Aranzazu Aguirre

research and development engineer at imec, Genk - EnergyVille, Belgium

Aranzazu Aguirre
“I realized that adapting to a foreign culture does not adhere to a universal set of rules. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied.”

A tapestry of colorful traditions and diversity

In 2000, Aranzazu Aguirre grasped a life-altering opportunity upon discovering a training program in the imec cleanroom in Belgium. Eager to learn, she left Spain to spend her summer immersing herself in chemical etching, working alongside a PhD student. This experience left an indelible mark on her. Aranzazu returned to Spain to complete her graduate studies and later to Belgium to pursue her PhD at the University of Antwerp. In 2017, Aranzazu joined imec in Genk to further expand her horizons in the field of thin-film photovoltaics.

Girona - Eiffel bridge
Tarragona - Amphiteatre

The missing universal rulebook when adapting to a new culture

Throughout her career, Aranzazu realized that a one-size-fits-all approach to adapting to a foreign culture does not exist. A polite gesture in one country may hold a different significance elsewhere, for instance, the lively discussions over meals, are common in Spain. When Aranzazu attended her first dinner in Belgium, she initially believed it was a social disaster as everyone quietly savored their food. Gradually, she grasped that this was simply the customary dining etiquette in Belgium. Such little details may seem striking at the beginning, but none of them are wrong. They are just norms. The realization of cultural diversity facilitated her ability to engage and adapt to diverse environments fully.

Prior to her move, Aranzazu used to enjoy playing basketball. However, locating a women’s basketball team in Belgium proved challenging. Consequently, she began engaging in alternative pursuits such as hiking and running. Her inaugural marathon endeavor took place in 2007.

Tapas, stuffed squid, and vegan delights

When it came to cuisine, Aranzazu had the privilege of enjoying a wide variety of options, thanks to her life in Madrid and its exquisite culinary offerings. One popular tapa she loved was Tortilla de Patatas, a simple Spanish omelet made with eggs, potatoes, onions, and oil. Another favorite was Chipirones Rellenos, a stuffed squid stew served with rice or pasta as a main course. The stuffing includes serrano ham, eggs, parsley, and fried onions, with options to add tomatoes and squid ink. Espinacas con Garbanzos is an easy to prepare Spanish vegan delicacy. The primary ingredients are spinach, chickpeas, cumin, coriander, garlic and sweet paprika. Freshly baked bread complements the dish.


Indulge in Pintxos, the delicious Basque tapas, at local bars in the Old Town of San Sebastián for an authentic culinary experience.

Tortilla de Patatos - A typical Spanish dish

Aranzazu’s favorite places and cultural insights

Having spent a significant portion of her life in Spain, Aranzazu has cultivated a few cherished destinations. For history buffs, Pamplona offers a glimpse of stunning architecture, picturesque old quarters, and the renowned running bull festival. For those looking to satiate their taste buds should make a stop at San Sebastián. The highest concentration of Michelin star restaurants per square kilometer in Europe is found in this little city.

While traveling through Spain presents countless reasons to celebrate, one must remember that toasting with water is strictly avoided in Spanish culture, as it is believed to bring bad luck. Opting for any other beverage ensures a delightful immersion in the colorful traditions of this diverse country.

Barcelona - Park Güell
Calella de Palafrugell
Lleida - Peach orchard in blossom