So You’re Married to a Spaniard—Ryan

Stop the presses. An American man married to a Spanish woman? Yep, guys, it’s possible and does happen. It’s not always the Spanish man romancing the foreign woman; in Ryan’s case, he was able to woo her all the way back in high school!

Alicia y Ryan verano Madrid 2007

So, Ryan, tell us about yourself!

My name is Ryan, I’m 32, I’m an English teacher, I’m from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I’m in Spain because the girl I love is here.

Ryan SC 1998

Ryan back in 1998

A great reason! How did you meet your wife?

My wife, Alicia, and I met in high school in SC when she was doing her study abroad. We started dating and even went to our junior prom together. Then she came back to Madrid, and we lost touch for eight years. When she tracked me down, I had become a Spanish teacher, and now we’ve been together again for six years.


I love this vintage prom picture! Young love, sigh.

Do you feel like Alicia is a “typical” Spaniard? If not, why?

She’s very proud of being Spanish, but she’s open-minded enough to think outside the Iberian box. At our house, we eat Spanish dishes like lentejas and morcilla, but she also loves American things like turkey and gravy, omelets, and sweet iced tea. We watch TV and movies in whatever language we feel like depending on the mood, but generally in its original language unless we don’t know it.

Sweet tea! You’re betraying your southern roots. Which language do you speak when you’re together? Why?

We speak to each other in Spanish because we’re living in Spain and it’s better for me to practice my Spanish while we’re here. But some English creeps in every once in a while. Sometimes it’s a word, sometimes it’s a whole sentence, sometimes it’s a whole story. Depends on if what I’m talking about happened to me in an American or Spanish context, who’s around us at the time, etc.

But when we visit the States, we switch to English so she can get some practice in, too.

Your in-laws are bound to be a part of your life, being married and all. Tell us about them!

I have two very loving parents-in-law. They are retired and have moved to Galicia, so we see them several times a year—a lot less frequently than the typical every-Sunday-lunch Spanish family. We get along just fine. Most of our get-togethers center around cooking and eating, and we learn a ton from them.

We took them to South Carolina right after we got married and that was an unforgettable experience. It was so funny to see them give dos besos to my family! On my side, my dad has always accepted my wife with open arms. He gets along great with my Spanish family … in spite of the language barrier. At the end of the day, we’re a lot more similar than we are different.

Alicia y Ryan Cuenca 2010

Amen! You are right on with that last sentence! What is the best part about dating/being married to a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

I get to pick her brain about things I would normally only see through my southern-US eyes. Then there’s the 24/7 language immersion whether you like it or not. That’s pretty cool. Another fun thing is that each one of us is very unique to our respective familia política.

What is the most difficult part?

The geographical distance between our families. I see my family once a year, twice if we’re lucky. On the other hand, her family is scattered around Spain, too. We’ve both grown to become very independent people.

Alicia y Ryan verano SC 2012

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

Hope that person is open-minded and not monolingual and be prepared to reciprocate. Of course, this is good advice no matter who you’re starting a relationship with. Most people aren’t like that, though: willing to try new things, flexible, energetic, willing to travel. Most people limit themselves by thinking why they can’t do something instead of why they can. I’m talking about both cultures. Make sure your partner is just as energetic, focused and adventurous as you.

Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term? Why?

In the long term, we plan on moving to the US so that our kids can go to college there. The majority of the top 200 universities in the world are in the US and only one or two are in Spain, and they don’t make the top 100. If our kids choose to go to college, we want to be able to offer them the best options available to us.

Very interesting. You two are obviously looking toward the future. Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?

We recently had a baby, Isabel. My wife talks to our daughter in Spanish and I talk to her in English. She’ll grow up playing with friends and cousins from both cultures. We’re kicking around the idea of having one more.

Alicia y Ryan SC abril 2013 embarazo

How exciting! I love the name Isabel, too. If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?

I’d have trouble choosing what to import from the US to Spain … Back yards, tool sheds, Wendy’s, gas grills, Mountain Dew, sweet iced tea, NASCAR, NFL, several different beers on tap in a bar, turning right on a red light, 8-hour work days, country music, 24-hour stores, irons and coffee pots in hotel rooms, gravy, pies, Hulu …

And from Spain to the US, it would be a tough choice too. Ribera wine, jamón serrano, puentes, 23 vacation days per year, universal healthcare, a whole hour for lunch, Spanish coffee, fresh seafood in every grocery store, rabbit in the grocery store, morcilla, persianas

I think my lists are so long because I’m a positive person. I like to see the best in every situation and I end up liking a lot of things.

