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Kaixo from Basque Country

Rotary Traveler
Rachel Matheson
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Rachel Matheson
ALL |

I’ve been living in San Sebastian, Spain, for a little over a month now and have fallen in love. Once I recovered from the jet lag and the shock of being in a new home and country, I started getting to know the people and the culture they live by.

San Sebastian is a city of about 200,000 people in Guipuzcoa. It is located on the northern border of Spain and France on the Atlantic coast in the Bay of Biscay. The city is also part of a very small yet unique part of Spain: Basque Country.

The Basque people have a different language and slightly different culture than the rest of Spain. Euskera, which is an extremely difficult language to learn, is the official language of the Basque. Luckily, everyone knows Spanish, and that is the main language spoken.



Euskera is mostly used by people two generations older than me; however, some common words, such as hello and goodbye, are said in Euskera, not Spanish.

The Basque have a very interesting and historic culture. Like every other culture, Spaniards have many different opinions on what is best for their country.



Parts of the Basque population have always wanted independence from Spain. Throughout the years protests, killings and groups like ETA have all been attempting to separate the Basque region from Spain. However, the Basque separatists have had no success.

Many people in this region, both Basque and Spaniards, believe a unified Spain is the best option. In the time I’ve been here, I have seen several protests in the streets and have been to a fundraiser for Basque schools. It’s amazing to be here and see all the different people’s opinions on the independence of Basque Country.

Before I came to Spain, when people asked me about American culture, I always struggled to answer. Until you experience or study a different culture, it is hard to see what is truly unique about your own culture.

It was always easy for me to find differences between city life in San Sebastian and the mountain town of Glenwood Springs, but once I start thinking about the differences between Colorado and Guipuzcoa, and then America and Spain, it became more difficult to put into words.

No matter where we are in the world, we all seem to strive for the same things: family, friends, education, a happy life and food. Different cultures may have slightly different versions of these goals and the way they are achieved, but at the end of the day we are all human.

Compared to Americans, Spaniards live to a slightly different rhythm of life. In my opinion, Americans often look to the future. We plan and do things based on what we want in the future.

Here people are much more focused on the present and don’t seem to plan too far ahead. When plans are made, people are almost always late.

Friends, both mine and those of my host parents, don’t come to the house. If you want to meet with friends, you always go out. In Spain, the home is for the family, which is very important.

Working late or overtime doesn’t happen here too often. It depends on the job, but most people have a long break from work in the afternoon for lunch and siesta. Parents are always home well before dinner at 9 p.m., and on Sundays everything is closed.

This first month in Spain has flown by, and I know I will be back in Glenwood Springs before I know it. I’m enjoying learning about a different culture, but also recognizing things in American culture that I hadn’t noticed before.

Agur!

Rachel Matheson, 16, is spending her junior year on a Rotary Youth Exchange trip to San Sebastian, Spain, sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary and Club Rotario. Her column, “Rotary Traveler,” appears monthly.


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