Squeeeeal! The sound of steamed milk rushing out of the machine hits my ears and makes me just as happy as the sound of a cork popping off a wine bottle. The click clack of the cup as the barista taps it on the bar after adding the coffee and before pouring in milk. My love affair with coffee shops began before I even liked coffee. As I mentioned before, coffee was always the go-to when meeting someone new. Everyone asked to go a tomar un cafe with me. I hated coffee (so I thought) and didn’t care for tea. What was I to do? I would order a cafe con leche and shyly sip on it, talking a lot and hoping the other person didn’t notice as my coffee got cold and was left still full. Eventually, after so much exposure, I caved and my love affair with coffee begun.

I still long for the coffee shops I’d frequent in my neighborhood in Girona. The baristas knew my order and sometimes, if they saw me across the way, walking towards the cafe, they would begin my order and I’d have it ready upon entry. My favorite thing was to get a croissant and cafe and read a book. I would do it every single morning before work. At 2 euros all together, it was a small luxury I could more than afford. As I’m sitting in a coffee shop now, here in the states, I’m reflecting on the difference in my experiences in both countries.  Things are changing as the world gets smaller and cultures cross borders with the click of a button but there are still stark differences to how people spend their time in the same place, thousands of miles apart.

Device-free zone
Yes, people meet in the states to talk and catch-up with friends, but there are always a plethora of people on laptops, earbuds in and heads down. There is a culture here of working at a coffee shop, I do it, I am doing it, right now. I never ever not once saw anyone in a coffee shop with a laptop in Spain. Not one time. With books, newspapers but usually with people. Like I mentioned, it’s how people get to know each other, over a cup of coffee. It’s another limb, an unwritten rule of Spanish culture. Even now, when I go back to Girona, my devices won’t be with me. It just doesn’t feel right.

Size Matters
Ay dios mio! Is usually the response I get when someone, unaccustomed to Starbucks or American-sized things, says when they see a tall latte. “Why does anyone need to carry their coffee around with them? All these to-go cups?”  Coffee is meant to be enjoyed in a porcelain cup at the place you bought it. Now, I don’t know what I would do without my to-go cup from Quay coffee or Starbucks on my way to work in the morning but truth be told, if I wake up early enough, I still much prefer to sit and take a minute to enjoy my coffee before my day starts. It’s all about culture. American mornings begin much earlier than Spanish ones normally and Spaniards are not getting up early in the morning to do Crossfit, so there is time for a cortado before work.

I just have to say it and I feel oh so Spanish. This is my husband’s favorite way to drink coffee; steamed milk with a shot of coffee, served in a glass. The glass is what makes it special. I mean, come on, in a glass-it’s sexy and I love it too. Order this in Spain and you won’t be disappointed. If you’re still not convinced, David Lebovitz post on the subject may be the tipping point to sway you.

Time For Yourself
In the end, it’s about embracing the European state-of-mind and taking time to enjoy yourself. Sunday mornings at the coffee shop fall under my top five favorite things to do in life. If you haven’t taken the time to do that in awhile (and it’s something you enjoy doing) I encourage you to try it.

 I’ll be posting my favorite coffee spots in Barcelona and in Nice, so remember to watch out for that!