“Hey Gina, have you ever been to Spain?”
Seems like a simple enough question, but I received this little sarcastic quip many a time after my first study abroad trip to Spain in my sophomore year. Because, of course, I could never stop talking about it and it got a little old to some people.
This first taste of Europe enticed me to return as soon as I could. I had loved Spain, and I knew that the rest of the continent would impress me just as much. Hence, this trip.
Well, as round two of “Gina terrorizes other countries” comes to a close, I can’t help but think about the similarities and differences between Spain and the rest of Europe. In case you haven’t been following the blog throughout the whole adventure (and why the hell haven’t you?) we visited the following: England, Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and France. Allow me to make a few sweeping generalizations about several unique and culturally significant countries for the sake of brevity and so I can maximize the number of people I offend.
Samesies (things that Spain and the rest of Europe both do)
1. Everyone’s signs suck.
Hey Europe, this is Gina calling. With my contacts in, I have near perfect vision. I can see signs from incredibly far distances, and can squint with the champions of the world sun-staring competition. This said…
MAKE BIGGER SIGNS. Would it kill you? I know you think those little blue signs are quaint. You know, the ones you arbitrarily decide to stick on street corners when you feel so moved? Yeah, those ones. Quaint, but in no way functional. This is real life, not Disney World.
We do a lot of things wrong in America. Tons, in fact. But by George, we have pretty good street signs. 10 points for America.
Fashion sense. I have enough. Sure, I can match general color schemes. I know that color combos like blue/black and brown/orange go great together, and that you should never wear white…um…before? Labor Day. And I’m one of the lucky ones!
I don’t care what country you come from in Europe, you walk out of the house looking damn good. You wear your clothes with the confidence that yes, your outfit does look great. No matter what. Suspenders with parachute pants and snow boots? You go, girlfriend. Even the kids look like they just walked out of a Banana Republic ad. It makes me just a smidge self conscious when a 4-year-old looks fiercer on a normal day than I do on a Saturday night.
Unless you run into a teenager or a rotund American tourists, graphic tees do not seem to exist. The next time I see a shirt emblazoned with Bart Simpson or “Git-R-Done,” I might faint.
1. R-e-s-p-e-c-t—find out what it means to me.
So, in Spain it’s perfectly normal to trot down a busy street, only to get cat called and whistles thrown at you constantly. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard (in Spanish) such insults as “Get off my lawn!” or “Your zipper’s down!” or “Stop petting my dog!” So traumatizing. But seriously, it was like Spaniards had never seen a woman before.
In the countries we visited this time around, we encountered next to none of that obnoxious speech. Sure, we got stares (this may have been because I always seem to have something on my face) but it pretty much stopped at that. Or maybe I’ve gone deaf. Both equally likely.
2. Do or do not, but it turns out, it’s okay to try
Jessie and I both speak Spanish. As we’ve joked to the many people we’ve met, it’s served us tremendously well so far. Except not at all in the least. We’ve resorted to mumbling basic phrases and miming our way through most situations. But, in every country where we’ve attempted to speak in their language, we’ve received smiles and laughs and pats on the head for our troubles. Ok, I made up that last one. But still, they appreciate our effort.
The Spaniards tended not to be so gracious. They would usually snort, and answer us in English. The exception: cute old men. Those guys tended to like young American girls. Go figure.
So there you have it. Just a few reflections, blanket statements, etc. Feel free to comment with your angry retorts and offended statements. But only if they’re nice.