, someone else would have to be readily available to sell them to me. I realized that when I have such expectations, I am taking for granted other people’s free time.
24-hour stores are convenient in the United States, but I have great respect for Spain where people recognize the importance of everyone’s time to relax. Of course, such an ideal is easier said than done. Some stores were open on “El Día de Los Muertos,” and some people were not fortunate enough to get the holiday. Yet, many more places were closed than would typically be during a holiday in the United States. I walked down street after street, seeing metal covers pulled down over the doors of all the stores.
In Spain, they are careful to make sure that everyone has quality free time. I still place a value on such free time while in the United States, but I find myself forgetting to make the time or worrying I should be doing something productive instead. I went abroad in part because I hoped that it would help me put into perspective things that are important to me in my life. I hope that when I return home, I remember how much I appreciated the value placed on quality time to relax and spend with others. I would like to remember to make the time for these moments as they do here in Spain.
Natasha Herrick is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at email@example.com.