As one of my Spanish friends is fond of saying, “Spain is different.” It isn’t meant as a compliment. In fact, she usually says it right after sneering about corrupt government officials or asinine regulations.
However, I have decided to co-opt her phrase as the title of my newest series: a bunch of short pieces on the all the randoms differences between Spain and America that I’ve noticed over the last two years. So, without further ado…
Spanish Dress Codes
In Spain, I dress like a teacher. In fact, I often dress more formally than many teachers. Got a mental image of me in suits all day? Ha. Nope; Spain is different.
I wear jeans, leggings, or dresses to work. Usually I wear a blouse and a scarf with my awesome black peacoat. This means I am dressed more formally than half the teachers in the building on a given day. Meaning, half of my coworkers wear blue jeans and cardigans/flannels.
I chose to dress a bit better than I have to. Mostly because I’m only a few years older than the majority of my students, and I don’t want to look even more like them than I already do. (Seriously, it’s annoying to deal with 15 year old boys who tower over me. I don’t need to be dressed just like their sisters too!)
There is no dress code. No one cares what you wear to work. I mean, I suppose they would say something if I came to work in a bikini or naked (brrr, how unpleasant. Galicia isn’t that warm!). But the idea that teachers must wear business casual at the bare minimum is completely foreign to the Spanish. People do look nice and put-together as a general rule. But we also have been known to come to work in whatever clothes were closest to the bed that morning–even the principal, haha.
I’m going to talk later about general Spanish fashion. But I do think that Spanish ideas about fashion and attractive clothing affect the hands-off view of work attire. When left to their own devices, Spanish people simply don’t chose the same type of casual clothes that Americans do.
And in closing, an odd little fact:
Strangely enough, Spanish teachers are government employees. And no, not in the sense that tax-payers are paying their salaries, re: America. Every single full-time Spanish teacher reports directly to the autonomous community government. They have to pass a ridiculously evil civil service exam to even be considered for a job at a public school (what does this exam have to do with teaching? Nothing! Of course). Hiring is all done by the government and jobs are distributed through a rigid point-based system that favors advanced degrees, language skills and above all seniority. The American idea of a school district simply doesn’t exist here. Everything is much more structured and “formal.” And yet, no one cares what we wear to work.