The Immigrant Experience—A Spaniard in the U.S.

Guest post by Mario, first in Spanish (translation follows, for all you monolinguals or just those who don’t speak Spanish):

Mario in YosemiteMario in Yosemite

Al poco de llegar a los EE.UU., Kaley me pidió que, por favor, escribiera una entrada para su blog en la que comentase algunas diferencias entre los EE.UU. y España que hayan llamado mi atención. Me lo ha recordado unas quinientas veces, aproximadamente. Ahora que lo pienso, creo que esta semana no me ha dicho nada; probablemente, me haya dado por un caso perdido. No es que haya estado remoloneando todo este tiempo, sino que necesitaba la inspiración y, por estas cosas de la vida, las musas me han visitado mientras veía el sexto partido de la primera ronda de los playoffs de la NBA entre los San Antonio Spurs y Los Angeles Clippers (lo bueno de vivir en los EE.UU. es que no tienes que trasnochar par ver los partidos de la NBA). Como las musas son caprichosas y nunca se sabe cuándo van a volver, voy escribiendo notas en el teléfono mientras que con un ojo sigo el partido –bastante ajustado en los dos primeros cuartos, por cierto.

Supongo que por deformación profesional me veo en la obligación de hacer el siguiente caveat a modo de advertencia legal para aquellas almas susceptibles a la crítica: el contenido de esta entrada no es un juicio de valor ni una crítica a los EE.UU. o a España, salvo cuando lo diga expresamente. Simplemente, me limito a citar aquellas situaciones u objetos de la vida cotidiana que han llamado mi atención. El lector también deberá tener en cuenta que algunas de las situaciones que relato se basan en mi experiencia personal en un entorno muy concreto dentro de una zona de los EE.UU. y que, quizás, resulte diferente en otras zonas o entornos del mismo país.

Vamos, pues.

En Indiana los coches sólo llevan matrícula detrás.

Esto también puede llamarte la atención si eres de Alaska, California, Colorado, Distrito de Columbia, Connecticut, Hawái, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nuevo Hampshire, Nueva Jersey, Nueva York, Dakota del Norte, Ohio, Oregón, Rhode Island, Dakota del Sur, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming o las Islas Vírgenes de los EE.UU. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_registration_plates_of_the_United_States).

En Indiana no es obligatorio que los motoristas lleven casco (salvo si eres menor de edad).

Hay semáforos en las carreteras.

Vas tranquilamente por la carretera y, de repente, ves al fondo una luz roja (o verde, o ámbar, según el momento) porque hay un cruce con otra carretera.

Los semáforos están al otro lado del cruce.

En España y otros países del entorno de la UE, los semáforos están antes de la calle que vas a cruzar. No es así en los EE.UU., donde los semáforos están al otro lado de la calle (o carretera porque, recordemos que hay semáforos en las carreteras) que se quiere cruzar. Supongo que es por temas de visibilidad, lo cual tiene sentido.

 Anuncios en la televisión

Los anuncios pueden llegar a ser una fuente de información muy relevante sobre un país en tanto revelan la idiosincrasia de su población, sus preferencias, por no mencionar que son, a su manera, una forma de arte. Personalmente, me gustan los anuncios, ya sea escucharlos en la radio, verlos en la televisión o en la prensa escrita. Me encanta ver cómo cambian en función del público objetivo: hora del día, programa o época del año (sirva de ejemplo que, en España, cuando llegan las Navidades hay muchos anuncios de juguetes ¡pero también de colonias! Unas Navidades mi padre iba apuntando los anuncios de colonias, pero no recuerdo cuántos diferentes llegó a contar. Otro ejemplo, cuando llega septiembre, hay muchos anuncios en la televisión de colecciones –taxis antiguos, construye tu maqueta de la fragata española en la que navegó Miguel de Cervantes en la Batalla de Lepanto– o de cursos –aprende inglés, alemán o a hacer calceta– que se compran en los kioscos de prensa. Puede que esté equivocado, pero para mí eso me revela que en España es septiembre y no el comienzo de un año cuando la gente se propone aprender algo nuevo o tener un nuevo hobby).

Los anuncios suelen ser más imaginativos, con un toque de humor.

El ejemplo por antonomasia son los anuncios de la Super Bowl. Como no estaba para la Super Bowl, pero sí para la Locura de Marzo, me gustaría compartir un anuncio que me hizo especial gracia sobre la Final Four en Indianápolis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X60NihKKNY).

Hay más cortes publicitarios pero más cortos.

Cada sistema tiene sus más y sus menos. En España te da tiempo a ir al cuarto de baño, a la cocina a prepararte un bocadillo y, si me apuras, puedes llegar a ver dos películas en dos canales diferentes. Esto puede resultar contraproducente para la empresa que se está anunciando porque el público objetivo no presta tanta atención.

Temas

Esta es una de las diferencias principales:

Hay anuncios de medicamentos con receta.

Suelen ser anuncios largos porque tienen que explicar las contraindicaciones.

