Hey all! I’m back today with a slightly different perspective on what it means to date a Spaniard. This interview is from September (I know, I know: I’m a terrible blogger), so the dates they’ve been dating are slightly longer than he says.
Let’s see, my name is Zac, I’m 23 and I (like so many other Americans in Spain) am an Auxiliar de Conversacion. I’m from a small, tourist town in Arizona and I decided to come to Spain to be with my Spaniard, David, after graduating and having a short-lived attempt at teaching English in China.
How did you meet your significant other?
David and I meet on a pen pal/language exchange program that was sent to me through my university. By chance, we were paired up together and got along really well. Neither one of us knew that the other was gay until six or seven months of writing each other and it all just took off from there. I don’t really know what I should say for how long we have been together since distance kept us apart for the beginning of our relationship – so how about a year and a half? Two years? I’m not really sure …
Is your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?
Well, aside from having a very typical name (I’m sure that other efl teachers in Spain can agree with me that when they don’t know any students names in class that they can simply call on “David” and at least 3 boys will answer them) I wouldn’t say that he fits the stereotype well. He isn’t really into soccer nor is he loud nor does he love taking a siesta, but there are some other traits where he fits the bill perfectly. He is quite boastful of his culture and language and claims that he speaks “castellano puro” because he is from Castilla y León (which is partially true, because I have never heard a more beautiful Spanish accent…. But, he is definitely a “leísta” whether or not he’ll admit it). He is also in love with olive oil and eats it on everything. Oh and he constantly gestures when he talks (like that crab one that signifies that they are a lot of people in a tight space), that’s really Spanish right?
Which language do you speak when you’re together?
When we began talking we were very 50/50 when we used English and Spanish or maybe a little more on the English side, but that was because he was moving to a different country to work and needed to improve his English. Now that the tables have turned and I am living in Spain, we definitely got in a rut of speaking Spanish to each other – mainly because I desperately needed to improve my Spanish to function like a normal human being in Spain (I got so tired of people hearing a hint of my American accent and then refusing to give me service in Spanish). However, I have been trying really hard to change that rut and make it more 50/50. It’s very important to me that we both are on the same level when using the other’s language (I think that it is imperative in any bilingual relationship that both partners have the same linguistic capabilities). On a different note, we don’t really do the whole “Spanglish” thing, except when one word from a language works better than another (EX. ¿Te apetece comer pancakes?) Because lets be honest, “¿Te apetece comer tortitas?” just sounds silly.
How do you deal with the “in-law” issue? Have you met them?
In-laws? Gosh, that’s a tough one. I’ve never met his in-laws nor has he met mine. From my experience, it seems as if meeting a Spaniard’s parents is a pretty big step and we just haven’t gotten there yet (although I am determined to meet them this year… we’ll see how that goes). But I did have a brief encounter where I met his sister (does that count?). She was incredibly sweet and supportive and I am very excited to get to know her better. In regards to my parents, my mom has been super supportive (even though they have never met) and is always buying him little American things (like those apple pie dessert flavored gum).
What is the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?
I think the best part of being a in a relationship with a Spaniard is that they make you tortilla de patata (alright, maybe it isn’t the best part, but it is up there). The best part is that you are thrusted into culture that is (at times) very different than your own, all while sharing yours with them; you never run out of things to talk about; and sometimes their manner of thinking is so much different than your own that it really makes you question how you view the world. Another huge benefit (for me) is the accent; I love the way he says my name or just his general Spanishness when he speaks English. I know he doesn’t like it and wants to get rid of it, but I think it’s so lovable and charming (I secretly hope he never does).
What is the most difficult part?
Aside from obvious difficulties that arise from having a international relationship, such as distance, I think that the most difficult part for us has been problems with semantics and pragmatics when using/understanding the other’s language. For example, if we are invited to cañas with some folks from his work that I don’t know and I ask “Do we really have to go?” (Because I am, by nature, a hermit and will avoid any possibly awkward social situation) and his response would be a very matter-of-fact “No, it isn’t obligatory.” But sometimes he misses that I wasn’t asking him if we had to go, I was telling him as politely as I could that I didn’t want to. To be honest, I’m not sure that this particular example is a two-way street since I think Spaniards are generally more forward then we Americans tend to be (yes, I know I’m talking in stereotypes). On the flipside, I think David would probably say the opposite is difficult in our relationship: that I am not forward enough and that I always beat around the bush.
