A Study Abroad Testimony- Eric Boshart
So you’ve heard about how cultures are slowly becoming homogenized, and all countries are united in the effort to advance globalization. That’s all dandy, but the preservation of some customs will sustain perpetuity in all countries. Let me share some of my experiences with these traditions.
Before I left to Spain, I realized that I was going to be flying alone to a continent I had never been before and living with a family whom I have never met before. I got to Miami on my layover, made a friend in an old and wise Muslim explaining his religion and his kids’ careers to me, then went off to Spain. I wasn’t necessarily nervous, but I was anxious to experience the oddities of the countries “over there.” Being from the heart of Texas (Read: liberal island of Texas), I knew that there was not going to be one similarity between the environments of Madrid and Texas, besides the existence of McDonald’s.
I arrived in Madrid, helplessly gathered my bags, and proceeded to the exit where my host mother was waiting. She told me she was tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. And that she was from Madrid. Right off the bat, my ideas of a Spaniard were instantly deconstructed. I began sweating. I hear a loud “Eric?!” and see my host mom inquisitively scouring the vicinity. I approach her and realize all of the advice given to me about customs had completely left my brain. When in doubt, be respectful; that’s what everyone told me. I knew you were supposed to introduce with a kiss, but which side do you kiss?? I almost threw up.
I went for one side, and, just as karma has taught us, she went for the same side. We kissed smack on the lips while performing some type of chest bump as our arms mirrored each other for the hug. We looked at each other for about three hours and then she guided me to her car.
After a few days in Madrid, I had gotten used to a large portion of the rituals that drench the city. Therefore, I felt confident in going to the bank to withdraw some money. I approached a teller and told him that I wanted to do the opposite of deposit. I didn’t know what “withdraw” was in Spanish so I figured he would understand antonyms. He didn’t, and after ten minutes of yelling at him, he brings over a teller who can speak English. I told her that I wanted to withdraw money, and she looked at me with a smile and replied, “No problem.” I then told her the amount I wanted to withdraw and gave her identification. She continued to stare and smile at me, forcing me to realize that she probably only knew the English phrase “no problem.” I left the bank penniless and hungry.
After a couple of months, my Spanish vocab had drastically lengthened, but so did my hair. I went to the cheapest hair salon (no cash, remember?) and explained what I wanted done with my hair in flawless Spanish. She then denies my request and says that I have the head structure that looks good with the hair of Cristiano Ronaldo. I assured her I didn’t, but after five minutes of arguing, I gave in. Apparently in Madrid, the hair stylist, no matter how cheap the salon is, has overruling authority on the proteins sticking out of your scalp. So I received my entirely European haircut and got excellent compliments from my friends like: “You look like a Nazi,” “Why are you trying to be like Ronaldo,” and “You need a haircut.”
I have hundreds of more stories that relate to the customs of Madrid, some more graphic than others, and I will surely come back to my experience to explain those. But the moral of the story, if there is one, is that there is no way you can prepare for what will happen when you encounter other customs. The only thing you can do is accept the beautiful annoyances and later write them down in a comedy magazine.