Hay anuncios de las fuerzas armadas para quien quiera enrolarse.

Hay más anuncios de restaurantes de comida rápida.

Ya que estamos con el tema de la comida, cambiamos de tercio. Kaley es la especialista en asuntos culinarios, por lo que me limitaré a un único comentario:

No echan el kétchup encima de las patatas

Burger Fries

A lo mejor es algo de mi entorno, pero cuando como patatas fritas, echo el kétchup por encima de las patatas. Aquí se echa el kétchup al lado y vas pringando las patatas que te vas a comer en ese momento.

 Los interruptores de la luz

Mi impresión es que en España hay más variedad de interruptores. Por lo general, en EE.UU. muchas casas tienen el modelo que aparece en la fotografía. Personalmente, me resultan más prácticos estos porque los encuentras mejor cuando no hay luz porque sobresalen más. Pero es cuestión de gustos, como todo en la vida.

Light Switch USA

Tim Duncan sigue jugando a baloncesto a nivel profesional… ¡y está en el quinteto titular de los Spurs!

Para quien no sea muy baloncestista, este jugador tiene 39 años y empezó su carrera profesional en 1997.

Es más que probable que me haya dejado en el tintero alguna que otra cosa. En caso de ser así, ¿qué os ha llamado la atención sobre la vida en los EE.UU. o en España, según sea el caso?


Shortly after coming to the USA, Kaley asked me if I could, please, write an entry for her blog talking about some of the differences between the USA and Spain that may have drawn my attention. She has reminded me that like a bazillion times. Now that I think about it, she hasn’t mentioned anything about it this week; she may have given up on me as a lost cause. Truth is that I have not been procrastinating all this time, I just lacked the inspiration and, just like that, the muses have come to me while I was watching the sixth game of the NBA playoffs first round between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers (one of the good things of living in the States is that you don’t have to stay up late at night to watch the NBA, duh). Since the muses can be quite unpredictable and you never know when they will come back, I jot down some notes on my phone, wile I keep an eye on the game—by the way, rather close in the first two quarters.

I guess that being biased by my profession I would like to make a caveat as a legal warning to those souls easy to be hurt by criticism: the contents of this entry are, by no means, a value judgment nor a critic to the USA or Spain, safe for when I expressly state it otherwise. I’m just writing those situations or objects in the daily life that have drawn my attention. The reader should also bear in mind that the situations I describe are based on my personal experience in a given environment within a geographical area of the USA and that this may be different within other areas or environments of the USA.

Well, let’s go.

In Indiana cars only have rear license plates.

This may be new to you if you are from Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or the US Virgin Islands. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_registration_plates_of_the_United_States).

In Indiana motorbike riders do not have to wear a helmet (except if you are under 18).

There are traffic lights on highways.

You are driving along on the highway when, alas, you see a red light in the distance (or green, or yellow, as the case may be) because there is a crossing with another road.

Traffic lights are placed after the crossroads.

In Spain, as well as other countries of the UE, traffic lights are placed before the road you are about to cross. Not in the States, where the traffic lights are after the road (or highway, remember there are traffic lights in highways) you have to cross. I guess they do this for visibility’s sake, which makes sense.

 TV ads

Advertising can be a very relevant source of information about a country, since they reveal the idiosyncrasies of the population, their preferences, and let’s not forget that they are, in its own way, a form of art. I personally enjoy ads, whether I listen to them on the radio, watch them on TV or read them in the press. I like to see how they are different depending on the target audience: hour of the day, show or season (for instance, during Christmas season in Spain, there are tons of ads for toys, but also for perfumes! My dad was counting them one time but I can’t remember how many he counted.) Another example: when September comes, there are many ads on TV of collections—old taxis, build a model frigate where Miguel de Cervantes sailed in the Battle of Lepanto, or of courses: to learn English, German or how to knit—that can be bought on newsstands. I may be wrong, but I believe this reveals that in Spain the month of September, and not when a new year starts, is when people make the resolution to learn something new or pick up a hobby).

Commercials usually are more inventive, with a humorous touch.

The example par exellence are the commercials during the Super Bowl. Since I wasn’t here for the last Super Bowl, but I was for March Madness, I would like to share with you a commercial I found particularly funny about the Indianapolis Final Four (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X60NihKKNY).

Commercial breaks are more frequent but they are shorter.

Each system has its pros and cons. In Spain you have time to go to the toilet, go the kitchen to fix you a sandwich and, if you are lucky, you may be even able to watch two movies at the same time on different channels. This may be counterproductive for the company advertising since its target audience may not be paying as much attention.

 Topics

This is one of the main differences:

Commercials for prescription drugs.

These commercials are usually long since they have to explain all the side effects and stuff like that.

Commercials for the armed forces to entice new recruits.

There are more fast food restaurant commercials.

Since I’m already talking about food, let’s change the subject. Kaley is the specialist when it comes to culinary topics, so I will stick to one comment:

In the States, they do not pour ketchup over the fries.

