So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Jamie

Hi all! So ironically—if I’m using the word correctly, and I’m never quite sure I am—when I stopped blogging regularly, my stats started booming! I blame Pinterest, but I can’t be sure … Nonetheless, I’d love to start blogging more regularly, at least so you all can listen to my husband’s complaints about drivers in the U.S.! (They are hilarious.) To tide you over, please read this interview with Jamie, who blogs at Belleville to Barcelona.

Dating a Spaniard Jamie

Hi!  My name is Jamie and I am from a small town in southern Illinois called Belleville.  It is right across the river from St.Louis, Missouri.  I turned 26 in October, right before I left to come back here to Barcelona for the second time.  I landed here for my first time in October 2012, took a TEFL course, and started working right away.  Obviously, I fell in love, with both teaching and my Spainard.  :) After working and living the typical Barcelona lifestyle for a full year, I decided I had to return home to see my family.  I stayed home for a full year and then packed my bags up again and here I am! This time around I’ve been here for 5 months so all together in Spain- 1 year and 5 months!

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

Carles and I met in the cheapest and smelliest hostel in London you could possibly imagine.  The crazy part is we were both living and working in Barcelona at the time and I was on my first ever Eurotrip with one of my best friends from college and he (last minute) booked a trip there to go for 5 days by himself and practice his English.  When we returned to Barcelona in January we did language exchanges together and hung out frequently- just as friends.  This went on for a few months and in March he moved into a 4 bedroom apartment with me and 2 other girls and again we were still just friends.  It wasn’t until May of 2013 we decided to make it official.. With that being said, we have been together for 2 years.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?

In some ways—yes, he is a Spaniard through and through … In other ways he couldn’t be farther from a “typical” Spaniard.  For example, I swear he has to take a siesta every day he is not working even if he isn’t tired.. It’s just in his blood. He loves paella, jamón, and bocadillos and could eat them every day if he could.  He grew up playing soccer and was the captain of his team the last few years.  On the other hand, he is never too bothered when the Barca games are on and is open to moving and not staying around his small village where he is from.  He travels all over the world with me and is constantly wanting to see and do more.  He LOVES everything related to the states and would much rather wear a St.Louis Cardinals baseball jersey than a Barca one any day.  I think he really has developed the “best of both worlds” when it comes down to it.

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

When we met, we started talking in English because my level of Spanish was pretty terrible.  As we spent more time together and lived with two other girls who only spoke English—we were primarily speaking English. Now, as this is my second time around here, we are trying to speak more Spanish to improve my level but like everyone says, it’s hard to switch completely from the language you started speaking in.  Step by step!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

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

Joan and Olga are amazing!  I have met them multiple times and can honestly say they treat me as one of their own, even though we are so different and don’t speak the same languages.  As they are from here; their first language is Catalan but of course switch to Spanish when I am around.  We have lunch with them usually every other Sunday and this past Christmas I was fortunate enough to get to spend it with them.  It was wonderful getting to experience a true Catalan Christmas!

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

You are constantly (and I mean constantly) learning something new.  Whether it is simply a new word in Spanish (or Catalan in my case) or a whole new tradition and way of life.. There are always things to be shared with one another.  Also you are welcomed into a whole new culture which is amazing in itself… Your eyes are opened to so many new things and it makes you appreciate it even more having your Spaniard (or foreigner) there to help guide you.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

What is the most difficult part?

With cultural differences … comes some type of miscommunication at times.  There have been moments where one of us isn’t able to fully express what we want to say in the other language and this can be frustrating but with time and lots of patience.. Everything always works itself out!  Especially now after being together for 2 years, we hardly ever experience this anymore.

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

Be patient! Also be very flexible because maintaining a relationship from opposite sides of the world can be tough at times… If you have to do long distance at any point like we did. But get ready for an amazing experience, unlike any you have had before!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

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

Bear with me because this question brings up a lot of different scenarios for us. Now it’s much easier for us to live and work in Spain; however, we love the U.S., and of course my family is there, so we plan to go back before too long and start our lives in the states together.  But after we have children and they are old enough to remember, we would like to come back here to allow them to go to Spanish/Catalán schools and experience what is it like to live and grow up in Spain.  So I guess both?

