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People from the US in Spain
Posted: 09 May 2007 07:14 PM  
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Hello,
My name is Virginia, I have been living here in Spain for a couple of years. I live in M?laga and my husband is Spanish….His family only speaks Spanish, all of our freinds are Spanish and I?m the only foreigner in the family. I work at a bookstore with all Spaniards and only speak English about 3 or 4 times a month when I talk to my mother in the states.
I have been wondering lately if there are more people from the US living around here and what they think about living here. Sometimes I think I would like to talk to someone without having to explain about my country….namely without having to talk politics. Okay, there is some racism here and much of it is due to a very understandable ignorance about foreigners. My husband went until the age of 14 before he saw a single black person and of all of the Spaniards that I know and talk to everyday, I am the only person they know from another country…is that normal? I grew up in Miami….so I?m used to a community of people from all over the place. So it?s pretty hard for me to understand their often well-intentioned curiosity. But they actually make fun of my accent! That seems pretty harsh to me but then again the tone of Spanish humor is a little harsh.
I like M?laga, but I don?t think this place is really ready for a family like ours. My husband and I are planning to move to Madrid in September. Do you think I?ll find more openess about foreigners there? Do you think the attitudes here have to do with me being foreign or being from the US? What parts of Spain are the most open-minded?
When will I be able to have one single conversation with one single person without having to talk about George W Bush? If I was the type of person who loved the politics and policies of the current administration, if I was the type of American who was extremly patriotic…why would I be living in Spain in the first place? Am I doomed to always have to represent a place just because I was born there?
Okay…all thoughts apreciated….all non-political thoughts that is.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 09:55 PM   [ # 1 ]  
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Dear People from the US in Spain,

I feel your pain.  I am not a citizen from your country, but I get the same shit all the time because we sound alike.  I am Canadian, and find the sickening divergence in attitude towards a person depending on citizenship, well, sickening.  Example?  I step into a taxi and when the cabbie hears my accent at some point asks “what part of the States am I from?”  When I answer that I am Canadian the expression changes, profuse appologies are made about having degraded and insulted me, and a tyraid about American Foreign Policy ensues. 

This is not an isolated case, and is not limited to occassional idiots.  Idiots are everywhere and in every country, but by and large most Europeans I live with and meet (in nearly ten years of living in 4 European countries) seem to want to take a high and mighty view on Americans and take pot shots and innocent passers by whenever possible.  Did I ask for a lecture?  Did you?  Why is it suddenly acceptable to cast a dim view on a person, a perfect stranger no less, simply because they are from a nation with who’s political policies you disagree?  It would be unthinkable to suddenly start lecturing Japanese tourists in Barcelona or Sevilla about attrocities Imperial Japan made in the Phillipines during the Second World War; or to Chinese businessmen in Madrid about human rights violations made today in their country.  Why is it that 5 seconds earlier when I was believed to be American, I was met with cold looks but now that I am not, it ok to warmly deride American culture, and far more dusgustingly, all Americans themselves.

My advice is to take the high road, and simply say to these people that you do not wish to speak about American politics.  If they insist (which I am sure many will) then you have to smile, be polite, and back off (and remind them that Spain was a full military supporter in Afganistan and Iraq).  It is sad that this is the case.  It is sad that you cannot be proud to be American (which you ought to be in any case, as there is much to be proud of) simply because it is your home, regardless of geo-politics.  Be assured that for all the closed-minded idiots floating around here in Spain, there are many open-minded individuals as well.  They are, however, largely foreign expats such as ourselves who have decided to travel and see other points of view and learn.  That, perhaps, is the best way to have your cake and eat it too, whilst living in Spain. 

Best Regards
P

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Posted: 12 May 2007 06:57 PM   [ # 2 ]  
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Your comments really helped! Thanks…
Virginia

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Posted: 22 May 2007 03:18 PM   [ # 3 ]  
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Hi Virginia:
I am sorry to hear about your challenges.  But lets face it Americans really have created a bad name for themselves.  I lived in the States for well over 20 years by the way I am an EU citizen and have to be honest and say that I was tired of the politics, the arrogance of the americans (not all) and the hipocrasy that went along with it…..To my knowledge most Americans have never set foot out of there own country and travelled to other places but they still feel they are the best and should rule the rest of the world with an iron hand and want to dictate their believes onto other ruling nations
I remember when the IRAQ war started and I was at work - I said to my fellow work collegues that there was NO WEAPONS of mass destruction and I was labelled and anti-american -  and I do not even consider myself an american I am BRITISH but the point is was I right or was I right !
You have to understand its not you its what people perceive you stand for !!! 
I think your job is to show them that all Americans are not tarred with the same brush and that you are open to other idea’s believes other than the ones you grew up with,  but then again you must be otherwise you would not be here !!!
I wish you well - try not to take too personally
A Happy Brit now living in Spain

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Posted: 22 May 2007 11:49 PM   [ # 4 ]  
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Hello Virginia, which is where I’m from. Rest assured, you’re not alone. I live a bit of a distance from you in the Alicante province—lot of foreigners here, mostly from South America, Great Britain, and Africa. I’ve only been living here for eight months and haven’t experienced any American bashing yet. Most of the anti foreigner sentiment I’ve heard is directed against the Moroccans and the British. The view of the Moroccans is that the men are lazy and make the women do all the work, and the Brits are buying up all the desirable property.

