by Michael DuBon
I haven’t traveled much in the U.S., just to parts of Calif., which has in some major ways, a similar culture to Reno, Nev. where I’ve lived the majority of my life. It’s the typical, youthful Western American lifestyle — we keep up on appearances; we have to schedule everything, even hang outs, in advance, which often fall through; we know how to have fun and how to regret said fun; we stay up late to work hard and party hard; and we say “hella.” The only other country I’ve visited is Guatemala, a beautiful place with old-world values and a dark underbelly. It’s a Spanish-speaking country, formerly under the dominion of Spain, and so when I traveled to Madrid three weeks ago, I had in my naive mind that Spain would be akin to Guatemala. Of course, I was mistaken.
I also expected a sense of culture shock due to my limited perspective. However, there has been little shock. From my point of view, Madrid has the old world charm of Guatemala with the new world appeal of the fun-loving west coast of the U.S., and this is apparent in its youth culture’s practices and social norms.
The youth culture here is different, yet similar to the U.S. The tradition of the pregame exists here. However, since Madrid’s night life doesn’t really get kicking until about 2 a.m., the pregame timeline is more in line with when the pregame usually ends. Oftentimes, in Reno before a big night out, I’ve been part of failed excursions because instead of going out, we stayed in too late in preparation for departure. No worries about that here; whenever we finish, be it late or not too late, it is probably still an ideal time to leave and catch the peak of the night’s festivities.
The youth culture here also enjoys cigarettes, for they aren’t viewed as a particularly nasty habit as in the U.S. It’s not uncommon to see people of all ages smoking; however, it mostly seems to be the youth who smoke out in the open. Young men and women smoke often and enjoy it personally and socially.
Many of my female friends here have told me they’ve encountered some differences in the enthusiasm with which men make their attention known. Men will always gawk at women. However, men of different cultures do it more subtly than others. I’ve been told here it is not so subtle, and a nasty look does not deter it. Cat calls aren’t uncommon either. The Latin tradition of machismo – the established patriarchy – has been inculcated throughout the centuries. Despite the modern world and women’s powerful and necessary role within it, some vestiges of this establishment remain persistent. The best these young women said they could do is to carry on and ignore it or take it in good humor as a harmless display of interest.
Also along these lines, there does not exist the fabled “two day wait period before I call/text when someone gives me their number, because I’m interested, but not really, but maybe I am.” When youth exchange numbers here, the response time is quick. Some may not even wait until the next day and may contact them before night’s end. This can have its drawbacks, for it may seem intrusive and obtuse; however, a little sincerity never hurt anyone.
A native Spaniard, a young woman, was telling me that within the youth culture it is socially acceptable to have one-night stands, and that many prefer that to having relationships. She and I agree this is totally all right for both men and women to do, as long as one takes care of himself or herself and respects the person they end up in bed with.
In any youth culture, we need to be conscious of ourselves as growing young adults. We need to be responsible in our decisions, though we also need to be conscious that we all make mistakes and can learn from them. When I enjoy the youth culture here, I take the same care to take care of myself and respect others. We all constantly mature, at least that’s the ideal as well as the goal. Having fun in Madrid’s youth culture is like having fun everywhere else: Don’t behave too crazy, respect the culture and enjoy and understand youth and all its many disadvantages and gifts.
Michael DuBon studies English and Spanish. He can reached at email@example.com.