All expats have things they aren’t so proud of. These little things that we don’t talk about on our blogs. We try to make our lives seem as perfect as possible but, take my word for it, we aren’t all the perfect picture of foreigners living abroad. And even though I love my life abroad I too sometimes need a break from jamon, tortilla de patata and cafe con leche. I like to call this Secret Foreigner Behavior. Those little things that we expats do but don’t really tell our family and friends back home about. I suppose it ruins the illusion a little of my perfect Spanish (Basque) life but it’s time to come clean. Here’s my list of my Secret Foreigner Behavior:
Putting the TV in English- Spain loves dubbing. I like to think they are just too lazy to watch anything in original version. It used to be impossible to find anything that wasn’t horribly dubbed (and I mean you could almost hear the English below the Spanish dubbing). In Irun, original version films at the movie theater still don’t exist and in Donostia there is usually only one or two at a time. So my options are limited. But now many cable providers have an option which allows you to switch the program you are watching into the original version with a simple click of the remote. Gone are the days of watching rom-coms on rainy Sunday afternoons with bad Spanish dubbing. And since 80% of the TV here is imported from the States I no longer have to hear someone else’s voice when it really should be Jennifer Aniston. Now I know I should be watching TV in Spanish to “practice” and I do watch some TV in Spanish (the news, cooking programs, football games) but I just can’t stand to watch American shows dubbed into another language. It’s never the same. And the hubby really needs to practice his English!
Playing “The Foreigner Card”- I admit it’s been a while since I’ve done this but I’m certainly not against using it whenever needed. I have no problem pretending to be a “dumb” foreigner when I need to get what I want. And since it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have a drop of Basque blood in me, playing the foreigner card isn’t as hard for me as others. A few simple “Que?” or “No te entiendo” or “No soy de aqui” and people either leave me alone right away or they immediately find some patience to explain things again or take it a little slower. Works every time!
Spacing out when people are talking- Sometimes I just really don’t have the energy to listen to people in Spanish. And when there are lots of people talking all at once (as Spanish people are known to do) it’s just too much for me to take in and my brain turns itself off. I’ve been known to be out with the hubby’s cuadrilla and not pay attention to an entire conversation. I know it’s prime Spanish conversation practice time but…uuffff….sometimes it just seems like more work than pleasure. Spacing out is my secret foreigner behavior and when asked a question halfway through a conversation that I have only been mildly listening to, I revert back to playing “the foreigner card.” “Hmmm? What was that? Oh, I didn’t understand the question.” When really I’m thinking about what’s going to happen on this week’s episode of Jersey Shore.
Buying all my clothes in the USA- When I first stepped foot in Spain, I was so excited to go shopping here. Zara! H&M! Mango! Bershka! All these fabulous stores that (at the time) we didn’t have in the US. The clothes weren’t really my style but I bought them because everyone else was and I didn’t have many other options either. But I never really loved them. You see, European clothes are made for tall, skinny European ladies with no boobs and I am neither tall nor skinny nor, well, you can see where this is going. As my lovely friend Erin says: “It was like shoving 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.” So I ended up with a bunch of clothes that I wore very few times or not at all. Now I mostly buy my clothes on a one-day crazy, whirlwind shopping spree on my once a year visit back home. I try to buy everything I would need for a year and bring it all back with me. I’m not a huge fan of shopping anyways so it eliminates the need to go shopping here and I always find clothes I like in the States. Also, just recently some big name stores have started shipping internationally so I can shop online! My dream come true!
Shopping at American/English retail stores- Along with shopping only once a year in the States, I am a sucker for American or British stores. I know I should be shopping at independently owned Spanish stores but these international brand names just make it so much easier. The stores look exactly alike no matter what country they’re in so it’s super easy to find things and they have all the same things. I can walk into any Sephora (which is actually a French brand, who knew?), The Body Shop or Gap and find exactly what I’m looking for without having to consult some unfriendly (or over-friendly) shop assistant. I might have to pay a little more but I’m all about convenience these days.
Going to Starbucks- These days Starbucks is more a luxury than a daily coffee run with the closest location 5 hours away in Madrid. But, let me tell you, as soon as we descend on a city that boasts that little green sign the hubby and I are in heaven. I love the lattes and pastries and the hubby can’t get his hands on a frappuccino fast enough. However, their embarrassingly American-sized drinks and snacks don’t fit with Spanish cafe culture. I’m actually really glad that there isn’t a Starbucks closer (and not even one in the Basque Country) because it makes it a special treat when we do have it.
So, all you expats out there: What is your Secret Foreigner Behavior? Anything here ring a bell? And for you ex-expats: What secret foreigner things did you do when you lived abroad?