I’ve been to Madrid a few times, but can’t really give you an opinion because I didn’t stay there long enough, and spoke less spanish than I do now. I do like Spain for the most part however the bureacracy here is incredible! It seems like the Spanish won’t do a thing until theres an inch of paperwork from you in front of them. I find the rythym of life more relaxed with a lot of time spent socializing with friends and family. Everytime I go back to the US, I just shake my head at the coldness and material obsessions of the people there, and count the days for my return flight.

I’m surprised that you being near Malaga have friends that have never seen foreigners. I thought Malaga was a happening tourist location, but then again, what do I know? I haven’t made it that far yet.

Well, if you’re ever in the neighborhood…

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Posted: 29 May 2007 01:09 AM   [ # 5 ]  
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Im another Canadian now living in Spain and I receive the same treatment. My Spanish still sucks so if I speak Spanish they say I must be American because of the accent, and if I speak english, first I am asked if I am English, then American…..when I say neither, I am Canadian, I am treated better. I lived in England for more than 3 years and in the US for 18 months, and I have to say the Americans were far better to live with and around.
Most of the Canadians and Americans I know, myself included, do not like to talk about politics. When conversations veer that way, I will not contribute…..
To the person who says that many Americans never leave their country, this is true, but America is a huge place and there is so much to see and do there that if you dont have a lot of money, you can still go so many places!!! Its not like Europe where flights are really cheap country to country.
Im in Barcelona so there are lots of English speaking people around. I wish you luck in your search for North American conversation!!!!

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Posted: 29 May 2007 02:39 PM   [ # 6 ]  
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Thanks for your comments everyone! Canada is a beautiful country….I?ve only seen a little of it, hopefully one day I can see more.


Viva Lecrin: You?re right about those Americans! They really do think they are the best. That?s why I like it here in Spain, where nobody thinks Spain is the best country EVER and where nobody thinks that the best thing that could happen to you is be born Spanish…Just like in the UK….where nobody is proud to be British…It?s a good thing here in Europe the people are so different. Here in Europe, everyone is so intelligent and educated…why…just the other day I was out in the country and saw two farmers practicing emergency cardiovascular surgery in the field!
Here in Europe everything is more civilized…nobody is ever rude, everyone treats you with respect!

Seriously, if you have really spent time in other countries…you have to know that we are all alike, we all have the same problems and worries, the same hopes and dreams…some of us are pleasant and others are not! Maybe I don?t eat the same food as you do or maybe I don?t go to work at the same time….but these points are really irrelevant…the truth is that it is in fashion to hate the Americans right now….the majority of people do it because everybody else does.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 09:51 PM   [ # 7 ]  
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virginiav - 29 May 2007 02:39 PM

Seriously, if you have really spent time in other countries…you have to know that we are all alike, we all have the same problems and worries, the same hopes and dreams…some of us are pleasant and others are not! Maybe I don?t eat the same food as you do or maybe I don?t go to work at the same time….but these points are really irrelevant…the truth is that it is in fashion to hate the Americans right now….the majority of people do it because everybody else does.

Um, well it’s not only fashionable, it’s real, it’s political (that reminds me of my Catholic friend who used to say that it was fashionable to be gay so more and more men were becoming gay). The US, under Bush, has impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the planet in seemingly negative ways. New political strife and a gaping left/right, east/west divide is now an issue for many. That’s not the “Americans’ fault”, it’s that of the neo-conservative elements of the US. The same group is now operating successfully in Canada too, causing all kinds of problems for Canadians and making us look bad Internationally too.

Another major issue that people take offense to is, as you’ve highlighted, the ignorance of most Americans. Even the ones who travel can often miss the point. It goes both ways of course. There are many brilliant Americans too, but this doesn’t really need to be said. The overwhelming evidence points to the brilliance of the American system, so if people around the world want to take a few pot shots at the current affairs of the US then, well, let them. Right? Take the opportunity to drive the point home: sure the US has some huge problems right now, but keep the faith as it’s bound the change!

The way I see it the greater the divide the better; soon the US will break up and reform into the United States of Canada and (there in the middle) Jesusland. :D

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Posted: 31 May 2007 02:33 PM   [ # 8 ]  
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You?re right…I agree with what you?ve said.

