1. I’m not expected to be on time.
In Spain, the phrase “no pasa nada” is heard more than anything else. Well, unless politics are involved, then “qué mierda!” just might take the upper hand. This is because Spaniards are some of the most relaxed and easygoing people you will ever meet. If you’re running late, chances are, they’re running later. Y por eso, no pasa nada.
2. I make less, but I live better.
By American standards, I’m supposed to be just inches over the poverty line. But you’d never guess that by the amount of times I’ve traveled to other countries, had my lunch on the beach, or experienced some of the most adrenaline-rushing activities life could offer.
In America, some people work just to afford to continue working and barely scraping by — the vicious cycle of keeping up with the Joneses. The only cycle I’m trying to keep up with here is this third round of cava after our second round of cortados.
3. The instant-celebrity status that comes with US citizenship.
It only makes sense that all the hard work that resulted in me being birthed in the country of America should grant me instant fame.
Being told on a regular basis that my English is so clear and it’s not “so fast like in the movies” isn’t a phrase that should pump my ego. English is my native language, yet every time a Spaniard reminded me of how clearly they understood me, it made me feel like some superior being who somehow conquered the ultimate level of mastery in my English-speaking ways. Again, never mind the fact that I’ve only had 25 years or so of practising my native tongue.
4. Taking my daily mandatory naptime in the middle of the day.
Although very cliché, it’s also very true and expected in most parts of Spain for cities and their stores to shut down between the hours of 2 and 5pm for a midday break, and usually a nice and well-deserved siesta.
I understand this wouldn’t be an acceptable thing in American culture once you’ve passed the ripe age of 3, but one day I’ll proudly be able to turn on my automatic e-mail responder to let people know I’m away from the office for a few hours to tend to my inner-toddler in need of an afternoon nap. So yes…
“I’m away from the office at the moment and I’ll get back to you all when my more-refreshed self wakes after a siesta. Thanks for understanding.
Warm and professional regards.”
5. Having my home be other people’s vacation spots.
Getting used to the fact that people would spend their life savings just to spend a few days walking around a city that I’ve called home for a year is mind-boggling.
Spain is filled with gems in every corner and region, and even though I’ve never truly grasped the beauty I was surrounded with every day, I could never help but chuckle at people frantically taking selfies in every angle imaginable with La Sagrada Família on my daily commute to work.
6. Discovering what a real tortilla is.
A Spanish tortilla looks and is nothing like the flat and circular flour-tasting wrap you used to stuff your eggs, bacon, and onions in at home.
Spanish tortillas, or omelets, are not only my favorite and preferred choice for any meal, whether in tapa form or made by Yaya, but it also trumps what I associated with the word “tortilla” in the past.
7. Having a beer on the metro makes me a social butterfly, not an alcoholic.
Open containers have spoiled me rotten. Not only are most beers about a euro, but being able to pre-game with friends on the metro en route, at the park, on the beach, or anywhere else we deemed fit is something that’s become a bigger part of the nightlife experience than the bar or discotecas themselves.
In America, drinking on the streets might get me a fine or citation, in Spain, it might get me more friends.
8. Charging more just because I’m American.
Never mind the fact that I don’t have a teaching degree to begin with, because being born in America was good enough for an eager Spaniard who wanted to improve their English language skills.
And then learning that there were Swedes who were charging over $30/hour for a language that wasn’t even their native tongue, was only motivation that there truly is a market to make a decent living by doing nothing more than being fluent in, ya know, your native language.
9. Bartering for the things I want.
Can you imagine me walking into Target, picking out a cute shirt and telling the clerk that I’m only willing to pay $3 for it? Nothing less and nothing more. $3, take it or leave it, because Lord knows I’m the only one who’s willing to buy it.
In Spain, any hole-in-the-wall shop that is locally-owned means everything is up for negotiation.
You barter once, then you become a barterer for life. Nothing is priced as low as it should be and your stubbornness to pay only what your pocket deems worthy is both a blessing and a curse. But at least in America, that’ll stop me from spending money on material things that will be forgotten anyway, so I can spend it on something more valuable, like how to get back over to Spain.
Photo: Jakob Renpening