Changing My Mind Posted on October 20th, 2012 by

I remember values that I used to associate with myself, values that I was proud of and wanted everyone to know about me. I used to say ¨”time is money and time is short”, “About time”, “working hard or hardly working”.  These sayings have undoubtedly had some influence on my life. Yet it never occurred to me that these sayings were American and that they reflected American values. Now I’m in Sevilla, and I am experiencing and influx of new and totally different values. These values are coupled with their own sayings that the people have heard in one way or another since they were born. Now both values are meeting everyday and my own personal culture is evolving to incorporate the two. Now I have to find way to live with both, Sevilla is my life now.

To elaborate a bit on my “American” values. Truly after some examination I can see why they were given that label. One of my values has to do with the concept of time; something I noticed is very different here in Spain. Spanish time is much more relaxed. It is to say the days feel slower, longer.  Yes this has some deficits in punctuality amongst the people here. However, I’ve had my moments where I just could not for the life of me get to a place on time. I´m used to being associated with people stereotypically considered late and I get called on it. The concept that being late is valuing your time above those waiting for you is not as stringent here. Whereas 10 minutes late is pushing it for appointment, here in Spain the threshold can be from 20 minutes to hours. I don´t exaggerate when I say this. On late nights during the weekends I meet with people in general gathering places and if I show up nice and punctual and some may call it even “politely early” I could be waiting 30+ minutes. I like to be punctual and I won’t stop but I have learned to expect 5 minutes to be 15. I find it better to choose not to be offended, or remotely fazed by such a petty thing. I’m in Spain waiting for a Spaniard, that’s still cool 2 months into it. While waiting I live in the street and I suggest you do the same.

Time in America on the other hand is short: 33,000 days is about 90 years. I want to spend as much of that time living and being the best that I can be. Naturally I am constantly obsessed about how I am spending my time. And this was to the point that I would schedule my entire day making sure I had at least 8 hours of productive work in some form. Even more I would count the days I’ve done that activity. I was raised on sayings such as “Time is money” and it wasn’t until I got here that I realized how much of my life I have associated the two. I chose my school, my major, the time that I would study abroad based off of how it would affect me financially, what would be the best time-cost ratio. My life has revolved around school, with summers being used to do whatever in my power to improve my resume so that I could make more money and pay for more academics. Finish high school, go to college, get your doctorate. My mother was always quick to remind us that we had to nothing has been handed out to us except food and shelter. School was our only redemption if we wanted all the cool gadgets, fun vacations and designer clothes our friends had. . “Work hard so you can make it on your own” she would say. It is literally all I could think about when I was bored in class or studying. Keep studying because money and success is at the end of the tunnel.

This money and status that I’ve yearned for so long means nothing to me now. One of the first sayings I heard hear was: “No quiero ser el más rico del cementartio.” It means I don´t want to be the richest man in the cemetery. A thought I have received from many Spaniards is “Why are Americans constantly obsessed to work?” They told me that they work to live not live to work. They don’t understand why we always have to be so busy. I was one of those busy people, constantly moving working on this project or that assignment and at the end of the day I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. Many winters stooped in my room studying were the most miserable of my life. I worked myself to death all the time. Looking back, I can clearly remember the work I loved and the work I despised, but I continued to do both and all I was doing was wasting my effort. I should have been living and enjoying my childhood, adolescence, first two years of college. So when I was confronted with their ways, I changed my mind. I felt they were right in all aspects. Spain is different, it will change you and my identity as an American as changed as well. In an interchange of cultures, we still have opinions and value that conflict. I was very hesitant at first to accept the concept of working to live instead of living to work. For me, as long as America is capitalism I will have to make some capital. But no longer is success for me determined by how much capital I’ve got when I’m old. We can live on much less. So I will let my passions, influence my decisions.

I wanted to study abroad because of the people I met who had roots in other countries. I´ve been very open to how other people live their lives, prisoner to president, because sometimes we just have to play the hand we are dealt. I am sure that there are values that other Americans and Spaniards do not share. Such as how hierarchies work in the workplace, or families influence on personal and professional decisions, or what would qualify as an exception to a rule (are there even exceptions in America? I think not without a lawyer). I could go on forever about how my values have clashed and greeted with Spanish ones but America and Spain are big countries and not one person is the same. I came here to change, to adopt a more Spanish flavor to my life. After every conversation comparing our countries, I learn a bit more about what it means to be a global citizen. This change only requires near translucent openness, and more patience that I thought I ever had. This place is making me rethink what I wanted and who I wanted to be in my life. I doubt I have the introspection to identify all of my values, but I want to pick up new ones so I can discover the values I am leaving behind.



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