The Shame In Spain

“Es una vergüenza…”, “Así nos va”, “Normal, este país”

Last week, a nurse in Spain became the first person to catch ebola outside of Africa. Scary? Maybe. A cause for extra precaution, for more education? Definitely. Shameful? I don’t know if we should go that far. But during this past week, I’ve heard a lot of reactions from Spaniards—friends, Twitter personalities, politicians, newscasters, etc. Some offered support to a person who was risking her life to save someone else. But a lot of people talked about shame. Shame? Yes, shame.

La vergüenza ajena

I love Spain. I think it’s a pretty cool country—beautiful, with great food, open-minded people (mainly). It has its problems, but it’s overall a nice place to live. I am sometimes shocked by Spaniards’ views on their own country, the way they insult it, as if their problems made it a terrible country. As Spanish National Television put it in a blog post, “We Spaniards feel shame constantly.” As the blog mentions, everyone feels a twinge of shame when your drunk uncle does ridiculous things at a wedding. Of course! But Spaniards seem to feel shame where most of us wouldn’t, to feel shame when they personally haven’t done anything wrong. La vergüenza ajena, feeling shame on the behalf of another person.

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So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Madison

Madison sent in her interview a while ago, so I apologize to her that I’m just getting around to publishing it! Sometimes I even forget about this blog for a little while. Crazy, huh? Anyway, let’s let her introduce herself:

My name is Madison, I’m 23, and I moved to Spain in 2008 when I was 18 to study full time at an American university in Madrid. A few months later I met my husband, Pedro, and in 2010 we got married. We have two children. Our daughter was born in October 2011 and our son was born in February 2013. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. On top of all that we moved to Frankfurt, Germany a year and a half ago for my Pedro’s work. So now I’m somewhere I never imagined I’d be!

Madison 2

How did you meet your significant other and how long have you been together?

I met Pedro at an language exchange at an Irish pub in downtown Madrid. I was there with some friends and we met Pedro and his friends. We didn’t start dating for a couple months after that though we stayed in touch. We’ve been together 5 years, married 3 and a half.

Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard? If not, why?

Pedro really isn’t the “typical” Spaniard. Oh sure, he enjoys eating tortilla, drinking beer, and watching soccer (stereotyping much?) but to start with he lived on his own when I met him. Many Spanish people tend to live with their parents until they are in a serious relationship and then, after a few years they move out when they reach 30. Pedro bought an apartment when he was 24 only a few minutes walking from his parents’ neighborhood. Still, he was already out younger than most Spanish people I’ve met including the majority of his friends. He had also gotten a firm start in his career by the time we met which I think is unique at the age of 25.

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

We speak English together. When we met my Spanish was not great, but more than that I was embarrassed. So we started our relationship in English and now that I’m fluent in Spanish it just feels more natural to have conversations in English. When around his family we try to mostly speak to each other in Spanish though.

How do you deal with the “in-law” issue?

My in-laws are warm, caring, and very welcoming individuals. From the first day I met them they brought me into the family and I was included in everything family related! When we lived in Madrid we saw them at least once a week for Sunday lunch and they were always ready to help us whenever we needed anything. However, this great positive can also turn into a negative. While my in-laws would never show up unannounced, we do not always see eye to eye on things and my bull-headed nature makes it difficult for us to effectively communicate sometimes. I will swear up and down that I’ve got it right and well, they’ll do the same! However, I don’t really see this as a cultural issue as this could happen with any set of in-laws anywhere. Having children has complicated things even more.

What is the best part about being married to a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

Wow. Loaded question. The best part about being married to a foreigner is being able to learn a whole new culture through the scope of another person. Taking everything with a grain of salt, I’ve learned so much history, culture, and especially language from my Spaniard. Pedro can teach me so much about a world I never knew about and I can do the same for him. The mixing, and sometimes confrontation, of manners, history, etc., can be fascinating.

What is the most difficult part?

This would be hard to pinpoint. If I’m being honest after 5 years together any of the difficult stuff has really just become the typical difficult stuff of any relationship. We’ve all got our good days, bad days, and in betweens.

Madison 3

What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?

I would give the same advice I would give anyone. Only get involved if you are truly interested. When dating someone from another country this is even more important that usual because the possibility of staying in another country far from “home” will definitely be there. On the flipside don’t overthink it because you might think you could never stay somewhere for love until you’ve found the right person. So I guess I’d advise being open with a side of caution.

Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term?

We had planned on living in Spain long term when Pedro was offered his current job here in Germany. It was an opportunity we knew we had to take or we’d forever be kicking ourselves. It has been a difficult and hectic year and a half since we moved, but I think we’re really starting to love our host country and goodness knows we have no plans to leave anytime soon.

Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?

As I mentioned earlier we have two children. We are raising them bilingual using the One Parent One Language method. Well, trilingual if they get enough German! Our daughter is two and she is already speaking in both English and Spanish and can understand pretty much anything said in either language. It’s truly incredible to watch her little gears working as she realizes now she’s speaking to mommy and she should say milk instead of leche or come instead of ven.

Madison 4

If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?

If I could import something from the US to Spain it would be cheaper baby things! Yes, parents can be a little boring. And maybe Chipotle. If I could import something from Spain to the US it would be salsa brava hands down. It’s really my favorite thing from Spain!

How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?

Having been with my husband now for 5 years through so much—finishing college, friendship break ups, career shifts, moving to another country, and having children—the only thing I can say for sure is that my amazing whirlwind dating experience with a Spaniard led to “real life” pretty fast! What I mean to say is that no matter how different or exotic it may feel in the beginning all of that stuff (Spanish, American, blah, blah, blah) tends to fall to the side as other issues in life arise. So I can’t say how being in a relationship with a Spaniard as opposed to an American has changed me. But I am changed by all the life experiences we’ve had together. And , as cheesy as it sounds, I know I don’t want to change back to who I was before.

Madison 1

Thanks Madison! (What cute kids!)

Interested in being a part of my Dating a Spaniard series? Email me; I’d love to have you!

“Everyone Can Travel”

This a big, heavy topic, but I’m certainly not qualified to speak on this topic in any sort of academic way. But for the past five years I’ve been writing and blogging about my experiences in Spain. At first I read other small-time bloggers, but I soon became aware of a much wider circle in travel blogging. You know who I mean—the eternal travelers. These people seem to be living a dream (well, not my dream, but certainly they are the envy of many others): They travel to new sites constantly, they get free hotel stays, they bungee jump off bridges in Australia … You get the picture. These people are paid to travel the world. And I’m happy for them! What an experience!

Nonetheless, I would like to refute some claims by some bloggers that this is an achievable dream for everyone. No more excuses, they say! I quit my boring desk job, and look at me now!

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5 Mistakes I Still Make in Spanish

After 5 years in this country, you might begin to think that I am fluent, 100% bilingual, and I would thank you for that assumption, but you would be wrong. Sadly. Sadly, I still make mistakes in Spanish, and these mistakes do drive me crazy, because most of the time (not all the time), I know exactly when I’ve made a mistake. Some Spanish native speakers love to correct me, immediately, as though they were doing me a great favor by enlightening me as to how to speak correctly. And I sort of understand that; I get that they are trying to be helpful in a way they know how to be, but usually I realize immediately that I’ve screwed up. That’s why I like writing. Mario’s cousin told me once that she never knew which of was writing to her on Whatsapp (Mario is a luddite and has no esmarfon, so we share mine), because my written Spanish is so good. #humblebrag

Yet there exist those things that still trip me up to this day. What are they?

El agua

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