I?ve been studying political science for practically forever now….with two degrees in Internacional Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies, I am the very first person to criticize the policies of the US in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, in Chile, in Puerto Rico, in etc….
Apart from the US, I also have been bitterly dissapointed by the governmental policies of nearly all of the countries in the world. Being an incurable idealist, this is impossible to aviod.

But the thing that really hurts, personally, the thing that makes it so I can?t sleep at night…the thing that makes me cry every other week or so, is that Hate that I see regularly in the faces of people…those cold looks and comments…the cruel jokes, I think that everyone, regardless of their personal or political beliefs should treat ALL people with respect and dignity.

I don?t pretend to be politically correct in everything that I think, I certainly don?t profess to not have feelings of hate or racism or pride. But it does matter to me how people feel when I talk to them. And I try not to say things that will hurt them. I don?t think it?s that hard.

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Posted: 13 June 2007 11:05 PM   [ # 9 ]  
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Virginia,

Just an hour up the road from Malaga, is a small town called Moron de la Frontera. There is a small military installation there, that’s home to approximately 150 Americans. Military and Civilians combined, if you ever have the chance or free time, take a drive up on a weekend and see if you can make contact with anyone. You won’t be able to gain access onto the base, but there will be people in town you can pick out. Farther up the road is Utrera, this is where quite a few Americans from the base make there homes as well. Good Luck!

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Posted: 18 June 2007 08:48 PM   [ # 10 ]  
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I am moving to Barcelona in 45 days and I have found this discussion very helpful. I will be marrying a Spanish citizen and will live just outside Barcelona. My soon to be husband has already warned about this but I had not thought too much about it.

I think I have decided that I will do the same as I have always done. I’ll treat people the way I would like to be treated and when they behave poorly, I try to remember that their behavior and reactions are about them and not me. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them. But, their behavior indicates something about them, and my response if I choose to engage them will indicate something about who I am. I hope I handle myself well, but nobody is perfect.

I think we are all pretty much trying to be the best people we can be and we all need to give each other break now and then.

It doesn’t really take a very enlightened person to realize that the average citizen of whatever country has absolutely no effect on, or deserves to take responsibility for the foreign policy of the country they happen to have been born in.

I try evaluating people by their actions and not their skin color, accent, or the foreign policy of that person?s country of origin.

There, I feel better??

Peace to all,

Danny

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Posted: 18 June 2007 09:15 PM   [ # 11 ]  
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Danny - 18 June 2007 08:48 PM

I’ll treat people the way I would like to be treated and when they behave poorly, I try to remember that their behavior and reactions are about them and not me. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them. But, their behavior indicates something about them, and my response if I choose to engage them will indicate something about who I am. I hope I handle myself well, but nobody is perfect.

... now that sounds enlightened.

Knowing that the Spanish are very curious about the US should remind us that of course they’re going to ask questions - sometimes questions they know will provoke. Imagine being in their shoes. I’d probably say provoking things too, and hope to be shown an example of the enlightened values that Americans are (or used to be) known for.

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Posted: 26 June 2007 04:41 PM   [ # 12 ]  
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expat58 - 13 June 2007 11:05 PM

Virginia,

Just an hour up the road from Malaga, is a small town called Moron de la Frontera. There is a small military installation there, that’s home to approximately 150 Americans. Military and Civilians combined, if you ever have the chance or free time, take a drive up on a weekend and see if you can make contact with anyone. You won’t be able to gain access onto the base, but there will be people in town you can pick out. Farther up the road is Utrera, this is where quite a few Americans from the base make there homes as well. Good Luck!

I guess this is exactly what not to do…
Swallow your pride, think about what your countrymen do across the globe, and indulge in a serious, personal discussion about it. You will find that people don’t really have an opinion. And just shout out the general (ignorant) concensus.

How harsh it might sound, but you are suffering the negative side effects of “taking the plunge” You are now treated with the same ignorance that the average american has to the rest of the world. HE! the rest of the world has the same ideas about the USA…

Deal with it, and sedate yourself with the idea that one day the world will be the place we want it to be: unbiased, open to new (and strange) poeoples and thoughts.

Stick with it, you married your husband because you loved him. That’s all that counts at the end, really…

PS. DOn’t move to Madrid, try Barcelona. It prob is the best place inside of spain not being spanish.

PPS. Sorry for the ranting, but live sucks, deal with it the best way you can.

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Posted: 30 June 2007 07:13 PM   [ # 13 ]  
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virginiav - 31 May 2007 02:33 PM

You?re right…I agree with what you?ve said.

