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9 Things I miss about America

1. Personal space

You walk up to a street corner where people are patiently waiting to cross the street. How close do you stand to the next person? If you’re like most Americans you probably leave at least three feet between yourself and a stranger, and you’ve also probably never thought about it.

I thought that standing a certain distance away from a stranger was just human nature, but it turns out it has a lot to do with culture. In Spain the personal bubble is much smaller than the American one, and it can be very uncomfortable when strangers come up and stand right next to you or when your co-workers have conversations 2 centimeters away from your face.

2. Gigantic drinking glasses

Everything is smaller in Spain. The streets are narrower, the people are skinnier, and the food is rarely served bucket-style.

Sweet Land of Liberty

Sweet Land of Liberty

Living in Spain is strange in that most restaurant portions are only large enough for one person to eat, and you cannot buy a 48oz slushie for 79 cents at a gas station. Even drinking glasses at home are smaller.


Bagels by Ezra Wolfe, CC BY-SA 2.0

I had no idea bagels were an “ethnic food” until I realized they were nowhere to be found in Spain. It turns out that kicking a certain religious minority out of an entire country can really limit your breakfast options.

Living in Spain also mean saying goodbye to blueberry muffins, because Spanish muffins (“magdalenas”) only come in one flavor.

4. Mexicans

Immigrants make up a significant part of Spain’s population, (12.3% apparently) but they’re mostly from countries like Romania, Morocco, Ecuador, the UK, Colombia, and Bolivia.  Mexico does not even make it into the top 20 countries

Taken in Málaga, maybe there is hope.

Taken in Málaga, maybe there is hope.

Sadly, it’s going to be a long time before I have authentic guacamole again, or hear a Mariachi band play, or get called a “pinche guera” in a Food City parking lot.

5.Customer service

American service workers have a direct incentive to be nice to customers: tips. If an American waiter is rude, they make less money in tips and could even lose their job. If a Spanish waiter is rude, it’s just another day at the flamenco bar.

But it’s not just about tips, American businesses are built around a “customer is always right” philosophy which means that employees are trained to be not just be nice to customers, but overly-nice.

After I got back from Spain last time, I thought every single cashier and store employee was hitting on me.

What do you mean you want me to have a nice day?

What do you mean you want me to have a nice day?

6. People who watch Glee

It’s easy to take for granted that you can make a reference to a popular television

 show or movie and simply be understood by other Americans. The U.S. has done a great job of exporting its pop culture around the 
 but not 

all of your favorites have made it overseas.

To make things even more confusing, some titles are kept in English, others are translated literally into Spanish, and still others are changed completely.

Titles I’ve learned so far include:

  • 500 Days of Summer is “500 Days Together” (500 Días juntos)
  • Gone with the Wind is “What the Wind Carried” (Lo que el viento se llevó)
  • The Sound of Music is “Smiles and Tears” (Sonrisas y lágrimas)
  • Family Guy is “Father of the family” (Padre de la familia)
  • Die Hard is “Crystal Jungle” (Jungla de cristal)

sonrisas y lagrimas

7. American Halloween

In Spain Thanksgiving does not exist, St. Patrick’s Day is another country’s religious holiday, and Cinco de mayo is just the day after cuatro de mayo. But saddest of all is the absence of American Halloween.

As a kid Halloween is the only day of the year that you are not only allowed, but encouraged to ask strangers for candy. As a college student it’s a reason to feel good about dressing up like Superman and staying out until 3:00AM on a Tuesday night. As an American living in Spain it means going ballistic that the corner store does not sell candy corn.

8. Not having to explain things about America

Americans are often portrayed as being ignorant of other cultures, but the truth is that people like that exist everywhere. It can be shocking how little people know about the place you come from and have lived all your life.

Real questions I’ve been asked about the US include:

  • “Estados unidos? What part of England is that in?”
  • “California is next to New York, right?”
  • “New Mexico? There’s a New Mexico?”
  • “Do you eat fish and chips all the time then?”
  • “The UK won the soccer game last night, aren’t you proud?”

9. The American internet

Goodbye Netflix, goodbye Hulu, goodbye Pandora. Hello error message informing me that this content is not available from my location.

Adios, amigo

Adios, amigo


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10 Responses to 9 Things I miss about America

  1. Mikele October 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM #


    You can use Pandora (And more pages) if you download this: http://proxmate.dave.cx/ It’s very useful. I use it everytime. BTW, nice blog!

    • Kate Peregrina October 26, 2013 at 6:47 PM #

      Thanks so much!

    • Dan October 27, 2013 at 9:49 PM #

      Or MediaHint…its an extension for Firefox or Chrome and works beautifully!

  2. Xavi November 5, 2013 at 6:04 AM #

    Great post, thanks.
    I am the other day around, I am a catalan guy living in United States, so it is funny for me to read this post.
    I agree with everything you say:
    1.- it is true
    2.- It made me laugh when you said “restaurant portions are only large enough for one person to eat”. Of course! I am really surprised how big the portions are here. I always ask for the smallest size, and sometimes I have to take some food home!
    3.- I didn’t know what a bagel was a year and a half ago
    4.- I agree, no mexicans in Spain, and just a few mexican restaurants.
    5.- I am very surprised how nice and friendly is the service customer here in the US.
    6.- I love Agarralo como puedas (The naked gun) and Atrapado en el tiempo (Groundhog day)
    7.- This I won’t miss. I am sorry, I don’t like foreign traditions to interfere in our catalan and spanish traditions. In fact, twenty years ago there was no Santa Claus in Spain, that is a fairly recent thing. We have the 3 kings, or the tió.
    8.- Well, I guess that depends on who do you talk to! I knew t
    9.- I will sure miss Pandora, but you still have Spotify!

  3. Eddie November 6, 2013 at 8:07 PM #

    > “Estados unidos? What part of England is that in?”

    Let me doubt this.

    • Kate Peregrina November 6, 2013 at 8:13 PM #

      Doubt all you want, someone really said that to me.

  4. falso December 26, 2013 at 2:33 PM #

    Yes, we don´t have Netflix, Hulu, Pandora. But we have semi-ilegal web sites you can download a lot of US movies and series.

    Like seriesyonkis.com and others similar.

    (Be carefull with the false download links, advertisement and virus and trojan links).

    Oh, and i think there is fierfox/chrome addon you can use to browse netflix and web like that, like you are in US. Check “Media hint” addon for firefox/chrome.

    PS: good blog, very funny and interesting. Thanks2.

  5. Scott Oglesby May 13, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

    This is hilarious! I lived in Spain for three years and I can TOTALLY empathize. I missed some of the most random things as well. Eggo waffles and hamburgers made with beef and how nobody celebrates July Fourth! Now that I’ve been back in Florida for three years though, I miss Spain.

    • Kate Peregrina May 13, 2014 at 7:16 PM #

      Eggo waffles :'(

  6. Ainhoa Inglés August 16, 2014 at 4:49 AM #

    This post is hilarious! I was laughing so hard. Actually, I’ve got the same impression from the americans. I’ve been living in the USA for a year and they have asked me very weird questions as:
    1) Mexico and Spain is not the same?
    2) Which part of South America is Spain located?
    3) Are you not afraid about the unleashed bulls?
    4) If you are spaniard, why your skin is not dark?

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