We all know the pandemic has been no walk in the park, and definitely not in any Spanish park. For anyone with the travel bug, Spain has been a coveted but unattainable destination for more than a year. As travel restrictions begin to lift, there are plenty of positive changes to be excited about. Let’s talk about these five post-pandemic upgrades to your Spanish study abroad experience.
1. Use of Debit and Credit Cards
When abroad, it can be a challenge to navigate the local currency at first. Traditionally, making most purchases in Spain is cash-only or “en metálico” as they say locally. During the pandemic, efforts were made to decrease touchpoints, and one of those measures included facilitating the use of cards. The government made handheld card readers available to smaller and mid-sized businesses, as well as lowering the cost of their use.
What does that mean for you? If you want to use your card, there are plenty of options for you, even when it comes to ordering a “cafe con leche” or a loaf of bread at the bakery. It’s becoming more culturally accepted to make small purchases on your card, making your time abroad a little more comfortable.
2. Cleaner Restrooms
If you never had the pleasure of using a pre-pandemic bar bathroom in Spain, you definitely didn’t miss out. These bathrooms were not for the faint of heart and generally lacked hand soap. To give you an idea, Spanish women even carry a small pack of tissues in their purse knowing that the likelihood of toilet paper is not a given. With the rise in awareness around cleanliness and the spread of COVID-19 in bathrooms, there has been an overwhelming shift in their cleanliness. Think cleaner floors, more toilet paper, hand soap, and sanitizer.
3. A New Look for Bar Food
Stopping by the local bars throughout the day for a quick bite to eat is very common and hasn’t changed since the pandemic. One thing that has — the way they’re serving their bar food. Traditionally, small “bocatas” (sandwiches), “tortilla de patata” (Spanish omlettes), and other tapas or pintxos decorated the counter at any Spanish bar. They’re still there, but now have an upgraded cover or a plexiglass shield in front to protect them from anyone hovering a little too close.
4. More Personal Space
The Spanish and Europeans tend to have different cultural norms when it comes to personal space. In general, everyone stands quite a bit closer than back home. While things still may be a little closer than six feet, people are giving each other much more personal space in the post-pandemic world. Some have even switched to tapping elbows foregoing the traditional two kiss greeting known of Spaniards.
5. More reliable home deliveries
It may be hard to believe but before COVID-19, online shopping and home deliveries were very uncommon in Spain. Since the pandemic, online deliveries have taken off. Besides making Jeff Bezos very happy, it has some added benefits for study abroad students. There’s much greater reliability when it comes to home deliveries. Practice makes almost perfect, and all the pandemic practice has been the catalyst for improved service. If you’re looking to make an Amazon order, you can bet it will find you.
While the value of local shopping and exploring is huge in your overall study abroad experience, sometimes you are just missing one or two staples. This improvement might help you get what you need a little easier, especially if you’re required to quarantine upon arrival.
Tip: If you want that Amazon order even faster, try using Amazon.es. You’ll have to create a separate account from your U.S. account, but it will increase the speed of deliveries significantly.
There’s plenty to be positive about in a post-pandemic world, and being able to explore Spain is just one of them. With these five upgrades, you’re really getting the added icing on the “tarta.” ¡Qué aproveche!
Lindsay Woychick is an independent strategic communications contractor living in Bilbao, Spain. Lindsay originally studied abroad through USAC’s yearlong exchange to Bilbao from 2011-12, during which she met her husband. Throughout her almost decade abroad, Lindsay has worked for Spain’s public school system along with a handful of other international companies. She currently lives in the Greater Bilbao area with her husband, daughter, and French bulldog. Learn more at www.wordsbywoychick.com.