We’re back again with my interview series with American women and men (although I’ve had no men respond!) who are dating Spaniards. Alternately, if you live in Spain and are dating a Spanish-speaking person, please let me know! Now, we’ll let Leah speak for herself!
Please introduce yourself (name, age, why you’re in Spain, etc.).
My name is Leah-or “Lia” as the Spaniards always spell it. I’m a 23-year-old graduate from Harding University (International Studies/Spanish major), and I’m a Language and Culture Assistant in Cadiz.
How did you meet your significant other and how long have you been together?
I have been dating Daniel (“Dani”) for about 8 months now. The story of how we met is funny and slightly embarrassing: soon after I moved to Spain in October 2011 I was in a plaza near my apartment using the free wifi because I didn’t have internet at my apartment yet. I was engrossed in my computer when Dani approached me and asked quickly in a typical ‘gaditano’ accent; “Tienes fuego por ahí?” (do you have a light?). Unfortunately, I did not understand one word what he said, but I did not want to show my ignorance. Therefore, instead of asking what he said like a normal person would do, I made my best guess and replied; “Si, hay wifi gratis aqui.” (Yes, there’s free internet here.) I was met with a confused look followed by, “Ohhh no eres de aquí?” I proceeded to explain that no, I wasn’t from there, yes I liked Spain—except that I hadn’t made many friends yet. Of course, he jumped on that opportunity and asked me if I wanted to hang out later that afternoon. We ended up spending time on the beach near my house that afternoon, going for coffee the next day, going for a beer the next evening, etc etc and officially started dating December 2011.
P.S. (A few months later he confessed that he had a lighter in his pocket the whole time …)
How sneaaaaaky! Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard? If not, why?
I feel like Dani has a lot of typical Spanish characteristics, but more specifically, Andaluz characteristics: he plays soccer, plays guitar, dances flamenco and salsa, and is very family oriented. He also has that laid back attitude that Spaniards are known for, likes the beach, and loves a good Spanish tortilla.
On the other hand, he couldn’t care less about Madrid vs Barcelona so I guess he can’t be THAT typical …
Haha! I say with just caring about fútbol he’s pretyt darn Spanish! Which language do you speak when you’re together? Why?
We pretty much only speak Spanish because my level of Spanish is much higher than his level of English. I majored in Spanish so I had a strong base level, whereas he studies English in high school but had forgotten a lot of it. (And I have to admit, I love having the opportunity to practice!)
Although he does keep me entertained with the few phrases that he does know and use:
- “I love you/miss you sweetheart”
- “Take it, please.”
- “You are very beautiful.”
- And the most common, “I speak English very well.”
How do you deal with the “in-law” issue? Have you met them? Do you get along?
He introduced me to his parents even before we were actually dating, and they are great. I feel really lucky, because they have made me feel so comfortable and welcome. His mom actually looks out for me as if I was a member of the family; she constantly is preparing homemade meals for me (because she knows I am terrible about feeding myself properly), I am always invited to family gatherings, and she even bought me gifts for ‘Los Reyes Magos’ (their version of Christmas eve). I know that I have my Spanish family, and my Spanish home.
What is the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?
For me, the best part about dating a Spaniard (besides from the obvious benefits of dating a great guy) is the opportunity to immerse myself in the Spanish culture so thoroughly. There are countless experiences I’ve had, things I’ve learned, and food I’ve tasted that probably wouldn’t have been possible on my own (i.e., New Years Eve traditional Spanish party with the entire extended family).
(I have to admit, its also fun to come home and amaze people by telling them that I’m dating a guy who doesn’t speak English … the reactions are great.)
That’s definitely a distinct experience from mine, because my husband speaks really good English! It would be interesting if he didn’t. What is the most difficult part?
The most difficult part is also what makes the relationship so interesting: the language and culture barrier. At times it is extremely frustrating because I feel like I can’t completely get my point across in Spanish. I also sometimes feel like my natural personality is harder to see because I have to focus on talking so much that it’s harder to relax and joke around like I normally would. Its always so much more difficult after a long day—I remember one night when I was really tired we were talking and I wanted to say something about a hat he was wearing. I started the sentence but when I got to the part about the hat, I couldn’t remember the word for hat! I was so frustrated that I just started crying with no warning, leaving him completely confused and bewildered!
Thankfully, Dani is extremely patient with me and never becomes frustrated if I speak slowly or don’t understand at first.
Culturally, it can be difficult because he still hasn’t had the opportunity to come visit the US, so while I know his family, city, and lifestyle very well, he hasn’t been able to see mine and therefore doesn’t always understand my perspective on things.
I’m sure it’ll happen someday—and when it does, it’s pretty fantastic! What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?
I guess my advice would be to realize that assumptions about the dating process can be really different for Spaniards and Americans. In my experience, they have more of an all-or-nothing attitude than I am used to. In America, I think it’s more accepted to casually date around until actually committing to a relationship. In contrast, I don’t think that the “casually dating” step really exists quite as much. So basically, the advice is to be careful when considering a relationship with someone, and only start a relationship if you are ready for him to assume you are committed.
Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term? Why?
I don’t know yet where I’d like to live long term, I do know that I want to continue traveling for a while before settling down, whether its in the US or in Spain.
Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?
When I have children, whether it’s with Dani or not, I definitely plan on raising them bilingual—or trilingual, if possible! It always frustrates me to see people who don’t pass on the gift of language to their children.
I’ve always envisioned myself teaching Spanish to my children, but the other day I had a thought that made me laugh: if I ended up having children in Spain, it would be the other way around. I would have to teach my kids English!
If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?
This summer, I would “import” Dani from Spain to the US so he could visit me, meet my family and friends, and see my city! Sadly, its not financially possible right now.
After I return to Cadiz, I would probably import good Mexican food.
Good Mexican food, yes! I’m hoping my new home, Madrid, has some good Mexican! How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?
I’m afraid of sounding a bit cliché with this answer, but one way I think I’ve changed is my patience. Patience in life in general, patience with myself when I have trouble communicating, patience with him when he doesn’t understand what I want him to understand, and patience when figuring out our differences.
Sometimes most difficult: patience when I’m the only English speaker at family gatherings that last longer than I expected … (ha).
Thank you, Leah! It’s been a pleasure.