Differences between living in Spain and the U.S.A

As a Spanish citizen that has spent 10 months living in the USA, I am going to develop the similarities and differences of life in Spain and in the United States.

First of all, Spain has a national official language Spanish, while the United States does not have any official language even though the most spoken language is English. As a matter of fact, there is over 10% of Spanish speaking population in the American territory and 25% of non-native English speaking population in Spain.

This means understanding each other can sometimes become a cultural problem, depending on the state or region where we are in each country.

Secondly, timetables are very different in Spain than in the U.S. In the everyday life, there is a 2 hour gap between the American and the Spanish timing. So as to say, Spanish people have breakfast between 9 and 10am, lunch between 2 and 3pm and dinner between 9 and 10pm. Americans do most things much sooner throughout the day.

Going out is also very different in both countries. Spanish people are used to go out much more often than Americans, no matter what age. In Spain you can see 6 years old children at 12 or 1am in the evening with their parents in a restaurant or a bar enjoying each others company. This would be very shocking for Americans.

Businesses and public places have different timetables too. Businesses in Spain, only stores and boutiques, open from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm, while they are opened from 10 am until 7pm in the U.S. That is what is defined as the “siesta”, but mainly by foreigners. This custom is becoming less and less popular in Spain. Also, restaurants serve dinner until 11pm or even 12am while kitchens normally close around 9 or 10pm in the U.S. And bars and clubs close at 5 or 6 am in Spain while at 2 for the Americans. This makes a huge difference in the night life style between these two countries.

A very big difference of consumption is the sizes of goods sold in the U.S.A comparing to those sold in Europe as a whole. Americans buy enormous bottles of shampoo, for example while those sizes do not even exist in Europe. At the same time, housing is not also the same. Houses are smaller in Spain because more expensive. In big cities the majority of people live in apartments while in houses in the U.S. This is a notable difference.

The cultural disparities, such as food, music or art are different, but like between any other country in the world. Clothing is “owned” by multinational companies like Zara, Gap or luxury companies in both countries so this is not a shocking difference.

Even though there are many differences and clichés from both countries, living in the U.S has been an amazing experience for me. I know that living in Spain for an American will be as a valuable experience as it has been for me to live in the U.S.A.

24 thoughts on “Differences between living in Spain and the U.S.A

  1. Pingback: Differences between living in Spain and the U.S.A | EducationHeat

  2. American in Spain

    You must also realize that in the cities in the US, nobody owns a house, but rather, apartments. When I go up to Asturias…. houses are everywhere, much like the US… You are a bit mistaken.

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  6. people in the hood

    gimme some answers fool. I gots a proj due in a few days and i wants some differences:l

  7. foo


  8. Ana

    “First of all, Spain has a national official language Spanish”
    In fact ,we have FOUR official languages, Spanish, Basque, Catalan, and Gallego.

  9. J. Perry

    The official language in the USA is English. Spanish is the second language.
    Throughout the work week people do not go out in the USA, we go out on the weekends.

  10. Alyssa

    People go out in the US any day of the week. The times are very accurate and apartments are common, but mostly used in larger cities as the major home choice. Houses are more common in suburban areas.

  11. Expatana

    Everything Maria lists as differences are valid from my long experiences, both as an American in the U.S. and as a foreigner in Spain.

    Yes, a numerical majority of Americans do live in houses, but the responder mentioning cities was accurate, too. In New York City most people live in apartments because that’s how the city is laid out, and in San Francisco many people also rent apartments because of the costs of owning. In other parts of California, as well, the costs of owning are prohibitive to many people so renting is common in that state.

    Another rental option in the U.S. is becoming more common — renting rooms in houses or sharing apartments or houses.

    Americans do go out every night of the week, but Fridays and Saturdays are much more common. In certain areas, especially in the suburbs, people rarely go out during the week. In some high-cost areas like southern California, it is simply too expensive to go out so people entertain at home. Americans entertain at home far more frequently than do Spaniards.

    I would much prefer to entertain friends, colleagues or clients in cafes and restaurants, as in Spain. That’s one of many reasons I prefer to live there. And I will again someday, this time for good.

    Oh, and while housing is indeed generally smaller in Spain than in the U.S., again in certain locales such as New York, apartments can be very small because they are very expensive.

    Excellent piece, Maria — and excellent site! Keep it up!

  12. Vivian

    Some of you guys leave rhude comments. Nobody said that this essay was accurate. I’m just saying

  13. Expatana

    Also, J. Perry, English is not the “official” language of the U.S. Maria was right there. We don’t have an official language. English is the “prevailing” language, but it was never made official.

    Several conservative politicians have wanted to make it official, but were never able to get that off the ground.

  14. RMJL

    this is a great website love it thanks for whoever put it together it helped on my college essay. now i can go to Spain knowing the differences. thanks. RMJL

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  16. jet

    to whoever said English was the official language and Spanish is the second in USA, you are wrong.

    USA does not have an official language. English is the de facto language.

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