Even during a brief visit anyone can see that the café and bar culture is a big part of Spanish life. People tend to meet not at each others homes instead having a drink or a bite to eat out. Having lived in Spain for ten years I have picked up on changes in habits and values, including this cafe culture. Despite falling in love at first sip with Spanish coffee, my initial visits to the cafes and bars were problematic. They were inevitably filled with thick clouds of cigarette smoke. It was a culture shock no doubt and defined part of my experience of Spain at the time. Then, bit by bit, new laws started changing things. First came smoking and nonsmoking sections, until finally the government put a flat out ban in place. Now it’s like being in a completely different place with all the smokers sitting outside or having a drink by the door. Another change to the café culture has been the slow introduction, in my small town at least, of to-go coffee. Although Starbucks has firmly implanted itself in Madrid and Barcelona in recent years they have yet to come to smaller cities. Here you still see baristas and bartenders walking down the sidewalk, carrying a hot ceramic mug of coffee to their clients working in a local shop and the cafe tables regularly fill mid-morning, but more and more I have noticed a few cafés selling paper cups of coffee.
These are little details, of course, but they demonstrate that “culture” constantly changes and is not uniform across a country. It is neither monolithic nor static. And, although these changes seem superficial, they do show transformations around values relating to health, time, and sustainability. Of course, most people would probably agree that culture changes over time and is hard to pin down. But does this nebulous nature really get explored adequately? Do we consistently challenge static views of culture in international education?
It is easy to neglect such changes when teaching people about other cultures, instead focusing on general information that focuses on a one dimensional view of other ways of living. One way to address this deficiency is to jump from international education to global education. Global education and international education are not synonymous. International education focuses on learning about an area of the world (its people, history, languages, culture) while global education explores issues and concepts than affect people throughout the world and focusing more on the power structures that are forging them. International education is fascinating, it is most accessible to people and fun (imagine the typical country “fair” with a table of food and a flag from different places around the world), while often providing a crucial first step for global education. But it is often, for the most part, too reserved.
In other words, there is an opportunity to look at changes in culture on a local level and connect them to world wide issues, giving special attention to who causes the changes and if they are democratic. Looking at cultural change through the lens of global education can introduce students and citizens to the next step of taking action for a more just world.
Interested in further learning on this topic? Here is a brief list of global education resources for educators:
- Teach Unicef https://teachunicef.org/ Detailed lesson plans from UNICEF
- Global Dimension https://globaldimension.org.uk Case studies and lesson plans for use in the classroom
- Oxfam Education https://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/ Resources for teachers
- Global Issues https://www.globalissues.org/ Data and articles showing interconnectedness of issues. Easy to get addicted to this one!
- Peace One Day www.peaceoneday.org “inspire young people to become the driving force behind the vision of a united and sustainable world by advancing active learning in the areas of conflict resolution, global citizenship and human rights”