Monday, April 13, 2015

Managing Mannerisms in Spain

As much as I love being Canadian, I can't maintain my mannerisms in a country as different as Spain. Here's how I deal with Spanish customary behaviour:

Canada: Always saying please, or using matrices to frame a request.
Spain: "Give me..." / "Open the door!" / "Shut up!"
Solution: In Spain, people make their requests in a very direct manner. If I don't start my request with “Please,” I make sure to say "Thank you."

Canada: Be on time.
Spain: 10-30 minutes late is no big deal with friends or performances. For appointments, school, and transportation, it's best to arrive on time.
Solution: Whatever time my friends say, I add minimum 15 minutes. It still feels weird to me, but it's better than showing up too early, like that one night I was alone,wearing a costume in the middle of a park in a pueblo.

Canada: Make dinner plans with friends days, sometimes a week, in advance.
Spain: Receive a call 10 minutes before, to meet at a bar.
Solution: This drives me crazy, but it's something many of my friends do. Since moving to Spain, I'm much more relaxed about accepting and making invitations. And feelings aren't hurt if I cancel or if they do.

Canada: Eating lunch with one's parents is, at most, a once a week thing.
Spain: You better come home for lunch, or else!
Solution: I remember feeling angry when a spanish girl in our group couldn't attend "The Last Lunch" with our friend who was about to go home for good. The spanish girl's excuse? "I have to go home because my mom prepared lunch for me." I thought, "Just call and tell her you won't be there."
When another friend did the same thing, a spanish person explained, "If someone's mom has made lunch, it's really rude to not come home to eat it, unless you advise her well ahead of time."

Canada: Let the man call you for the first dates.
Spain: Sometimes, you have to set the dates first. Last year, I waited and waited and no one followed up on their request to meet for a coffee or movie. I've since learned that sometimes, the woman has to make the first move.
Solution: I do this the first couple of times if I have to, but then I sit back and wait to see if the guy sets up the next date. If he doesn't, I assume he's not interested and move on.

Canada: After as little as a couple of months, a couple starts using the terms 'girlfriend/boyfriend', and perhaps even meet each others' parents.
Spain: Woah, slow down nelly...
Solution: It's confusing for us North Americans, but here some couples don't use the term girlfriend/boyfriend until it's very serious. One Spanish guy told me he knows of couples that refer to their partner as 'my friend', and don't meet each others' parents, after a year of dating. People are much more casual and relaxed about relationships here.

Canada: The customer is always right.
Spain: The customer can go f*** himself.
Solution: This doesn't always happen, but it's inevitable. I remember Javier, the owner of one of my favorite pubs in Villacarrillo, who seemed so rude and brisk with me my first few months in the village. Turned out, that's just the way he is. He's actually a funny guy and I'm used to his manner now. In fact, I take things way less personally, which is a nice result of moving here.

Canada: Asian people can be Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Indonesian.....
Spain: All Asian-looking people are Chinos.
Solution: I tried to fight the fact that 1) Spain's exposure to Asians had been limited for many years, and 2) anyone with small eyes is called “Chino/a”. Even some Spanish people are nicknamed that. I no longer get crazy angry, rather if I pick up a good vibe from a curious person, I smile and say, “I'm Canadian. And my parents are from the Philippines.” Usually people get it and if I make a new friend, bonus points!

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