Walking around my suburb in Southern Spain with blonde hair, green eyes, and light skin, I am easily identified as a foreigner. Even traveling around Spain, I have been referred to as a “guiri” in just about every city. Thankfully my six-month span here has taught me that this Spanish slang is no way negative and simply refers to a foreigner, typically with light hair, eyes, and skin. They nailed it! I was never surprised at how easily the locals realize I am not Spanish, but I was constantly surprised at how other foreigners immediately know I am from the States! It is not as if I walk around with a giant American flag on my forehead. Or do I?
A few trips to the center of Seville, with tourists in every direction, revealed to me how easy it is to spot us “guiris”. From this realization, I vowed to make sure I use this identifier to the best of my abilities. If everyone knows I represent the good old U. S. of A. then I better be a damn good example! Currently, I think I’ve formulated a list of good tips to maintaining the best version of my best patriotic self. Here’s how I ditch the classic “ignorant/ugly American” stereotype and show off my native land!
A friendly American, is a good American and the best way to come off friendly is with a big smile! I know this sounds cheesy, but it is totally true. A sincere smile can start a conversation, which can lead you anywhere! My pearly whites have led to suggestions of great restaurants, bars, nightlife, sights, and shops. From a simple smile I have made connections, friends, and memories in Spain that I will never forget.
Learn Some Lingo
I do not advise trying to learn a new language before a 10-day trip somewhere. However, pick up a few key phrases for the road! It may surprise you how well locals respond to a few sentences that you may only half-way understand. Even if you fumble up some words, locals appreciate your effort and respond more positively to your poor little touristy self. The key part in this endeavor is to be brave! I am always hesitant to try out new Spanish phrases, but am so thankful once I whip them out.
Try the Weird Food
I have no hesitancy in trying Spanish wine and ham. Sampling ham-flavored potato chips on the other hand was not on my Spanish bucket-list. Yet, I didn’t hate it! I know it was still potato chips but trying something that is normal in the lives of my Spanish showed them that I am open to new things and that I want to fully experience their culture. Basically, get your foodie on and try everything that comes your way!
You are in a new place, odd are you are not an expert on every facet of it! Questions about Seville, Spain, and Europe constantly pop into my head and I have learned that it is best to release them. These questions, no matter how silly, have immensely increased my knowledge about this gorgeous country and its culture. Additionally, by asking questions I show my Spanish friends that I truly care about my experience here and that I want to soak everything up like a little sponge. Let no inquiry go unheard.
Get Your Wikipedia On
Now I am not saying cite Wikipedia in a works cited page, but I cannot deny using it to gain some helpful facts about places I have traveled! I like learning a bit about the history and about new destinations before arriving in them. Tid-bits, fun facts, and knowing what is unique to a new city make the stay more special. It’s like being in on a secret with the culture. Having prior knowledge will make you appreciate the culture even more and keep you hungry for more!