My name is Zoë, I’m twenty years old, I’m from Atlanta, and I’m majoring in film production. I returned to the US this December from a four-month study abroad program in France. I visited Spain on the front end and back end of my trip, to see my boyfriend Jokin who is from San Sebastián. I was completely taken by the culture, beauty, and food (of course) in the Basque Country.
How did you meet your significant other?
We met when I returned home from college last summer. My family told me that two young international guys were now living across the street who were working in Atlanta for the year, one from Germany, the other from Spain. I love meeting people from other cultures and I was bored being away from the college scene, so I decided to be neighborly and lure them over to my place with cookies. They invited me to go out with them the next night. Jokin and I weren’t interested in each other romantically at first, since we have a bit of an age gap, but once we started talking and discussing our passions for architecture and film, our relationship grew from there. His internship ended in July so he had to return home. Luckily, I was studying abroad in France that fall so I was able to visit him twice and he visited me twice in France.
Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?
Jokin definitely has parts of the culture ingrained in him. Before I visited Spain, I was confused by some of his habits, such as staying up really late every night, needing to eat bread at all his meals, and intolerance to spicy food. Other than that, I wouldn’t say he’s a typical Spaniard, but a typical Basque. He is very proud of his heritage, its traditions, and he can speak a little Euskara.
Which language do you speak when you’re together?
English, since we met and in the US and my only experience with Spanish had been one horrible year in middle school. Now I am taking Spanish 1001, and I love it! It’s the first time learning a language has ever been fun for me. I try to text/speak to him in Spanish whenever I can. So far, that’s only been in situations where I can use the present tense.
How do you deal with the “in-law” issue?
When I met his family, I was overcome by their kindness and generosity, not only from his parents but also from his siblings, aunt, uncle, and cousins. His dad made me feel welcomed by speaking to me in English, and his mom prepared the best meals I have ever eaten. He must have told her that there was no heater in my room in France and that my host mom didn’t feed me lunch, because when he came to visit me, she sent with him a two month’s supply of jamón and chorizo, a bathrobe, and a beautiful handmade scarf.
What is the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?
Having my horizons expanded. Jokin has shown me the architecture of Spain and France, taught me the history and culture of the Basque people, introduced me to new flavors, and shared with me memorable cultural experiences like the festival of Santo Tomás and his sister’s wedding.
What is the most difficult part?
Trying to coordinate out how we are going to see each other again. It’s been four months since we said goodbye. We FaceTime almost every day, but I really miss being out in the world together.
What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?
Ask each other lots of questions, not only to learn about their customs and traditions, but also to gain a deeper understanding of their culture. A lot of our habits we don’t realize come from our cultures, and can cause the other confusion and sometimes even annoyance. If you simply ask each other questions, it can solve conflicts and help you understand the world better.
Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term?
I would love to live in Spain, but the US has way more job opportunities for him in architecture and me in film.
If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?
Without a doubt, jamón! I still have cravings for it. Also, I would like to import some pintxo bars here. Since I’m allergic to dairy, I’d like to import better vegan foods to Spain and the rest of Europe.
How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?
I’ve become more knowledgeable about the world, more expressive with my emotions, more open to trying new foods, and a better cook too!
Thanks, Zoë! Always fun to have more to add to the ever-growing list! Check out her blog.