For Pete’s Sake

To commemorate Month #17 in Spain, I give you a list of cultural differences that have caused a breakdown in communication lately.

1) Meet Pete:

Pete appeared on a worksheet my co-teacher and I gave to our students earlier this week. In the exercise, a list of chores accompanies before-and-after photos of Pete’s room. Pete will do some of his chores (make his bed) but not others (change his socks [ewww]).The students must examine the two drawings to decide if Pete did or didn’t do the chore.

That first pic is Pete BEFORE he was given his list of chores. This is the AFTER shot:

The Million-dollar Question: When you compare the two, would you say that Pete did or didn’t open his window?

You’re probably thinking, Duh, of course little Petey opened his window.

However, most of the students put that Pete didn’t open the window. Why? Since windows in Spain open from the side, they were unable to tell from the drawing that the position of the windowpane had changed.

Has your mind been boggled yet? Here’s another:

2) Colors

In the States, here are some words that have been used to describe my hair color:

  • Brown
  • Light Brown
  • Auburn
  • Brown

In Spain, here are the words that have been used to describe my hair:

  • Blonde
  • Blonde
  • Blonde
  • Blonde
This caused confusion before. Once, when Christina told a mutual acquaintance that I was coming to a party*, the acquaintance, whom I had only met once, asked, “Oh, the blonde girl?” To which Christina replied, “No, Cassandra,” but later we realized that he really was referring to me.

3) The way we view nighttime 

If you think you can try cleverly rephrase a term with something more poetic or euphemistic, let me caution you from doing so in a second language. Unfortunately, I said “mujer de la noche” in class one day to mean “prostitute” and the teacher got hiccups from laughing so much. To the party-hardy Spaniards, calling a female “a woman of the night,” just means the chica loves a night out.

4) It’s all about the numbers

After months of exaggerating the curves of my 6s, I was told last week that my 6s still look like 4s.  Forehead, meet keyboard.

*a woman of the night, obviously

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  1. PS – is it me, or do people’s 1s here always look like 7s (like the one in your pic above)???

    And I feel you on the blonde thing. To me it seems anyone that might have potentially been blonde as a baby, is still considered blonde to this day.

  2. Cassandra

    Ha, yes, I agree about the 1-7 switcharoo, too! I write my 1’s like 7’s now to avoid confusion (that’s my handwriting up there).

  3. I still find the concept of mediodía generally meaning 2pm hard to get my head round!

  4. Cassandra

    Mary, I agree! It’s hard to explain “afternoon” to my students since “noon” doesn’t register.

  5. Katy Lapekas

    OH MY GOSH Casandra! This totally happens to ME! EVERYONE tells me that my 6´s look like 4´s I really have to defend them constantly. I on the other hand am utterly incapable of distinguishing their lamented similarity!

  6. Cassandra

    ugh, yes!! And when I say “tres” it sounds like “seis”….Weren’t the numbers one of the first things we learn in Spanish?! I should be beyond the beginner level by now :S

  7. Cassandra

    I’m in a monthly round-up?! Thanks Will!

  8. Im from Spain and i noticed the window was open, however it may be because i live in an old house and the windows are “de guillotina” thats how windows like that one on the picture are called in spanish 😉

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