One day during lunch, my coworkers and I were discussing religion. Yes, a taboo topic amongst co-workers in America, but this is Spain – with the exception of perhaps Franco – nothing is really off limits. Specifically, we were talking about the conservative nature of the Muslim religion. My co-worker (of the XY variety) then said something along the lines of, “I can’t imagine living somewhere where you can’t just kiss your partner in the middle of the street when you are overcome by your love for her.” I may or may not have swooned a little bit at this comment. One – because it sounded a lot less cheesy in Spanish and two – because he genuinely meant it. What surprised me most was that no one laughed at his romantic notion. Everyone just nodded in agreement. I should point out my lunch companions, with the exception of one, were all males. Somehow, I can’t imagine the conversation would have played out quite the same way in New York.
This is one of my favorite things about living in Spain. People here are not afraid to be a little (or a lot) affectionate. Sure, I was a little taken aback when I ended a phone conversation with my client, a 50+ yr old male, and he said “ venga, hasta hora, ¡besitos!/ see you soon, little kisses!” In the United States this would probably be considered sexual harassment, but here in Spain it’s just a standard goodbye. Besos, besitos, un abrazo – these are all typical closings to an email, or a chat – either via phone or in cyberspace.
Greetings here are also warmer. “¡Hola!” is usually accompanied by some term of endearment – some of my favorites are:
– guapa/guapo – pretty/handsome
– guapísima/guapísimo – really pretty/really handsome
– macho – manly man
– nena – girl
– cariño – darling
– Adelita, Adeliya – two nicknames I’ve been given
These kind words are exchanged between people of the same sex, the opposite sex, friends, family members, and even strangers. I went for drinks this weekend and the bartender greeted me with an “Hola guapa ¿que te pongo?/Hi pretty girl, what can I get you?” After a rather hectic week at work, this brightened my day – a compliment, a drink, and no expectation of a tip! (another thing I love – there is no 15-20% tip rule like in New York)
Of course in Spain they don’t just talk about hugs and kisses, they actually give besos y abrazos. To say hello, to say goodbye, and when overcome by love for their partner, as my coworker so poetically expressed. Public Displays of Affection – PDA – are the norm here. Day or night, I’ve seen couples, from prepubescent teens to the cane wielding elderly, walking arm in arm, holding hands, grabbin’ some booty, exchanging caresses, and making out. No one stops and stares or shouts “get a room.” This would have been my typical reaction when I was living in New York, but Spain has softened the heart of this New Yorker. I am not exactly sure how or when it happened – maybe it was all the kissing and hugging of greetings and departures. Maybe I became desensitized to all the PDA or maybe all this love and affection is contagious. What I do know is that I will probably be sending or giving you some besos y abrazos in the near future. Please don’t sue me for sexual harassment.
These photos are a sample of the tender moments I’ve been able to capture on film during my time in Spain.