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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks so much, Ryan! Ryan blogs at Country Comes to Spain, please check out his blog!
Interested in being a part of my Dating a Spaniard series? Email me; I’d love to have you!