I've been to Spain four times previous to this stay (one of those times being for a year and a half), so I'm fairly familiar with many of the customs and am getting more familiar with the flow of life. But some things will always be a bit of a shock to me.
Take our two meals out today, for example. We went to a restaurant around the corner from our hotel for lunch to order a menú (a prix fixe menu where you choose from a selection of first course items, second course items, dessert, and a drink for a set price--very typical in Spain). We enjoyed our meal and tried to set aside our typical American scarf-it-down-and-leave mentality. We finished dessert and waited for the check. And we waited. In Spain, you could sit there all afternoon and talk, and the waiter isn't going to say a word, because it's considered rude to push people out the door or make them feel rushed. Our lunchtime experience and a very similar situation for tapas tonight brought back so many memories of trying to get the check in Spain. It almost feels like a game. "Will the waiter look at me now?.... NOW? Maybe I can motion for the check..." Do you want me to pay, or don't you? is what I'm typically thinking. (In the airport in Dallas, on the other hand, the girl brought our check right after she dropped off our meal, "for whenever you're ready.")
Then there's the fact that people have their kids (babies in strollers, three year olds, etc.) out with them at restaurants at 10:30. At night. Kids are out playing on the street, parents talking on benches. We walked home from dinner just before 11PM and saw families out, as well as eighty year old women walking arm in arm, probably home from a café.
It's a little shocking, but it's so nice not to be rushed out of a restaurant and to feel safe walking on the street at 11PM.