Spanishized: how to tell if it’s happened to you

Spanishized: how to tell if it’s happened to you

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Urban Dictionary definition: Spanishize is 'the process by which one becomes Spanish'. How Spanishized are you?

In my opinion Spanishized isn’t so much about the process, but more about the final product. Getting used to the lifestyle and culture is one thing; starting to think and dream in Spanish and mixing up your English is another. That’s when you really understand the definition.

The other day I stumbled upon an article in about how to tell if you've gone native Spanish. As an American in Spain, reading this really made me laugh as I realised that this definitely has happened to me. A few years ago, if I had looked at this article I probably would have just chuckled. But reading it now, it all just makes so much sense (another sign?). I thought I would share these signs and add a few of my own commentaries.

1. You’ve gone all touchy feely. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing by any means, but it is true that the Spanish culture here tends to be more physical. I’ve noticed this particularly in the workplace where it’s completely normal to be touchy feeling with co-workers while telling a story, or give someone a kiss/hug before and after vacation periods. Coming from the US where personal space is more coveted than a parking space, this can be a bit uncomfortable at first. Over time though you just find yourself reaching out to everyone.

2. You’ve started yelling at waiters. You have to get their attention somehow, right? Of course now back in the US after the 10th time my waiter/waitress comes to see how I’m doing and if I need anything else, I feel the need to just say, "I’m going to give you your 20 percent tip; please just give me a little space!" (And to think I used to be a waitress.)

3. You have breakfast in a bar. The word 'bar' itself has a different meaning in Spain. You can sometimes get the best fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee and morning breakfast pincho (little appetiser) at a bar. Or if you feel like adding a caña (small beer), that’s quite acceptable in Spain, too. Bars are pretty universal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, you name it. They can be similar to a restaurant. I wouldn’t think twice about taking my baby in his stroller into a bar with me here; and I don’t think anyone would look twice either.

4. You’ve lost your political correctness. Being PC goes out the window with a little time over here. You can try to maintain your PC righteousness, but trust me, it will fade over time as you realise it’s not conscious prejudice, but really just a cultural way of being in a country that’s still new to having a large foreigner population.

5. You’ve stopped being so polite. As Americans we tend to be overly polite and apologise for everything, especially within work environments. You’ll soon realise no one else is going out of their way to be polite, so maybe you need to change your approach. The first time I realised that I had changed was at work (I was the only American in the office) during a phone call with international colleagues. The Americans were being way more polite than us, and they were really getting on my nerves! Also, when your boss tells you during an evaluation that if people are yelling at you in a meeting that you should yell back, well, you can see how being polite goes out the window.

6. You keep mixing your wine and beer with stuff. How would it work if you didn’t mix it?

7. Suspended dead animal bits seem normal. Seeing a number of suspended ham legs as soon as you walk in somewhere is a clear sign of a good tapas bar or restaurant. After a while, you don’t even notice them anymore; you’ll only notice them when you’re with someone who’s visiting.

8. You tackle Spanish bureaucracy with confidence. After getting my NIE (national foreigner ID card), getting married, renewing working papers, switching a work residency card to a non-working residency card, getting a marriage residency card, having a baby, getting an EU licence, and signing up for unemployment, let’s just say that you get used to the lengthy document collection processes. By the time the third one rolls around, you’ll already have the fingerprint process down pat. You’ll be prepared with three photocopies of everything in hand and a stern face to deal with the disgruntled government worker.

9. You can’t stop kissing everyone. Kissing a person who interviews you for a job just seems normal. Kissing your co-workers just seems normal. Just be careful when you go to your home country and are introduced to a friend’s boy/girlfriend and go in for a kiss.

10. 8pm seems way too early for dinner. 9pm just seems normal. With working hours generally on the longer side here, it would be hard to try to have dinner US-style at 6pm. Plus, I can’t imagine going to bed hungry anymore.

And a few others I’d like to add:

  • You mix up Spanish and English, even talking to your mother in the wrong language without realising it. You also use bueno and pues in the the middle of sentences instead of 'ummm' when talking in English.
  • People talk about those 'foreigners, 'guiris', or 'Americans' in front of you without realising you’re 'one of them'. And you take it as a compliment.
  • You don’t feel like you completely belong in in either the US or Spain but are proud to call both your home.
  • You get asked back 'home' in the US  where you’re from because you have an accent (not a joke)! 


If you read all of these without a blink and they just seem normal, you are on your way to being Spanishized. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; just don’t forget to think twice before applying some of these in the US or your home country. Take this as a little piece of advice from an American in Spain who may have had a few embarrassing moments while back in the US.


Reprinted with permission from Spanishized.

Spanishized Michelle Amato is a Bostonian living in Spain since 2006. She loves meeting new people and sharing her many expat experiences such as getting working papers, having a baby, marrying a Spaniard, getting robbed, and more. Michelle is a bilingual marketing profesional. Find her on Facebook.

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2 Comments To This Article

  • Tim posted:

    on 27th May 2015, 17:19:34 - Reply

    Michelle, great post! I completely agree with 3-5, and I am glad I don't have to be polite all the time anymore, because that is exhausting! :-P

    I have to disagree with #8 and #10. Every time I have to deal with Spanish bureaucracy, they've invented some new way to make it even harder for me to accomplish whatever it is I'm doing. Plus, I always have to pay an extra tax on everything because I'm American...not a foreigner, but American. They tax us extra special. And then I cannot accept eating dinner at 10 or 11. It goes against my training routine and completely throws me out of whack! Of course, I am obligated at times to do it, but it is just so late! :-)

    Again, great post.
  • Martin posted:

    on 20th May 2015, 10:06:34 - Reply

    Sadly (or not) also goes both ways: unspanished, or the way you don't behave like this anymore (no more touchy, or just doubting why there's a ham leg in my kitchen right now!)