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

Obviously I want my family here first and foremost.. After that, I would really love if it dryers were much more available here because I dislike everything about having to hang my clothes out.  Also I would import smoothie places on every corner like they are in the states (I miss my smoothie king, Jamba Juice, Planet Smoothie, etc.), oh, and TARGET!
If I could import something to the States, it would definitely be the mentality from here to ‘work to live’ not ‘live to work’ which is so very common in the states.  As for food, jamón, tortilla de patatas, and pan con tomate at each meal.  And one thing specific from Barcelona would be La Boqueria! It’s the best and I’m sad all my friends and family in the states don’t get to experience it unless they come here of course!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

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

It has made me a better person overall- it has made me realize there is way more to life than just “living the American dream” and in my opinion, not living that “life” and having the pressures that come along with is is way better.  I have learned so much about the Spanish and Catalán cultures and been able to experience their traditions firsthand.  It has made me more open to all languages and cultures and also made me realize that anything is possible.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie
Thanks so much, Jamie!

So You Were Dating a Spaniard—Serena

Hey guys. Long time; no see. Life’s been full of changes since we moved here in March. Mainly I’ve been working, having a life, and also pursuing a certification in education as well as applying to do a master’s. You know: life’s been keeping me on my toes. But I thought I’d try to bring it back with this interview with Serena … a very atypical interview for this series (So You’re Dating a Spaniard).

My name is Serena, I’m Canadian and I’ve been living in Spain for over 15 years. I was married with, not one but two, Spaniards (not at the same time, of course!). However, now I’m divorced and a single mother. Sorry to put on the dampener with all these beautiful love stories that you have on your blog (that actually work!) and I’m not saying that love stories with Spaniards don’t work in the long run. The reason we broke up had nothing to do with my husband’s being Spanish, and I’m sure if they had been Canadian, our marriages still wouldn’t have worked out.

I used to be very naïve, and, coming from a dysfunctional home, I actually used to believe that if a person didn’t abuse me, it meant that he didn’t love me. I thought that the way a person was supposed to show love was by insulting me and telling me all the things that were horrible about me. And if he didn’t do that, it meant that he didn’t care about me.

In my mind, I felt that a person who loves you insults you so that you know what is wrong with you and you can improve that and become a better person. And if a person is being nice to you, he really doesn’t care about you, because he isn’t doing anything to try and help you become a good person. So I only went out with men who insulted me and treated me badly. If a man was nice to me, I immediately mistrusted him and ran away from him. After learning what was so dysfunctional about this sort of thinking, I was able to walk away from this sort of relationship … which is why I’m not with anyone today. However, now I’m ready to look for love again!

My two exes and I actually have a really great, really cool relationship. I’m good friends with both of them and if I really need something, I know that I can count on both of them, and they will be there for me. I consider myself blessed to enjoy such a precious friendship with them.

Moving on, I live in Málaga and I have two sons, one with each of my ex-husbands. I’m over 30 so I’m old enough to keep my age a secret! I guess like most people from English speaking countries, we’re “labelled” and stereotyped into teaching English, so that is my main activity and I’m extremely thankful to have a job. At any rate, I never studied any other profession.

I came to Spain because I signed up for a Spanish course at university. I’d always heard Mexicans speaking and I thought their language was the most beautiful I’d ever heard, and I wanted to understand what they were saying.

The university offered a study Spanish abroad programme, so I jumped at the opportunity to take Spanish courses in Madrid. Anyway, to keep the interview from getting too long, I’ll just talk about my first husband. He was my first love, and you know what that means!

How did you meet your ex significant other?

I was singing in a choir in Madrid, and a girl I met there became my best friend. She had lived in Granada so we went to Granada together on holiday. While we were in Granada she introduced me to her friends, and David was one of them.

The first day I met him, I thought David was sweet but very pesky. We went bar hopping, and he kept following me about all over the place and wouldn’t stop bombarding me with questions! I found that pretty tiresome. Then it turned out that we had to find a place to crash for the night because it was so late, we couldn’t go back to my friend’s brother’s house, because he was already in bed. So we ended up bedding down at David’s apartment.

I didn’t keep in touch with David. But one day he came to Madrid and we bumped into each other. He told me later that he had been dreaming that he would bump into me and willing it to happen! He moved to Madrid for a year to take a course, and we started going out.

