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.

So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Ashley

So today we have something a little bit different … A Canadian dating a Spaniard! A bit of a change from all of us Americans who just love our Spaniards, but I think we’ll accept her into the group.

I’m Ashley, a 23 year-old Canadian currently living in Castro-Urdiales (Cantabria). I arrived in Spain about a month ago to begin my first year as an English language assistant at a high school. I applied for this program because my boyfriend and I had begun running out of options to stay together as an international couple. And, of course, if we have to choose I think I would pick a mild Spanish winter over a Canadian one anyway!

Canadian Dating Spaniard

How did you meet your significant other?

Borja and I celebrated three years together this past July. We met in June 2011 at the sushi restaurant in central London where we both worked (I was spending the summer there working while on a youth mobility visa and Borja had left Spain some months before to learn English). Somehow, because I didn’t speak any Spanish and Borja spoke only basic English, we clicked and quickly became friends. We found out not long after meeting that we lived about a 15-minute walk from one another- which is nearly unheard of in London- so we began to spend more time together. By the time I was preparing to leave a few months later we had started to make plans for him to visit me in Canada.

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

I think when we first met three years ago Borja was much more of a “typical” Spaniard than he is now. In the time that we have been together I have found that he has changed; he has travelled, improved his second language, lived abroad and grown from it. But I still find him very Spanish despite these changes, especially now that we’re back in Spain! Borja loves good Spanish food, especially the cured meats and old cheeses that are so popular here, and is so happy to have bread with every meal (something he really missed when we lived in Canada). Like any Spaniard he loves to go out and party, and it’s difficult to tear him away from the television when the football match is on! I’m also reminded of the “typical Spanish expressions” that Borja loves to tell me, so if in nothing else he is certainly Spanish in his use of Spanish idioms and sayings.

Canadian Dating Spaniard

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

When we’re together we mainly speak Spanish. I would say 80-percent Spanish and 20-percent English. This is a decision we made quite some time ago to help me improve my Spanish. Borja had already begun to study English when we met and his language skills have improved threefold. I, on the other hand, didn’t speak any Spanish and had to start from the beginning. Three years on and we speak Spanish at home. I’m very glad we made that decision because now I’m comfortable speaking Spanish in just about any situation.

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

This is a fun question! I first meet Yolanda and José Luis just a few months after meeting Borja. He left Canada to go home for Christmas and I decided to follow for a two-week vacation. I arrived there speaking no more than 3 or 4 sentences in Spanish (and understanding nothing) and they spoke no English. In those three weeks I learned just how warm they truly are. Since that first visit I have spent a summer living with them and have had many visits. I love them both so much and am relieved that Borja has such great parents!

That is so great! I too have great in-laws. What is the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

I think the best part about dating a foreigner is that every day is an adventure. Even after three years together that hasn’t ceased to be true and we have a lot of fun together. Dating a Spaniard is really fantastic. Spanish people are kind and open and, sometimes, quite fiery. Borja also has these characteristics and it makes for a change. He’s definitely different from many of the Canadian guys that I have dated and it’s refreshing to experience. Another great thing about dating a Spaniard is that Spanish people are so relaxed, they are never in a huge rush to do anything; Borja and I pair well because I have endless energy and I always want to be on the move, his relaxed nature means he rolls with my many wild ideas without much complaint.

What is the most difficult part?

In the beginning the most difficult part was expressing our feelings to one another. Having a limited vocabulary in your partner’s first language some times made it difficult to understand what the other wanted to say/how they felt.

Now, I think the most difficult part is the uncertainty of the future. This usually doesn’t factor into our daily thoughts, but every now and again someone will ask us about our future plans and we’re reminded that we don’t really have any. We haven’t made any concrete plans, other than to be together. After three years we have considered all of our possibilities and try to do our best to plan well for our future, especially since the immigration process can be so trying.

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

I would say go for it! Jump in head first, because only through being open and eager will you find a happy relationship. Remind yourself that there may be difficulties, but difficulties exist in any relationship. And prepare for an adventure because dating a Spaniard is just that!

I love the idea of it being an adventure. Do you plan on living in the Canada or in Spain long term?

I love Canada deeply and a part of me will always be there, but Spain is the long-term plan for us. It is easier for me to get residence in Spain, than it is for Borja in Canada. Just through officially registering ourselves as a common law couple I am able to get 5 years residence in Spain, meaning I can work here legally (outside of the language assistants program if I choose to), and would have access to the same health care as Borja has. Things are much more complicated in Canada and the process is much longer. As well, we’ve chosen Spain for the long term for the life style here. People in Spain work to live, not live to work and we really prefer that sort of lifestyle to the one we felt we had been living back in Canada.

Canadian Dating Spaniard

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

Can I have two things? My little sister and my doggy without a doubt! Sometimes I start to think about how much I miss them both and I begin to doubt my reasons for leaving Canada. I know I’ve made the right decision for the place I am at right now and for my relationship with Borja, but it’s still difficult to be so far away from them. And since flights to Canada are so expensive, I couldn’t ever take a short week visit just because I feel like I need a visit.

Something from Spain that I would send to Canada would be the hot Spanish sun. My friends and family sure could use some rays in the middle of February!

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

It’s made me happier, without a doubt! Dating a Spaniard has also given me a better appreciation for other cultures and ways of life. Seeing how Borja lives in Spain and letting me be a part of that has shown me that what I may have accepted as different before isn’t so different after all.

Canadian Dating Spaniard

Thank you so much for your interview, Ashley! You two make a great couple. If you want to check out her blog, she blogs at Cómo Perderse en España.

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

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!

So You’re Dating a Spaniard—5 Years Later

If it’s not obvious enough, I get a lot of blog traffic from people who are curious about dating a Spaniard. Why … It’s not like I’ve written about a lot, is it? Some search terms include:

  • dating a spanish man [Better hope you got a man and not a boy!]
  • dating spanish guys [What this mean, guy?]
  • dating in spain [Sometimes you will go on dates to visit 13th-century cathedrals]
  • why are spaniards so hot [They just are, sizzle sizzle!]
  • dating a spaniard vs dating an american [You will eat more pork]

Guys, I hate stereotyping. Nah, just kidding—stereotyping is the best! So let’s do it. What can I, after five years dating a Spanish man, tell you about the process?

Mario Kaley 2009 SalamancaBack when I didn’t know that much but thought I did (September 2009)

Spanish men are just men.

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