More guiris, more Spaniards, please.
Hi! Introduce yourself, por favor.
Hello! I’m Chelsea Alventosa. I’m 24 years old and I’m about to begin my third year as an Auxiliar de Conversación. I studied psychology and Spanish in undergrad, and after studying abroad in Granada, I knew I absolutely had to return to Spain. Luckily, in the midst of my senior year “what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life?!?!” crisis, my advisor sent an email to the Spanish majors about the Auxiliares de Conversación program. I filled out the online portion of the application that night… and nine months later I was in Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz), Spain!
So, now the fun part. Tell us about your Spanish significant other!
I actually met Paco the first week I was in Spain! A second-year auxiliar in my town introduced me to some of her Spanish friends from the year before while we were at the town’s feria, and one of them was Paco. It wasn’t love at first sight, though. I would see him and his friends out at the bars and would wave or do the “dos besos” hello, but not much more. But of course, Cádiz is famous for it’s Carnaval celebrations in February and the crazy partying that happens … Who knew that a cow and Pikachu would end up together for the long run after a juvenile midnight romp in the park? So it’s been about a year and a half since then.
Haha, a cow a Pikachu, I love it! Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard? If not, why?
He is SUCH a “typical” Spaniard … and more, a typical Andalusian. He’d never even left Spain in his 27 years until I took him home to Buffalo, New York, with me this past June. He’s all about an afternoon beer and some fried fish and he is definitely a proponent of the laid-back lifestyle and of not planning too much. That has been a big adjustment for me as I’ve always liked to plan ahead to make sure everything works out, and to make sure everyone is included and happy. So I’ve been learning to go with the flow a little more, and in return I’ve been opening his eyes to different ways of doing things, different foods, etc.
Okay, so I love that someone finally said their SO is a typical Spaniard! Which language do you speak when you’re together? Why?
We speak Spanish. Paco’s learning English little by little, but to really communicate anything, I have to speak Spanish. This has definitely been the biggest hurdle for me, for obvious reasons. This is actually my first serious long-term relationship … so I’m navigating new waters, and in addition have to do it in my second language. So difficult! The biggest pro is that my Spanish has improved a whole lot, but it is definitely difficult to communicate through language and cultural barriers at times.
Sometimes I envy people in your situation, but then other times I feel lucky that Mario and I can communicate in two. I guess both situations have their pros and cons. How do you deal with the “in-law” issue? Have you met them? Do you get along?
Ah, the in-laws. For me, the in-laws are Paco’s mom, older brother, and his nephew, who is like his little brother. They’re really great and have been super open in accepting my into their family. Even before I met her, Paco’s mom would send Paco over with tupperware containers of food, and since December when I met the family, we’ve eaten lunch with her and Paco’s grandmother every Friday. This summer since we have a big move coming up in September (read about it on my blog!), we’ve actually been living with Paco’s mom. It’s definitely been … an experience. I’ve been living on my own since I went away to college, so to be back living with a parent that’s not even my own parent has been a little rough. But I’m grateful that they’ve even let us live here for the time being so I feel really lucky to have such a gracious suegra.
What is the best part about dating/being married to a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?
After thinking about it for a while, I still don’t know how to answer this! It might be because I have no previous relationships to compare it to. I guess I like that everything has come full-circle … my paternal grandparents were Spanish, came to the US, and now I’ve ended up back here. I feel a lot more connected to my roots, and I love that I actually get to speak Spanish all the time with Paco, his friends, and his family. But other than that I think it has the same ups and downs as any relationship. It’s definitely not like in the movies!
Agreed. What’s the most difficult part?
The biggest daily difficulty for me has been navigating the relationship in Spanish, especially those times when I’m having a rough day or am upset, because then I start fumbling over my words, I get self conscious, and in turn get more upset. I’ve been working really hard to say everything that I want to say, rather than cutting myself short out of fear of making mistakes. But probably the most difficult part is that I am in love with someone who lives an ocean away from my family and friends and now we have to navigate all of the problems that come with that!
I totally get the whole rough-day, need-to-speak-in-English thing. What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?
I would definitely advise to seriously think about how invested you want to be in the relationship before getting into anything serious. Because a relationship with a Spaniard is just that … a relationship with someone from SPAIN. If your family and friends aren’t in Spain (and I assume for the majority of us they are not), then you’re getting yourself into a really tough spot and effectively splitting your heart apart into two places … horcruxing it, if you will. So really ask yourself, “Am I willing to stay here for the long term?” before getting into it!
Hahaha, I love that you said “horcruxing it”! So, do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term? Why?
The question of the year! And the answer is, I don’t know yet! I think ideally I’d like to live in the US somewhere, but I love Spain and have no problem being here for a few more years while we figure out what our plan is. Honestly, I try not to think about this one cause it stresses me out!
Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?
If we ever had children, they would definitely be raised bilingual, and of course would learn a new language in school. Knowing languages opens SO many doors and multiplies the number of people you can interact with tenfold. So I would definitely want my kid to have that advantage!
If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?
If I could import something to Spain it would be my friends and family. And if I could import something to the US, it would be Paco. But life isn’t that easy! So if we’re excluding people, I’d import cheap beer/food to the US and I’d import my car to Spain.
How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?
It’s changed me a lot! The biggest thing is that now I have to consider another person when I make decisions which I was definitely not used to. I’ve always been very independent and have had lots of liberty to make my own choices and to make decisions spur of the moment. But now I have to make sure that Paco feels included when I decide things … I feel a lot more grown up! It’s also made me realize how much people (in the US and in Spain) talk just to talk. Since I’m always slightly more self-conscious about speaking in Spanish with large groups of people, when I say something now I’ve usually thought about it a lot more than I would have had I been speaking English. So I’m definitely more aware now about what things are important and what things are just unimportant conversation fillers. It’s an interesting perspective to have!
Chelsea Alventosa is a 24 year old Buffalo, NY, native currently living in Arcos de la Frontera. To follow her adventures, check out her blog at Andalucía Bound! Professional photos above taken by Jessica Alventosa Photography.
Thanks, Chelsea! I really loved reading your answers, and I identified with so many of them!