I apologize for the delay in posting. At first I was too busy apartment-searching to write, and then I was sick for almost a week straight so I had no energy, and now I’m finally back on my feet. Here’s a list of my first impressions now that I have a bit of time to relax and reflect on the past couple weeks.
1. I’ve got a LONG way to go Spanish-wise
Prior to coming here, I thought I had a pretty good foundation in Spanish. And I do, after many years of studying in high school and again in college. But now I’m realizing that all the knowledge I accumulated the past few years just scratches the surface. With vocabulary I’m like meh because that grows over time. I’ve already learned tons of new words such as zipper, vacuum, sweatshirt, hood, pug (my favorite dog breed), raindrops, bed spread, and way more than I can list at this moment.
What gets me are the verbs. The actual memorization of the meanings of the verbs (ie. to iron, to pinch, to fill) are easy because it’s just more vocab, but what is difficult is using them properly. I have the present tense down-pat, and although I sometimes use the wrong one, I can at least conjugate the preterit and imperfect tenses. The future tense is also alright.
But then you start getting into past subjunctive (“If I were…”), past perfect subjunctive (“If I had been.”), and future perfect subjunctive (“I will have been…”). My brain seriously can’t speak more than 15 words per minute at that point.
I could write a book about all the things I don’t understand about Spanish, but for now I’ll just leave you with this: My catch-phrase here is “Habla despacio, por favor.” SPEAK SLOWLY PLEASE!
2. The language isn’t the only thing I have to translate
I’m not saying this to offend Americans or America (I’m from the United States), but seriously when is this country going to get the clue that the rest of the world uses the metric system, which intuitively makes more sense anyway! But when you are seeing it out in everyday life like kilos in the grocery store or Celsius on the weather channel, and you’re used to pounds and Fahrenheit, you are forced to once again reach back into the recesses of your mind and try to remember middle-school science class in order to get some sort of reference point for what those measuring points are.
Here’s a fun example: I went to a Carrefour store a few days ago and bought salmon. I think the price was 13.43 euros per kilo. Not only did I have to mentally calculate the price in dollars, but I also had to calculate the weight in pounds! And I suck at math but I think this is how it works:
13.23 euros/kg = 18.17 dollars/kg
1kg = 2.2 pounds
18.17 dollars/2.2 pounds = 8.25 dollars per pound? Kind of expensive compared to what I was used to! But am I really going to get out a calculator in the middle of the store and do the calculation before making the decision to buy something. NO! You just gotta go for it until you eventually gain a mental spectrum of what’s expensive and what’s not.
Even shoe sizes are different! I used to be an 8 or 8.5 back in the states, but here I am somewhere between a 38 and a 40. Still not sure which…
3. The people, in general, are incredibly nice
Almost everyone I have met since getting here has been very friendly and helpful. I’m just now starting to get comfortable with the whole “dos besos” thing, which is where people kiss each other on both cheeks as a greeting, even if it’s a total stranger. For me, it felt weird at first because I’m used to either a handshake or an awkward “nice to meet you” wave of the hand.
But maybe there’s something to be said for the dos besos. Maybe there’s just a greater sense of closeness among people than I’m used to. At first I was almost skeptical of everyone’s kindness, in the sense of “now what do you want from me?” But that honestly just seems to be the genuine nature of the people.
After I spend more time and accumulate more experiences here, I will be able to extrapolate on this topic. On Monday I start my month long TEFL course. Please continue to read and leave your comments!
Upcoming blog posts:
- Tips for finding an apartment in Spain
- Should I live with locals or with other English speakers?
- About the TEFL course