It might be a personal thing, but when I eat fries, I pour the ketchup on top of the fries. Here, they pour it on the side and they dip the specific fries they are going to eat at a given moment. [Side note by Kaley: Little does he know how huge a controversy this really is!]

Light switches.

Light Switch USA

My impression is that we have a larger variety of light switches. Generally speaking, in the USA many homes have the model appearing in the picture above. I personally find these ones more practical since you can easily find them when there is no light because they stick out. I know that it’s a matter of taste, like everything in life.

Tim Duncan is still playing pro basketball … and he’s on the starting team!

For those not familiar with hoops, this player is 39 and started playing pro in 1997.

It is more than likely that I may have failed to mention some things. If this is the case, what has drawn your attention about living in the USA or Spain, as the case may be?

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “The Immigrant Experience—A Spaniard in the U.S.

  1. Jon was shocked by the drug commercials, too. The idea that pharma markets to patients as strongly as to doctors is really bizarre, when you think about it! Like, what do we know, we non-medocal people? We shouldn’t ask for medicines based on good advertising. It’s SO American.

    (And ooooh the ketchup controversy! I’m a dipper too but Jon’s a coverer.)

  2. Jaja, Mario, que bueno saber algo de ti en tu voz! Me ha gustado aprender las cosas que te llaman la atencion que damos por hecho. Y eso de baloncesto – pues soy de la misma ciudad (y instituto!) que Chris Paul, la misma ciudad donde empezo Tim Duncan su carrera deportiva. North Carolina tiene mucho que ofrecer si te gusta el baloncesto!

  3. Haha – so interesting! My husband also had a lot to say about the TV commercial situation here (in Russia they’ve only got 3 or 4 it seems, which just repeat forever).

    Great post & a neat way to practice my (very) rusty Spanish skills.

  4. Loved reading this, Kaley! Sounds like y’all are watching a lot of TV what with all of Mario’s comments about commercials hahaha but in all seriousness it’s really terrible that prescription meds can advertise on TV O_O

    Looking forward to reading more about Mario’s observations in the years to come…maybe he should start a “Mario…and lots more” blog :P

    1. We sit with my parents every night after dinner, and my dad always has the TV going, so even if we’re reading, we see those commercials hahah! I think once we get our own place it’ll all be Netflix!

  5. I love this! I’m forwarding it to my husband to read too! The best thing about this is that the observations will just keep coming. My husband and I moved back over a year ago and just this morning, while walking the dog, he had another one. Next to our condo there is a grassy area where lots of people take their dogs and my hubby said to me “Look at all that dog poop! People don’t even clean up after their dogs here!” I looked and didn’t see any so I asked him what he was talking about. He pointed out what looked like liitle dog poops. I started laughing and explained to him that the grass had recently been aerated and those “little dog poops” were just the soil that had been taken out when it was aerated. This led to the conversation about aerating grass and why they do it and, according to him, that we Americans just do crazy things! These little things are what keep the transition exciting!

    1. Hahaha that’s so funny/strange! I’m excited to move away from Madrid and all its dog poop! No other part of Spain was so bad!

  6. En Francia también se pone el ketchup al lado de las patatas, pero la verdad es que también lo he visto en España, aunque me chocó al principio ;)

  7. I laughed about the fries hahah, personally I put the ketup on the fries instead of dipping because it helps soften the fries a bit since I love mushy fries :]
    Great post!

    1. It makes sense to me, because Kaley, the writer/author, is American. So from her point of view, she experienced Spain as an expat, whereas Mario experiences the U.S. as an immigrant.

  8. What fun observations, I love hearing this stuff about my own country for a change! I would never put ketchup on my fries, since that does indeed make them soggy. I would also never cut up a hamburger or pizza with a fork and knife, like I’ve seen people do in Europe (more France than Spain, tbh). ‘merica!

  9. Screens on windows… for the love of me I can’t figure out why they don’t use them in Spain, Not in Sevilla not in Segovia, numerous houses, schools and other public buildings. I’m from Florida and no stranger to bugs but … Well yall just come one in and join us.

    The front door latches in Spain too, which are also used in South America as opposed to typical door handles or knobs in the USA. What’s up with those?

    Light switches on the “wrong” side of a door or rather just randomly placed. its like a quest to get the lights on in Spain. better hope its not an emergency and that’s if you can even get in the bathroom, turn around close the door and get your pats down without having to do some body contortions.

    I’m living in Korea now… whew!

  10. Hola Kaley y Mario!

    Yo soy de Canada y vivo en España, y me ha sorprendido que los interruptores en EEUU. sean diferentes a los de Canada. En Canada son un palo bastante largo que sobresale de la pared. Es mucho más fácil de encontrar en la oscuridad, pero si no tienes cuidado y te quedas de pie cerca de la pared se te pueden hincar en la espalda! En España al ser planos eso no pasa.

    Espero que disfrutes tu nueva vida en EEUU.!

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s