A few weeks ago, I went to one of my favorite wine and tapas places for an evening with friends. The wine was fabulous as usual and the accompanying tapas was exceptional. It was time well spent, and when we were ready to leave, I went and asked for the bill from the bartender.
When he came back from the cash register, he told me the price in Spanish, but I hadn’t heard him completely since the place was just starting to get packed, so I asked him to repeat himself and I leaned further so I could hear him better. Instead of repeating what he had just said in Spanish, he tried to use some broken English. I didn’t really appreciate this, although I knew he meant well. We figured out the correct price, paid the bill and left.
Conversely, the other day on my way home for lunch, I cut through a popular shopping area and weaved my way through the throngs of families that were doing shopping over their lunchtime breaks. At one point, a middle-aged Spanish woman came up to me and asked where a certain church was (in Spanish) and what was the best way to get there. I responded in kind and she happily made her way. I later was confronted by a young woman that was polling the political climate due to the upcoming elections. She asked me questions about what I thought about the candidates and their policies as well as where I saw Spain going in the coming years. I wasn’t exactly expecting these questions, but I responded in the best way I could, and I know she was appreciative of my attempt to answer her questions.
While I can completely understand the first story where the bartender was well-meaning and genuinely wanted things to be clear, I obviously find so much more value in the second two. There is no doubt that I stand out as an American student, or at least an International student (I’ve had people ask me where I’m from in France or Germany). My skin color is different, my accent is noticeable and the way I dress is, while nice and appropriate to the culture, still a little different.
I’m finding, though, that people are accepting me as a member of the community here in Granada, regardless of my Americanism, politics, skin color or accent. If not, the woman looking for the church would’ve walked up to any of the other of hundreds of people making their way through the streets. Likewise, the pollster would’ve avoided me and sought out the opinion of an actual Spaniard. I suppose that Granada being a large university town with many international students, people like me tend to become a part of the lifestyle here. While I may certainly be treated differently- like in the story about the bartender- or people may speak to me more slowly than they would to others, I’m still a member of the community.
Before I came to Spain, and after I got here, I was curious to see how people would treat me. On my previous vacations to foreign countries, the locals mostly left me alone and rarely engaged me. Here in Granada, now that I actually live here and know the city quite well, the people treat me as one of their own despite the obvious national difference.
Occasionally I still get spoken to in English, or asked about things in America but at the same time, it’s pretty nice to have someone come up to me and ask me what I thought about upcoming elections or where certain buildings are, all in Spanish. I guess I could say that while I’ve considered Granada a new home in many ways, I had not had an experience that truly made it feel like Granada was my home until those two women thought to ask me a question as opposed to someone else. So I suppose that, even in a small way, Granada is that much more of a home to me than it was back in September.