Monday, June 11, 2007
10 Tips on How to be an American and Survive In Spain
1. Expect chaos at arrival. Unless you arrive to Spain from another European Union country, immigration is complete chaos in Madrid. Your plane from the U.S. will arrive with another 16 other planes from boisterous, rowdy, South American immigrants.
2. No, surprising as it may seem, no one in Spain walks around in everyday life wearing funny hats and dressed as "toreadors".
3. Yes, Euros look like Monopoly money. Don't make fun of them, they are worth more than the U.S. dollar.
4. When you order coffee, you will get a tiny cup (even cups in Starbucks are smaller). Do not be fooled. That shot of espresso holds more bang than 2 or 3 large cups of American coffee.
5. Do not discuss politics unless you know that the person you talk to agrees with you. Be warned: regardless of your political views 50% of Spaniards will agree with you, and the other 50% will try to stone you. A discussion about politics can turn into a heated argument in seconds. If you are caught between 2 Spaniards arguing about politics, smile, nod and back away slowly.
6. Spaniards talk with their hands. You might have the urge to back away so as to not get your eye poked out during normal conversation. Do not fret, Spaniards have perfected hand flailing with years of practice. Unlike on the previous example, backing is a bad idea. The irritated Spaniard will corner you and flail harder.
7. People will try to speak to you in very fast Spanish, even if you do not speak the language. When you express to them that you are not able to understand what they are saying, they will nod, and agree as if understanding; then proceed to continue to speak in Spanish, only slower and much louder. After all English is just Spanish spoken slowly and very loud.
8. Be careful how you order food, and be sure you know what you order. My wife once thought she was ordering lamb ("oveja") when she had really ordered "oreja" (fried pig ears).
9. Criticize a Spaniard's soccer team at your own risk. Likewise do not criticize a Spaniard's city of origin (this is specially true with the rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona). You will get hurt. My brother-in-law almost got mauled by my 87 year old grandmother when he dared say that he preferred Barcelona to Madrid in front of her (and the rest of the family, myself included, would have looked the other way while she skinned him alive).
10. Finally, about the running of the bulls: The only reason why you hear about Americans getting killed every year during the running of the bulls in Spain is because the only people that run in front of the bulls are 1.) experts with years of experience who know what they are doing and 2.) drunk Americans. The rest of Spaniards just laugh at the drunk Americans.