Do you feel that your ex significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?

I don’t really think there’s a “typical” Spaniard. He doesn’t care about soccer or sports in general at all. But he’s from Andalucía so he likes many of the things that I suppose people stereotypically associate with Spain, such as flamenco, bar-hopping and tapeando and going to parties.

His attitudes at that time were also fairly machista, one of the reasons why our relationship didn’t work out. But I don’t believe that all Spanish men are machista. I think it’s like everywhere else. In Canada there are also men with chauvinistic or sexist attitudes, and men who don’t have such attitudes.

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

We always spoke Spanish. He knows a little bit of English, but I’d already been living and working in Spain for a few years so I spoke Spanish quite well. It did take a little getting used to his “andaluz” accent though.

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

I used to get along well with his parents. I got along better with his father than with his mother. She was a lovely lady too, what you could consider typical andaluza, superb in the kitchen and a madraza (a great mama). But I found her ideas a bit “antiquated” for the times, and I didn’t always agree with them. For example, she thought that a woman was supposed to be for the house and for her man and giving her man whatever he wanted.

My ex father-in-law was a famous artist, and I dedicated an article to him, which you can read on my blog. He was very kind and friendly and open-minded. He was such a sweet person. He used to tell me many stories and anecdotes about his youth and life during the Spanish Civil War. One day I might write them down on the blog in order not to forget them. He’s passed away now, and I actually do miss him.

What was the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

Being with David let me meet people, go to places and learn about all sorts of customs, traditions and history that normally a foreigner would simply never find out about, I think. I made a lot of Spanish friends through him and enjoyed a lot of experiences that I would never have had the opportunity to have if I had been alone.

What was the most difficult part?

Definitely the language barrier and also different customs. Like any language, Spanish has a lot of nuances and even more so Andalusian Spanish (which some people don’t even consider Spanish). And as a foreigner, a lot of times these nuances escape you.
David was also a bit of an anti-American and even though I’m not American, he thought Canadians had a lot in common with them, and he didn’t understand these customs nor have any interest in learning about them.

For example, he said Canadians walk funny. Spanish people are very direct and they don’t consider it rude to stare directly at people. But in Canada, that’s very rude. People are always telling their kids, “Don’t stare at that man/woman!” So in order to avoid staring at people, we learn to look demurely at the ground.

Another thing he thought was creepy was the way North Americans put their hands in their laps when they’re eating. He thought that was just plain rude, he’d say, “What are you doing down there? Put your hand where I can see it!” I, on the other hand, thought it was rude that he kept poking me with his elbow!

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

Well, I’d give the same advice I’d give to anyone starting a relationship with any person, no matter what country that person is from. Love yourself first, respect yourself enough to not let yourself be with anyone who doesn’t respect you. Or who treats you like %&(* or is tyrannical or demands absolute obedience from you. Probably most people reading this blog know this, but I didn’t. I was used to this sort of treatment at home, and I thought it was the right way to be treated by people who loved you.

Do you plan on living in Canada or in Spain long term?

I have no one left at “home” to “go home” to anymore anyways, so I’m staying in Spain for good. Besides which I HATED, absolutely couldn’t stand, the harsh Canadian winters! Although I wouldn’t mind spending some time living in other countries, for the adventure. But I think I’d always come back to Spain.

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

I know maybe it sounds weird, but I miss a lot of the foods from there. I miss too many foods to name them all, but I think flavoured instant oatmeal, cream of wheat and blueberry Eggo waffles are near the top of the list! And unexpected afternoon thunderstorms in the middle of summer!

If I could import something from Spain to Canada? Oh definitely without a doubt the hot Andalusian sun, palm trees and warm beaches. And also the much more relaxed lifestyle. I know here in Spain people work long hours. But when they get off work, they know how to relax. In Canada people live with their jobs 24 hours a day.

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

I think being in a relationship changes you, it doesn’t matter whether the person you are in a relationship with is from another country or from your own country. I learnt what was acceptable and what I wouldn’t accept any more from someone I was in a relationship with. I discovered that when people love you, they do NOT show it by shouting at you and insulting you all the time.

