Dancing to the beat of a different country.

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Photo thanks to Melanie Phillips.

Photo thanks to Melanie Phillips.

Saturday our Spanish friends took us all over the Barrio (the fiesta neighborhood), stringing out tapas and wine over two hours, dancing in the street to a public concert, finding free drinks at a small rock bar, spending another two hours over a drink at a cafe and then wandering between three different clubs. Every new place is a new scene, each drink bought to buy the table and space in the street rather than for the drink.

Tapas was in a small tapas bar. Six of us crowded around a two square foot table, shouting over the wine and struggling to be understood and understand. We used the availability of other young women to clear up some questions we had about the dating culture here. Stereotypically, Spanish men are very forward, and we’ve met a number of aggressive guys who’s behavior bordered on creepy for America. But our friends “reassured” us that Spanish culture is simply much more friendly and forward. They also warned us off eye contact, if a guy here sees a girl looking at him it’s an invitation to come talk.

At the cafe we Americans didn’t buy any drinks and the Spaniards started sharing. Spaniards share everything. What matters most to them is that everyone is having a good time, not that everybody pays their share. It works out pretty well too, with everybody taking care of everybody a good time is guaranteed. Every drink or tapa bought was offered around before the buyer had any. It’s important to remember to offer, because even if the drink is theirs and they only offered a taste if you don’t hand it back to them they won’t take it from you. Sometimes it takes a while for them to realize you’re giving it back, but be insistent and patient. At the tapas bar, I never filled up my own glass, one of the Spaniards always noticed when I was low before I did and offered to topped me off.

I had been wondering how the Spanish manage to stay up till the sunrises every weekend, but now I understand that going out is different for them. It’s more a part of their culture, less an “activity”. At the rock concert in the square a couple in their sixty’s swayed together in the midst of the churning youth. A small child is hoisted out of the midst of the crowded café at 12:30AM, nobody except my friends and I even notice. The Spanish take their time with the night, lingering at different bars and cafes. What’s important is who you’re with more than anything else.

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