Saturday, May 16, 2009

Weekend exodus

It's been an enjoyable but busy week. I've spent many hours every day deep in messy coding with Mathematica working on a few different projects in parallel - this is parallel processing of the inefficient variety. Still, they seem to be getting there and I'll be running code on multiple machines over the weekend.

As I was walking home today I was struck, as I always am on a Friday, by the strange weekend exodus from Santiago. The city has a population of around 100,000, around 20 percent of whom are students. I would guess that at least 95% of the students here are from nearby towns and villages and still have strong connections to their homes. On a Thursday night and Friday throughout the day, lines of students can be seen, making their way to the train and bus stations to go home to their parent's houses in the country. I can't help but feel strange when I see this; the idea of university and independence are simply so far removed here from such ideas in England. At university in England the independence that university affords is one of the great benefits, and weekends that can be spent with newfound friends are a large part of this side of life. The idea of going home every weekend to spend time with your family so that your parents can cook and clean for you (frequently, so I hear, supplying several days' food for the students when they come back on Sunday night), is a strange one and I can't help but feel that such a continuous dependency on parents causes students to be less 'worldly' in a rather abstract sense, than their counterparts in other countries where home ties are loosened at a younger age. Note that this is not to equate the number of drunken weekends with maturity, but simply that such strong ties to home (as opposed to family) were rather alien to me at that age.

I write this simply because whenever I see the students heading home with their small suitcases, I can't help but feel a certain sadness. Students should be out, getting away from home, seeing the world and experiencing the highs and lows of life alone, making and breaking friendships and making the mistakes which we all make which turn us from children into adults.

Living in different cultures is not only about observing the differences in lifestyles and values, but trying to understand them so I'd be interested to know the opinion of anyone who takes part in this weekend exodus.


Blake Stacey said...

I discovered the weekend exodus phenomenon when I went to graduate school in Lyon. Students working on master's degrees go home for the weekend? Culture shock! For comparison, my own mother's reaction when I left for university was, basically, "Go! Shoo! I'm turning your bedroom into a study! See you at Christmastime!"

Actually, the fact that school became a ghost campus from Friday afternoon to Monday morning was a little discouraging: There was seldom anybody else to go explore the city with.

Jonathan Shock said...

and I've always been lucky enough that when I've gone away, whether it be to live or travel, my parents have been extremely enthusiastic because it gives them a new excuse to go visit somewhere interesting.

Indeed there is almost nothing to do at the weekends in Santiago which is why I find myself sitting in a cafe working so that I don't sit at home vegetating. I enjoy this place a great deal, but there are some things which are hard to get used to.

Nitin said...

The same happens in Munich. I see quite a number of students coming to university with their small luggage on Fridays, and head to the train station after classes (I even tend to think classes are arranged to end early on Fridays for the convenience of these folks!). It is quite likely these young people will find it hard to adjust to life at school, and fail to cultivate an independence that will prepare them for life after school. Might it be more of a continental European thing? Do these students find it hard to cut the strings with the family? Do they find it financially more sensible to spend weekends at home, away from city "distractions" and expensive food? Don't they want to spend the weekends with the international students? hmm..

A kind of similar story to Blake's: when I left home and crossed the Indian Ocean and the whole breadth of the Australian continent to land in Melbourne (that's a distance of 8438 km, according to Wolfram|Alpha) for my ugrad studies, my parents sold the house, built a smaller one closer to the coast, and there was no longer a room for me! Now that was a clear message!

Jonathan Shock said...

I think it is more widespread throughout continental Europe. Indeed here classes are almost entirely canceled on a Friday as there would be few students in attendance.

Clearly it is financially more sensible to go home to your parents but I think the reasons are more deeply rooted than financial ones. I'll ask around and see if I can find out some local views on this.

canceleiro said...

Hi John!!!
How you say it´s more than financial things, it´s more in our culture!!! We are very thighten to our family and friends!!! Many people here don´t want to go work out of their cities, don´t like travelling,... When I did my round the world trip I made myself the question about why there weren´t spanish people doing this kind of trips, and here you have my conclusions, read also the comments (sorry for the non spanish speaking people). I think both of the things are very related.

Friday dinner was excellent!!! Thanks so much


PD: When I studied in Santiago I also went most of the weekends to Vigo

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Javier, thanks for the comment.

I can see great value in such closeness to friends and family of course. I find the statement that I hear regularly that people from here don't enjoy traveling to be an interesting one. It seems more that people don't like the idea of traveling. I have met many people from around here who have rarely been out of Galicia.

I especially appreciate your point of view because you know both sides of the story in more detail than most people I could possibly know here.

Will be picking your brains about Vigo for sure!


Galician said...

In my opinion trying to judge/compare different cultures is a very difficult (and maybe useless) thing to do.
Anyway, I think that Jon, though he has been living in Santiago for two years, is still far from understanding the Galician idiosincrasy, the tight roots to your hometown (better village), even tighter than in other "latin" cultures, being an important part of it.
I also think that there's something more than coming back to your parents' in this weekend exodus (there is more than your family in your hometown) and, even from the point of view of maturity and balance in your life, it may have some advantages. And as I said is a part of our identity.
I don't agree with the statement that there's nothing to do in Santiago during the weekend. You might just have to try a bit harder!

Last critic, I can smell some travel-is-everything philosophy on these comments. Like those characters in the film by Herzog about Antarctica.

Just to finish, the population of Compostela is about 95000 without students, and there are ~25000 of them.

Jonathan Shock said...

Firstly, yes, I agree that my reaction of returning to your family is different to returning to your hometown - this is something I'd not thought about and am glad the issue has been raised.

I rather contend with the issue that trying to compare different cultures as being useless. I find it impossible to see a culture completely objectively of course, simply because I have a background in another culture which I cannot remove from my vision, try as I might. However, I am trying to understand the differences and wonder what are the differences in lifestyle and personality which come with them. If I don't try and do this then I might as well stay in England.

I think it is very difficult to understand the culture if you haven't been brought up in it, which is why am interested to hear the opinions of Galicians on the subject.

Indeed I come at this subject as a traveler and that I can't help. Personally I have grown in many ways through traveling, and perhaps I would have grown in other ways had I not traveled. I am happy that I've had the chances I've had but I absolutely don't believe that travel is everything. I have many friends who are extremely mature and whose opinions I value greatly, though they may not have been out of their country.

I also see that there are positive aspects of staying close to ones hometown and I would like to hear more on your thoughts on this.

I really have been looking for things to do in Santiago on the weekends (and by this I mean in the day - at night there is plenty going on - concerts, films, music, etc.). I go to the museums here from time to time which I enjoy, I go to the park and I go to cafes. It's perhaps related to the fact that up until now my Spanish hasn't been good enough, and Galician non-existent, that I haven't been able to join any societies, but perhaps I could consider this now.

Please, please if you have some more information about things going on in the city then do tell me.

Thanks for your input,