How Salamanca is Different and Similar to Sonoma

How Salamanca is Different and Similar to Sonoma

During my language camp in Salamanca, I have noticed similarities and differences between here and my hometown of Sonoma, California. The landscapes of Salamanca and it’s surrounding towns are very similar to the California hills and valleys that I am used to, but the way that we live in our environments is very different. Salamanca is a tight-knit city, centered around the historical plaza, cathedral and university.  It is made up of buildings all containing multiple stories that have businesses at street level and up above are homes for multiple families – more like townhouses or “flats” in the US. While it is not New York or San Francisco, it is much different then my small valley with its stand-alone one and two story homes spread across the valley. Everyone in Salamanca lives in these “apartment” buildings made of stone. Every street is lined with beautiful tan colored stone buildings. Here, in even this more “rural” place in Spain, houses are all what we would call “apartments” which I found very surprising because this not the common layout of a house where I live.

The food in Salamanca is both similar and different than the food in restaurants and in home-cooked meals in America. Breakfast consists of toast and hot chocolate, tea, or coffee – it is the smallest meal of the day.

Lunch is held at 2 pm every day, is the largest meal and is very different every day. I have had paella, mashed potates and steak, croquettas, soup, hamburgers, black rice, and many other traditional Spanish dishes – as well as dishes from other places like burritos and pizza. Dinner is eaten around 8:00 pm – or even later sometimes.  The “menu” for dinner also varies greatly from day to day.

One of my favorite things in Spain that we don’t do in Sonoma is the siesta. It is a nap normally taken after lunch when it is the hottest during the day and everyone is tired from their morning’s work.  I love this small nap  – it is a time to digest the “big meal,” relax, catch-up and re-charge for the evening. In Salamanca, the sun sets around 10:30 pm which makes the day feel longer and almost everyone goes to sleep later than what is “normal” for a week-night in Sonoma.

Families in Salamanca also bond over food and watching TV. My host mom’s favorite show is called “Pasapalabra”  – which loosely translates to the Alphabet game – and is a game show which involves guessing songs, trivia, and matching seemingly unrelated words. My host brother and his wife like watching the news, the bull runs of San Fermin, and of course the World Cup games! I find it interesting how honest here the news is, they show things that many news stations in America would not. News from around the world and local news is shown on the same channel – so you can see what is happening everywhere on one station.

Before I arrived I expected there would be be less cars on the streets in this moderate sized city, and while more people here take the bus and walk, the number of cars is not that much different. I also thought that Spain would have many more reckless drivers, but I have found that the drivers here are courteous and careful. Many travelers from the US find  intersections confusing as there are a lot of “round-a-bouts” and have trouble with the parking spots as they are much smaller that in the US.

Coming to Spain where such a large percentage of the residents are Catholic, I expected the people to be more traditional and socially conservative in their opinions. But that has not been the case.  During my first week I encountered a large protest at the plaza  standing for the freedom of a woman’s right to choose. It was a surprise to see so many people there, men and women and the young and the old.  Also, the rainbow flag (gay pride) hung freely without incident in the main Plaza for three days  . . .  I later learned that Spain is one of the most gay friendly countries on earth.

Spain has very interesting and different culture and beliefs, but I feel comfortable here because it is really not so different from my small town in Sonoma.  Being exposed to this other country and culture makes every day exciting, unexpected and fun!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *