5 Things They’ll Tell You About the U.S. … That Aren’t True

Ah, I get it. You are returning to the United States, and you are preparing for the much-feared reverse culture shock. What to expect?

You should expect to find it weird when people address you in English, that the grocery store has about three hundred different types of cereal, and people want to talk to you while standing in line. Yeah, okay, I feel ya. I see how that could seem weird or odd for a while after you return home.

But let me tell you something, sometimes I wonder if I grew up in an alternate universe, if perhaps my experience of the US has been different from many expats who write on the Internet, because some things I just don’t see. Some stereotypes just don’t fit my experience. I write this to see if I am alone.

1. Americans are always in a hurry

I live in Madrid, so everyone seems to be in a hurry, especially on my morning commute. But my experiences in Madrid aren’t extended to the rest of Spain. Thus, I find it hard to believe Americans are always in a hurry, because most of my family and friends don’t ever seem to be in a hurry. Where are all these hurrying people you’re talking about? New York City? Where?

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So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Cat

Cat has been a blog “friend” of mine since 2010. Being the nosy blogger that I am, I found a lot of my now-favorite blogs by clicking on links from commenters on other blogs. Once I found Cat, I thought I’d found a kindred spirit. She’s the kind of blogger I hope to be: dedicated, funny, irreverent, full of life, amazing at Spanish (with an Andalú accent, of course). Blogging from the south of Spain since 2007, you can learn a lot about Spain, Spaniards, and Spanish in general from her blog. Welcome!

hawkeyes bowl game

Please introduce yourself (name, age, why you’re in Spain, etc.).

My name is Cat, and I’m a Chicagoan living in Seville. After studying in Castilla y León, I came to Seville to participate in the Language and Culture Assistants program at a high school. Not six weeks in La Hispalense, my partner Enrique and I met.

How did you meet your significant other and how long have you been together?

I wish I had a great story of how I met Kike, but it’s not: a mutual friend invited him over to my house for dinner. We went out for a drink later and she left us alone. We didn’t hit it off right away, as he was dating someone else, but after a few weeks, we were exclusive. We just celebrated our fifth anniversary. I had promised him a Thanksgiving dinner a few days early, but he’s a military pilot and was sent away on a mission – I invited his mom instead!


Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard? If not, why?

Yes and no. Kike is very sevillano in many ways: he loves Feria, gin tonics, and horses. At the same time, he speaks several languages, has traveled extensively and loves heavy metal. For whatever reason, we’ve found a way to make two very different people from two different worlds make it work!

Which language do you speak when you’re together? Why?

When we first met, I was intimidated by how good Kike’s English was, as my Spanish was poor. When my parents came to visit a few weeks later, I could barely order a meal in Spanish well, so I decided we needed to start speaking to one another in Spanish. Now, speaking in English is what we do if we’re around my family or someone who doesn’t speak Spanish. His skills in my native tongue have definitely diminished, whereas my Spanish is now pretty solid.

feria 2012 cat enrique

How do you deal with the “in-law” issue? Have you met them? Do you get along?

I fell extremely fortunate to have my suegra so close, especially because I am so far from my own family. Carmin and I get along tremendously well, and she and I met and got along from the very beginning of my relationship with Kike. I’m also extremely close with Kike’s younger brothers.

What is the best part about dating/being married to a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

There have been numerous advantages to dating a foreigner, particularly at the beginning. I had someone who would help me deal with the bank, my cell phone company, etc., and Kike was willing to bus me around nearly all of Spain. Now that we’re five years into the relationship, having a bicultural relationship has morphed into a really wonderful way to experience twice as much as I might have if Kike were also American. I feel that I get twice as much out of it because we are different and have that much more to share with one another. What’s more, we did pareja de hecho, which is similar to a civil union, so he helped me get my work and residence papers!

What is the most difficult part?

Now that the language barrier and the cultural differences have been practically erased, the hardest part about dating Kike is being able to plan for the future. I sometimes feel like I have to sacrifice a bit more because of his job – he’s gone a minimum of three months during the year and will likely be transferred in the next three to five years. This has been the cause of several arguments as we try and decide what will be the best for us in the coming years.

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

Not to take it too seriously. Dating someone different from you has so many advantages, but there’s no reason that person the only one you hang out with. I think that Kike and I have survived because balance has always been important to us. He understands that I have friends, that I need alone time, and that visiting Chicago at least once a year is necessary. As a matter of fact, we’ve never spent either of our birthdays together, because they both fall in the same week, and I’m often back home!

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

At the moment, I think we’re staying in Spain. We’ve talked more seriously about what to do with all of the things that will happen when we’re more than two, but I think it would be much harder for him to adjust to living in America than it will be for me to adjust to living in Spain forever. I moved quite a few times when I was young, and I like the challenge of starting from scratch. Plus, his job as a military pilot means we have at least five years more so he can get his pension for all of those missions abroad!

Do you plan on having children? If so, do you plan on raising them bilingual?

Kike and I have always, always planned on kids, and I admire his fascination with them. Right from the beginning, he told me he’d name his three sons Enrique, Santiago and Rodrigo. When I couldn’t say the name correctly, he chose and Anglo name, Connor.

While there are many things we don’t see eye to eye on, raising bilingual children and their education has always been something we’ve agreed on. Maybe it comes from our values system, or from the way we were raised, but I would be honored to raise children with someone who is attentive and loving, yet firm and grounded.

If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?

After being in Spain for so long, I have grown accustomed to not having certain things, or to replace them with a Spanish equivalent. It’s sometimes irritating to pay a bit more for certain products, but Kike travels to the US more often than I do, so I always send him a list of what I need. If I could import American efficiency to Spain, I would, but if it had to be a product, I would love to have kosher-style hot dogs!

vegas urrbody

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

I don’t think I would have stayed in Spain for as long as I have if it weren’t for Kike. Between not having the right to work and the uncertainty of the financial crisis, Kike has been what has anchored me in Spain. Through it all, I’ve found my own place in Seville and am thankful to have a job and a great group of American friends, but it’s nice to come home at the end of the day and be where it feels right.


Thank you so much, Cat! I am so glad you’ve found what feels right at the end of the day.

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



Learning to Live in Spain

Have you all read my interview over on Expats Blog? If not, head on over to read my interview and leave a comment on my profile page if you’re so inclined.

Other people to visit: Erik, Erin, Hamatha, Lauren, Cat, and Christine.

One of the questions I was asked in my interview was “If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?” It’s a difficult question for me, because I’m not one to give advice, at least not without advising you to take whatever I say with a large grain of salt. You see, everyone is different, and I don’t think my experience is the only one, or that you’re like me, or anything of the sort.


Maybe you don’t like garlic. But why would you come to Spain then?

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So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Katie

Yes, more americanas dating Spaniards. Every time I feel like I’m the only one, I only have to browse through Facebook and see I’m not alone. I’m very lucky to have access to these kinds of women, who—like me—have chosen a different sort of life (consciously or unconsciously). My next interview is with Katie, who is blogless. (My spell checker says that’s not a word, but let’s make it one!) Anyway, here’s Katie.

Semana Santa 2011 035

Please introduce yourself (name, age, why you’re in Spain, etc.).

I’m Katie, Queidi as I have to explain to Spaniards or else they pronounce it Kitty. It was very funny the first hundred times the niños said “HELLO KITTY” but has since gotten old. I’m 24 and have been in Spain for the past two years as a Language Assistant. I fell in love with Spain, Madrid specifically, during two study abroad programs while in college, a summer in 2007 and a semester in 2009.

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