A piropo is, as defined by my favorite website Wordreference, a “flirtatious/flattering comment.” What’s more, it’s the type of flattering comment that men pay women as they walk along the street, minding their own business. One site even defined it as a “poetic” compliment. I’ve never gotten a poetic compliment, but I’d like one, please and thank you.

In Toledo, for some reason or other, piropos were much more common. Ten times more, I’d say. I couldn’t go to the market in the morning without some blue jumpsuit-clad construction worker telling me how guapa I looked that day. Interestingly, it didn’t always depend on how good I thought I looked. In fact, I got some of my most aggressive compliments while running, sweaty and dripping, alongside a road that encircled the city. I remember one such incident quite clearly. Having gotten used to annoying men and their leering comments, I usually played my music at high volumes so as to avoid having to hear them. Even if they yelled out their windows, I could usually keep myself blissfully unaware of their words. It helped that they were in Spanish and thus harder to decipher with my music on high. That day, I wasn’t so fortunate. I was nearing the end of my run, red faced and exhausted. I was probably only pumping out a 10 minute mile (which, for me, is kinda slow). A white van pulled up alongside me, slowed down to my pace (!)…this continued for a good minute. Finally, I couldn’t help myself. I glanced over at it. The man, missing one of his front teeth, was in the passenger side. He leaned out, almost half his body now outside the window, and yelled, “¿Y por qué estás corriendo? ¡Ya estás guapa!” (Literally, “Why are you running? You’re already good looking!”) Oh my. I think I turned three times redder than I already was and slowed to a halt. The van sped off,  the men cackling.

As you can tell, I’m not too fond of piropos. I suppose someday, when I’m old and wizened, I’ll miss them. Maybe. But right now, they’re just not my favorite.

However, yesterday’s piropo takes the cake. It was, shall we say, a backhanded compliment. I was taking the recycling out to the bins near my apartment. Two old men were hanging out right beside the colorful containers, talking as old men are wont to do. I caught a snippet of their conversation, “…elegante…bonita.” I thought they were talking about something else. (I really am not that full of myself!) I deposted the bags and turned to go back the other way. The man almost bumped into me, and said, “Bonita, a ver si tomas el sol…” (Pretty girl, let’s see if you get a suntan…) So, this man was like, “Hey, you’re pretty, but you could really use a nice suntan!” I played the foreigner card and marched on, trying desperately not to blush. (Never let ’em see you sweat!) Of course, I thought up a few dozen different smart aleck comebacks after I was out of earshot. It’s how it always goes, you know.

So, other extranjeras en Espain, what do you say? Piropos – do you like them or not?

20 thoughts on “Piropos

  1. Dye your hair blond – piropos multiply by like 20, I’m convinced. I think I get a “rubia” something or another at least once a day. Good times.

    1. I seriously cannot imagine what it would be like to blonde and TALL. I’m 5’11”. I would stick out like an even sorer thumb. Hah.

      1. Good lord, 5’11”? I can just imagine the comments you get. At 5’8″ I already feel awkward. Good thing my Spanish husband is an abnormally tall 6’4″.

      2. Haha, blonde and tall…yep, that’s me! 5’10 and blonde plus blue eyes, which also get tons of comments…when I was in Spain a few years ago, I could barely walk down the street without having someone shout something at me. It was awful.

  2. I’ve never been to Spain, but when I was in Buenos Aires I got them all. the. time. “Reina” and “Princesa” were the most common. The comments were always most aggressive for me when I would be walking home from the gym too (God forbid I had ever run through the city)!

    The worst for me always came from really old men though – one time a man even got “brave” enough to get on the same bus with me on my ride home and kiss me full on the lips when I got up to leave. No warning whatsoever. To this day the smell of Irish Spring soap makes me gag a little.

  3. Had an experience similar to yours! In Feb. I was in Madrid walking toward Sol and a group of guys started calling and said, “oye guapa, estas tan blanquita, vamos a la playa!” I was peeved by this (I’m stupidly sensitive about being so pale) and had to seriously fight the urge to laugh and flip them an obscene gesture haha. I think sometimes it’s cute and makes me laugh but that one was offensive. Telling me how pale I am is def not the way to my heart!!

  4. ok so while I was living in Buenos Aires some guy told me I was like a piece of steak and he wish he was an egg so he could lay next to me. yea! in the end I just had to laugh, especially since it took me a few moment to decipher what he said to me.

  5. I’m like you, K – get ticked off by them now, but I know one day, when I’m old and wrinkled, I’ll remember that at least Spaniards liked my freckles! Besides, I get all the priopos I need from my babies at school.

  6. Haha I just got back from a run with my roommate, and with it? A “ahhhh que guapas…” I am not offended by them, but they do seem to come at THE most random times.

  7. I guess the most equivalent thing I get to piropos are the honks I get when I run outside on a busy street. Can be so awkward sometimes!

  8. I’m with you, piropos are so annoying! The worst is when you don’t respond and then they try to speak to you in English. I’m just like leave me alooooooooone haha

  9. Ughhhhhh, and they’re so much worse the further south you get, I swear. Which must mean I’m in the thick of it all since I’m about as far south as you CAN get in Spain.

  10. haha i love this article. and your blog! i have been stalking it all day, but still have so much to read
    i am going to spain next year…thing is i am chinese-american! did you notice any asians over there?
    muchas gracias..por tu respuesta y blog!

    1. Uhhh nope, not a whole lot. It depends on where you are there, though. I’m sure there are more in bigger cities like Madrid, Barcelona, or Bilbao.

  11. Hi. I am an American male who grew up in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. As a 17-year old in Barcelona, with only Spanish friends, I learned the art of ‘hechando piropos.’ Though not as good as my Spanish friends, I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with clever, if not poetic, phrases. More importantly, I watched the Spanish/Catalan women react. The rule they shared was, “eyes straight forward–pay no attention.” It showed tremendous reserve and poise on their part which was very admirable. That reaction was also expected by the Spaniards. After a moment of flirtation, the males went off to other ‘conquests.’ A good time was had by all.

      1. Sorry I didn’t reply earlier. First time back. I was doing some research for a friend who was going to Spain (and outside the US for the first time) with her daughters. All three blondes. She doubted everything I said. Wouldn’t believe it. When they came back and reported, indeed no one had ever hurled piropos at them! I told her to SUE SPAIN! No, my parents were from both US. We were in the Foreign Service. My father was Consul General to Barcelona. -Ned Crouch

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