I?ve been studying political science for practically forever now….with two degrees in Internacional Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies, I am the very first person to criticize the policies of the US in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, in Chile, in Puerto Rico, in etc….
Apart from the US, I also have been bitterly dissapointed by the governmental policies of nearly all of the countries in the world. Being an incurable idealist, this is impossible to aviod.

But the thing that really hurts, personally, the thing that makes it so I can?t sleep at night…the thing that makes me cry every other week or so, is that Hate that I see regularly in the faces of people…those cold looks and comments…the cruel jokes, I think that everyone, regardless of their personal or political beliefs should treat ALL people with respect and dignity.

I don?t pretend to be politically correct in everything that I think, I certainly don?t profess to not have feelings of hate or racism or pride. But it does matter to me how people feel when I talk to them. And I try not to say things that will hurt them. I don?t think it?s that hard.

I’m dutch, my girlfriend is russian (with the ‘‘questionable’’ background, he! a girls got to do to survive) I’ve been living in spain now for 5 years, she has for 9.

We have internet and all the modern commodities now, let’s stop and talk nations, let’s start and talk about people. And find out what we need to do to survive. It’s not just Bush, again i am from holland (you know Amsterdam, girls, drugs and all that) And it is happenig there too, people are brainwashed to be scared, in so many ways. Please let us, the normal people stop this. It scares me and you. So next time, we just say hi and have a drink. And ask each other’s names…

In internet speak: I’m crying about this…

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Posted: 03 August 2007 03:41 PM   [ # 14 ]  
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I’m an American, from San Francisco, and I agree with you Virginia, about how the Spanish treat people who aren’t Spanish. I studied abroad here in 2003-2004, in the north of Spain and I remember going home to my apartment and crying because of how the people just look at you. My fiance now, who is from Spain (Basque country), says that they are just curious and not used to seeing tourists here. I had a hard time with it at first and every now and then it gets to me but I try not to let it get me down.
I speak Spanish pretty well. I taught Spanish last year back home and I have a bilingual credential to teach. I understand almost everything but the Spanish know right away by my hair, eyes, and bone structure (thats what my fiance says) that I am not from here. It’s kind of sad but maybe its more like this because we are up in the North.

I remember one time, when we were at a small village called Castro Urdiales, we went into a store, and I asked how much a scarf cost. The lady just looked at me and I thought, what is the problem. I repeated myself two or three times and then my fiance said it. As soon as he said it, which was the same thing that I had been saying, the lady immediately gave him attention. I was so frustrated that I just put the scarf down and walked out of the store. It happens all the time that people ask where I am from. I know my accent is different but I think for me its harder because I want my spanish to be perfect, accent and everything. Also, like you, coming from such a diverse community in San Francisco, I don’t really think about people’s accents.

My question for you is,
What made you guys decide to live in Spain? My fiance and I are continuously going back and forth. We can never make up our mind about where we want to live. Right now, at the moment, I have a teaching job here in Spain and also one at home. I am searching around this website to see if I can find some more things that will swade me one way or the other. We turned in out paperwork for marriage and we have the interview date for Septemeber 19th. They said that we would be able to get married in last September or October.
Any info on why you choose spain over the US, would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I was only in Madrid for a week before studying abroad in the North of Spain in Vizcaya, but I really enjoyed Madrid. It can be extremely hot in the summer and extreme cold in the winter but when I was there, since it was so cosmopolitan, I never felt like the odd one out. I saw tons of people who were not only Spanish. There are always people studying abroad also.

On the other hand, when my aunt came to visit, she absolutely loved Barcelona. She doesn’t speak a word of Spanish except for gracias. She loved the water and the restaurants and the fact that things were translated almost everywhere in Catalan, Castellano, and English. Hope this helps!

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Posted: 03 August 2007 08:27 PM   [ # 15 ]  
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Hi

Me and my girlfriend is settling in Barcelona from New York due to a couple of reasons. Being a couple where she is American and I’m Norwegian/Spanish we picked Barcelona as the city because of it’s international flavour and mixed population. It’s easier for here to assimilate in a city where there is a big expat community. She is taking classes at the University of Barcelona so hopefully it will break down her communication barriers over time and allow her to make some new friends.

My family comes from the North of Spain, Asturias and it’s as you say not very internationally minded which can be a problem for some people. Vizcaya is even less open in my opinion.

I think I would rank Barcelona first, Madrid second and Valencia or Sevilla third for ease of living as a foreigner. Mostely I picked Barcelona for its access to beaches and mountain and proximity to France.

One thing I have noticed helps a lot is to ask a lot of questions about the city and place you are when talking to the locals. Most have a sense of pride in the city and country and if you show genuine interest in it you will be surprised how people open up. Also at least coming from New York I had forgotten about that urban spaniards are less friendly than New Yorkers in general, but that has just made me more aware of the good things I learned about Americans while living in the big apple.

Just my two cents.

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