This week on the blog we will be exploring the topic of international love by bringing you the insights of a few individuals who have fallen for partners who come from a different country and culture. They will share openly about what their experiences have been like maneuvering a romantic relationship with someone who does not share their native language or customs.
Today’s post comes from guest writer, Mary, who speaks about her relationship with her Spanish boyfriend, Antonio. Mary and Antonio currently live in Cincinnati, Ohio where she works in Higher Education and Antonio works as an engineer. However, Mary’s love for the Spanish language and culture took root long before she met Antonio as she studied abroad a total of three times in the south of Spain! We are so pleased to bring your Mary’s story so without further ado we’ll allow her to take it from here!
“They say home is where the heart is but God, I love the Spanish”
(Inspired by “London Boy” Taylor Swift)
I thought it was funny that Taylor’s new songs hint an attraction to foreign accents, styles, cultures, and challenges because I, too, thought about how dreamy it would be to have a foreign boyfriend.
There is much more to our relationship with Antonio than the international side, but I’m here to describe my experience as an American in my relationship with a Spaniard. I have no right to speak on anyone else’s experience or relationship other than within my own. So, for now I will bless your scroll with insight into the bliss and challenge of speaking Spanglish, sharing cultures and traditions, and feeling home with a person.
Without humility, our relationship would be extremely difficult since we speak two languages on a regular basis (we don’t even realize when we are speaking one or the other), or three if you count Spanglish. For us, it also is the best and the only way to fearlessly practice our second language. We are both passionate about each other’s language and culture, and yes, sometimes are harder than others. We lean on each other’s bilingualism for a range of topics, from things as complex as expressing our feelings and getting to know each other’s friends and family, to simple revisions of text message grammar. There are never stupid mistakes though, because the effort we put into learning each other’s language is just another way to express how much we care about being able to express ourselves better.
At times we get lost in translation, but thanks to it, we get stronger every time. My sarcasm and harsh, Germanic-based English clashes with his soft-spoken Spanish. American English is not the most beautiful language in my opinion, and sometimes when I get expressive I need to put myself in his shoes and understand how my words may sound to him. Thankfully, many of our miscommunications are laid to rest pretty quickly when we realize that the root of the problem stems from a language barrier. It is not an excuse for all arguments, but it is definitely allowing us to laugh at how stupid it is to waste so much time arguing about tonterías (stupid little things). When miscommunication appears due to language barriers, sure we argue. However, there is a good chance that it will end with us laughing at some mispronunciation or butchered words—keeping things pretty lighthearted.
Spanish and American Culture and Traditions
Since we are living in America, Antonio and I have been celebrating a lot of my family’s American traditions. Let me tell you, the first time he carved a pumpkin was hilarious. I told him that he needed to gut the pumpkin, and you should have seen his face. The experience was a mix between “what is wrong with you Americans?” and “how is sticking your hands inside a pumpkin any fun?” and him putting a candle inside the pumpkin and sending pictures to his family at home. I would say that this is a perfect example of how of our tradition-sharing goes. We explain our traditions, we try it, and it is the coolest thing. The next thing you know we are sending pictures to our families. Except when we were making s’mores for the first time, he ate his before a good picture was possible.
Antonio and I LOVE to cook. He actually won me over the first night that he met me, with a tortilla de patatas. Every restaurant was closed (of course they were, it was 11:00PM, where did this Spaniard expect to get dinner at this time?) so he looked at me and said, “Well, do you like tortilla de patatas? We can cook one!” Can you imagine my face? Like, boy, you had me at tortilla. The fact that we cooked together the first night that we met was a strong sign for me. Now we share many Sunday afternoons cooking both Spanish foods, such as paella, tortilla, pulpo a la gaellga, and some my home favorites, such grilling skewers, and even some of family’s German recipes. He is actually one of the only people that I love to have cooking next to me in the kitchen—ask anyone.
I am excited to be in his shoes, as I will be going home with him at Christmas time, yes, home-home. Spain-home. He plans to tour me around his small town in Almería, introduce me to his family traditions, which I know he holds near and dear to his heart. Learning about each other is not only fun, but also the key to understanding and appreciating each other. Understanding each other’s traditions means we can continue to celebrate them as we share more and more of our life together.
Finding home in a person
It is important to know that I spent most of my early twenties, which I consider to be the most formative years of my life (thus far), dedicated to living and learning Andalucía. There I formed my own identity as a young American woman, heavily influenced by the Spanish culture. With that, it is hard to imagine spending my life with someone who doesn’t crave challenge, language, travel, and food, of course!
When I first moved home from Seville, I was depressed, I felt lost and lonely. I didn’t realize that I was able to change all those feelings by allowing someone like Antonio into my life, who helped me realize that I am not ‘crazy’ for missing a country so much. Quite honestly, the more time I spend with Antonio in the US, the more I realize how perfectly happy I am right here in Cincinnati. I never want to stop exploring this city, this country and the world with him.
I love how he values a lazy afternoon after lunch or those days at the grocery store when we make sure that our wine bottle is from Spain. I love when he plays Frank Sinatra, as it reminds him of music he shared with his family at home, and I get to watch his ‘aha!’ moment when he understands the lyrics after so many years to “I Get a Kick Out of You.” I love how we have tortilla for a lazy night’s dinner and watch every show and movie with subtitles. I love our endless search for U.S. versions of Spanish jámon, his appreciation for taking walks around town and how he knows when I need one, and his understanding of my need to sit in the sun. I love when he suggests watching Friends or Casa de Papel and pausing every so often to explain things to each other.
I would be such a romantic bore for someone who did not want to talk about my obsession with Spanish language and culture. Alternatively, I would be very bored in a relationship if I was unable to be ‘that person’ for someone else. We can thank our nationalities for introducing us to each other, but we can thank each other for being curious individuals and taking a chance on one another. Here’s to many more jack-o-lanterns and tortillas, butchered languages and adventures!
Thanks for reading!