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

Absolutely. It has made me more assertive, more fun-loving and more cultured. And being in a relationship with this Spaniard in particular has made me happier than I thought possible.

Alicia y Ryan Las Vegas boda número 2 2011Thanks so much, Ryan! Ryan blogs at Country Comes to Spainplease check out his blog!

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


18 thoughts on “So You’re Married to a Spaniard—Ryan

  1. Haha yes Mountain Dew! My bf always asks for that when he’s visiting in the US coz they also don’t have it in England.

  2. Hi Ryan, I loved the thought “Make sure your partner is just as energetic, focused and adventurous as you.” Very, very true!

    Also, I liked how you would import legal right turns at red lights–clever answer. I am about to visit the States for a bit and it’s always a shock to be behind the wheel of a car again. Anyway, thanks for sharing, and thanks to Kaley for compiling the entrevista!

    1. It’s something I had never thought about (the legal turn on red), but I guess it’s true! I don’t drive in Spain, so I hadn’t had a chance to think about it.

  3. Nice article. Love to see the variety….keep it coming with more married guys (and girls)! I have to agree about the fresh fish/seafood…since being back in the U. S. my stomach has had a hard time getting used to food here again and the fish (frozen from China) sucks so bad that I don’t even bother. That is one of the few things I miss about the Spain…the freshness of the food like the fish/shrimp,the produce, even the juice! Sure we have everyhing that we could ever want in most U. S. stores but with almost everything genetically modified these days, what good is that doing? I could go on and on bu I will stop now…

  4. So great to hear that guys marrying Spaniards DO exist! :) They seem like a really cool couple! And I would have to agree with his desire to import sweet tea and pies…Nestea and tartas just don’t cut it, I’m afraid :P

  5. It’s funny because living in El Puerto (next to the Rota Naval Base, that is shared between the US and Spain) it’s very rare to find a Spanish man married to an American woman, but there are many, many American men that marry Spanish women. And it’s quite common for them to return to Spain here after their military careers. Not a bad place to retire! Though, I agree about the right-turn-on-red…so tempting!

    1. I can see that about the American men married to Spaniards! Well, in the rest of Spain it’s not the same. But those hot men in uniform can be hard to resist …!

    2. This is true. I lived in Rota for a little over eight months. American men didn’t even acknowledge me at all there (couldn’t even get a friendly “Hello”)…not that I was looking for something but I wanted to make new friends since I didn’t make any Spanish friends. Alas, they were too busy chasing after those exotical Spanish women to pay this little old American girl any mind, lol. About the “hello” thing that went for both American men and women…I thought it was kind of cold that the Americans in such a small beach town like Rota couldn’t even be friendly with one another.

      1. I actually have a single American guy friend who is only interested in dating Spanish women (his reasoning…when in Spain!) despite that there are quite a few single, attractive, and intelligent American female service members that we all hang out with. I guess some American men consider it part of the “cultural experience”. And I’m sorry to hear that other Americans weren’t so friendly in Rota. It is an interesting and unique situation here with there being so many Americans, sometimes people feel like they already have friends that they are comfortable with. Also, almost no one receives language training before arriving, so that can be a barrier to striking up conversation at random (and people may have assumed that you were Spanish!). What brought you to Rota?

        1. I participated in the ever-popular North American Language and Cultural Assistant program and my assignment was at one of the high schools in Rota. I thought about living in a larger town/city and commuting but was advised against it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Rota a lot but I was really lonely and often bored there. I’m not much of a beach bum (even though I thought it was nice) so it kind of got old really quick for me. I did meet a few Americans when I first got there but when I contacted them a little later (via email), I never got a response. Since I wasn’t part of the military community there I guess that made it a bit harder to make friends with the other Americans at least the sane ones anyway (I have a hilarious story about one guy but really he was crazy as hell from the way he acted). I think a few thought I was Spanish because I was addressed in Spanish one rare moment when I decided to park myself in front of a bar one evening but some (if not most) of the guys (and a few of the girls) KNEW I wasn’t Spanish, lol.

  6. I am an American and just recently married a Spaniard so naturally your blog caught my eye. I noticed here you mentioned you wanted to encourage your children to go to an American university. I loved my American education and would love it if our future kids could go to college in the US also. I just worry about how to afford an American education for them after decades on a Spanish salary. Do you have any advice or thoughts on how to best prepare for the financial side of sending kids to an American college?

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