We All Smile In The Same Language

13 Mar

Thus far, all of my blog updates have been centered about how different my life in Spain is from the US.  This comes as no surprise as Spain’s catch phrase tourist slogan is “ Espana es Diferente.”  However, in the recent weeks, I have been awestruck several times at how surprisingly similar the two distant countries can be.  I think people go to another country expecting it so be so vastly different that they forget to look for the parts of the two cultures that unite us.

It really is very eye-opening to realize that despite our cultural differences that we all really have very similar bases.  Looking back I realize that from day one I encountered many similarities in our culture.  To start, although my Spanish was not up to par, I was able to communicate at a basic level through many hand gestures.  It was like that famous quote that is often posted on classroom walls, “we all smile in the same language.”  I realized how far a friendly smile can take you when speaking is difficult or impossible due to language barriers.

Despite encountering these small cultural similarities throughout my fist month in Spain, I didn´t really realize just how similar we all were until I moved in with my Spanish roommates and started spending time with them.

I have grown very close to my roommate Sara as we have been able to spend a good amount of time together.   The first time I really spent quality time with here was a Sunday afternoon in which we cooked lunch together.  As I have said before, cooking lunch is big deal in Spain, so we were able to spend nearly three hours chatting and learning about each other’s cultures.  The first topic that made me see the similarities was when she was discussing her new diet she had just started…no carbs and lots of proteins and veggies…sound familiar?  It is the same thing as the Adkins diet only with a different Spanish twist.  As we finished coking our food, we sat down to eat and continued our conversation.  She is studying Physical Therapy which is very similar to my studies of Occupational Therapy.  We were able to share our job shadowing experience and compare classes.  We even commiserated together over how dreadfully awful physics class was.   We eventually switched topics to famous actors from the US.  Because the Spanish movie industry is quite poor, everyone watched dubbed American Movies.  Naturally she knew the American actors just as well, if not better, than I did. We giggled over the fact that we both think Taylor Lautner is¨”muy gaupo” and shared some of our favorite movies.

We also are taking a Pilates class together at a yoga studio close to our apartment.  I love going not only because I am a huge fan of Pilates, but also because I am enthralled with the fact that even though I am half way around the globe, Pilates is still Pilates.  Yes it is taught in a different language but the moves and principles are the exact same. So even when I something gets lost in translation, I still understand what is going on!

I have also been able to see the similarities in our culture when I tutor my little girl in English.  I get an inside look at what family life is like in Spain.   Both of my girls act just like any 9-year-old girl would in the US: at that difficult stage where they want to learn and study but it is really hard for them to focus for an entire hour so they often get off on tangents talking about their day and what they do at school and their friends and what they are doing later.  While I am there, I also get to interact with their younger siblings.  Both of my students have younger sisters who are absolutely adorable.  They look at me with adorable eyes and give me hugs and act like most young children do around adults…they try to approach you but then suddenly are overcome with shyness and dash off.  One eventually worked up enough courage to give me a picture she drew for me!  How adorable.

One day, after classes, I talked with the girls about the latest craze: Monster High trading cards…basically their version of Pokémon! After showing me their latest cards, I was introduced to their next door neighbors and got to see how young friends interacted.  The friend, with her super curly hair, talked my ear off.  The girls then proceeded to show me all of their gymnastic moves, waiting for me to cheer them on.  It reminded me so much of when I teach swim lessons and all of my students have to show me every “cool” thing they can do in the water.  Teaching children here is so comforting to me.  It is something that I am familiar with and am good at despite the language barrier.  And it is great to have little kids love you.  They don’t care that my Spanish isn’t perfect, they just are looking to have someone admire them and love them back!   Kids will be kids…no matter what culture they are from!

It may appear that Spain and the US have very different cultures, traditions, and lifestyles.  For the most part this is indeed true. However, when you dig below the surface you find more similarities than one would think.  Families still spend quality time together, people run and bike in the park for exercise, students study hard to succeed, coffee shops are utilized to socialize and get work done, etc.  I could continue for ages.  The bottom line is that the longer I live in Spain, the more I begin to recognize, and value, our similarities.


One Response to “We All Smile In The Same Language”

  1. ann March 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Mandi, I love your blogs… Even though you might not like to hear it, you are very much like your mother!!!! I love you and miss you ooddles!

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