What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?
If I had to give someone advice about dating a Spaniard, I would tell them to make sure that they are doing it for all the right reasons. It really upsets me to hear about Americans (or foreigners in general) that use Spaniards to learn Spanish or as a sort of stepping stone/ buffer into Spanish society. But I would also tell them to be weary of the quantity of Spaniards that may be trying to use them to practice English (because we all know that we are just English speaking machines to be used as the world pleases).
Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term? Why?
Well, if it were up to me we would both move to the northeast of Brazil and spend the rest of our days sipping coconuts and eating crab, but he isn’t too keen on the idea. I think we will probably end up staying in Spain for a while just because it doesn’t make any sense for us to move to the U.S. at this moment. I would like to stay in Spain because I think it has many clear advantages to living in the U.S (paid vacation anyone?).… but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.
Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?
To be honest, we haven’t really talked about the “kid thing” much, since we are neither engaged nor married and I don’t really want to jump the gun. I know that we both would like to have kids in the future and that we would definitely raise them to be at the very least bilingual (Ideally I would like to move to another country so that our children could learn the language of that country and David and I could teach them our languages). When I see kids that were fortunate enough to be raised in a multilingual household I feel so envious of them because they naturally do what 10 years of studying Spanish has done for me (and they do it better!). So, as a parent I would like to impart that give to my children, to make them more competitive for the future global market.
If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?
If I could import something to Spain….. How about good baking supplies? I don’t know why, but baking in Spain is infinitely harder than it is in the U.S.. Ovens don’t cook evenly, brown sugar isn’t the same, vanilla extract is just a joke, and despite my valiant efforts I can never find allspice. Baking is really important to me and I always want to share my family`s traditions with David (peach pie in the summer, gingerbread cookies in the winter, snickerdoodles, etc) but something ALWAYS goes wrong. It makes baking a hellish nightmare comparable only to visiting the oficina de extranjería… So yeah… Spain, pull yourself together and get some good baking supplies.
I know that this has been mentioned in your blog, but it bears repeating; if I could import one thing to the States it would greeting with dos besos. After coming home for the summer, I just feel like there is something missing when I see old friends or long lost relatives. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge hugger and love giving a big bear hug. But sometimes I want a little more intimacy; a better way to tell my friends “You are important to me and I sincerely miss you.”
How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?
*Something that may not be common knowledge is that in Spain, gay guys say hello and goodbye to each other with dos besos (just like two straight girls do). However, I think the rules are a little more complicated because I have been in situations where we give dos besos and others where we don’t. I think it may depend on three things 1) the place 2) the situation 3) the security that both guys have in their gayness (this is just my guess from what I have observed, I’m not Spanish and really don’t know “the rule”)
That is a tough question because I can think of a lot of reasons as to how being with David has changed me, but specifically with a Spainard? I suppose that the biggest thing is that I know have an appreciation for Spain. I remember studying Spanish in high school and scoffing at little cultural notes (¡Ojo! En españa…) and thinking that it wasn’t relevant information. To me, Spanish was Latin America. I remember being so happy that I didn’t have to bother “wasting” all my time with that silly antiquated vosotros form. But now, I have a deep cultural appreciation for Spain because, after all, no country that makes a guy as selfless and caring as David could be anything less than wonderful.
I feel bad that I am not able to give a real clear-cut answer as to how Spaniards react to the whole “gay” thing. I am a very private person by nature so unless I felt some dire need to tell someone, I never did. I never told my students or the teachers with whom I worked (although they frequently asked me how the Spanish girls were treating me and if I was having fun – I would just laugh and say “son guapas y majas”). I kept it secret because I work and live in a rural farming community and (due to my small town upbringing) I know how closed-minded small communities can be towards anything “different.” However, anyone that I was close to always had a more than positive reaction. Even my adopted Spanish family has been super supportive of our relationship (even the abuela!). I should probably state that when David and I are out and about I never try to hid who we and we often hold hands and do other “couple things”. No one has ever been negative by yelling out pejorative slang like they would back home – in fact, it has been quite the opposite. The first night we went out in Madrid a group of sweet Spanish gals came up to us and couldn’t stop exclaiming “Qué pareja más bonita! ¡Qué guapos sois!” So I guess you could say they have had pretty open arms to us. Thanks Spain.
Thank you, David, for a very enlightening interview! I love your “long-winded” answers (as you yourself said)!