I’d rather not include any photos of my ex as I don’t have his permission. But here is a picture of myself with my two children.

Dating a Spaniard Series - Serena

Thank you, Serena, for such an interesting perspective! You can see her blog at The Seas of Mintaka.

Summer Update

I have largely abandoned my blog since moving home from Spain in March, and I don’t really have anything to say about this, except … Oops! I never imagined how fast life could change. We left Spain on March 10, with two overloaded suitcases apiece and crossed our fingers we’d get a nice ticketing agent, which—miracle of miracles—indeed we did! There were no extra fees for out slightly overweight suitcases, and we arrived safely on U.S. soil, full of hopes and expectations and uncertain ideas of how our lives would pan out. Okay, we were really just anxious about the next month or so and if it would take forever to find a job. For the moment, we’d be living with my parents.

It’s interesting to think about the whole “living with your parents” thing, because Spaniards would not blink at an eye at this scenario. It’s only natural, of course, that we would choose to shack up with my mom and dad until we find jobs and, subsequently, a place of our own! Claro! But, upon talking to a former-classmate-turned-restaurant-server at a local watering hole, I found that my fellow Americans (ahem) were far more likely to reassure us that, yeah, it’s odd and it kind of sucks, but we’d find something soon, and we’d be out of there quick! It was almost as if they expected us to feel ashamed of living with my parents, when I felt nothing of the sort, having just lugged my whole life in four suitcases, two backpacks that weighed as though we’d packed them with bricks, and a pair of “personal items” that were frankly too large to be considered personal by anyone’s standards. I brushed off this condescension (unintentional as it might have been) and tried to think positive thoughts.

As our luck and gumption would have it, Mario soon found a job in Indiana’s capital, not far from my hometown. Once we ascertained where we’d be living, I started to look for jobs in the area … And again, I was lucky enough to find a position within a few weeks! I have to admit that it felt, again, like nothing short of a miracle.

By June, we were moved into a new apartment, and it felt as though we’d had a joint midlife crisis, as we purchased new everything: a sofa, a dining room table, a computer, a desk, a bookshelf, a king-size lovely comfortable bed set, and even a new car.

New Car Kaley MarioAnd life the last few weeks (how it it August already?!) has been full of summer fun: outdoor concerts, picnics, beer drinking under the stars, trying new restaurants, and just generally enjoying all the things Indiana summers have to offer, mosquitoes included. Some pictures for the two of you still reading … Oh yeah, and a visit to see our good Spanish-American couple friends in Chicago!

Kaley Mario Sears Tower Willis Tower Chicago Hilary Kaley Union Brewing Company Carmel Kaley Mario Conner Prairie Symphony on the PrairieAs you can see, Mario has adapted quite well to the culture, though we failed at getting him the traditional Old Navy American Flag shirt. The Target knockoff had to do in a pinch.

How are your summers? If you’re in Spain, please refrain from talking about tinto de verano or tapas or anything of the sort, and don’t even think the words jamón or salchichón, okay?

Visa Woes—Part 3

When we last left off my tale of our struggle to get Mario a green card, we had sent in all our documents to the NVC (National Visa Center), and we were waiting. Again. The NVC tells you that you will have to wait at least 60 days. If there is any error in the mountains of paperwork, you will have to fix them, and wait for another 60 days. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I decided to call the NVC on December 13, after about 90 days, to get an update on Mario’s status. I was dreading the phone call, in a way, because I knew there was a chance they would tell me I had committed some mistake, and there would be another 60-day waiting period. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I punched in the number and put the phone to my ear. I had a chance to calm myself, though, due to the 40-minute wait I went through! Is there anything worse than the music when you’re waiting to speak to someone at a call center? I wish there would just be … well, anything besides what they normally put out! The worst are the repeated messages that your call is important to them, blah, blah, blah. I get it!

Finally, though, a nice lady picked up the phone. I gave her our Case Number, and she informed that it was, and I quote, “Done.” Done? What did that mean, done? Complete? Everything’s okay? I think my rapid-fire style of questioning made her laugh, because she told me that, yes, we were approved.

We did it!

I asked her about the next step, the interview with a consular officer at the embassy. She told me that Mario would be scheduled for his interview in January, meaning the interview would be in February.

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