Despacito: It’s Not Just the Title of a Hit Song

It’s also me, every time someone talks to me. You know when someone’s like “slow down” or “be careful” and you get really cocky and you’re like yeah I know, I got this, but then you end up falling on your butt and completely making a fool of yourself? That’s kind of how I feel (and not just because I did that exact thing when I went rollerskating with the girls I’m nannying. My hand, butt, and ego are still bruised).

There are days when I feel like I’m improving, so I’m like yeah you can totally talk to me the way you normally talk (and then I realized I’ve made a huge mistake), and, of course there are days where I have absolutely no idea what anyone is saying no matter how many times I say “despacio, por favor?”, so I just nod my head and say “sí.” Sometimes that works and sometimes I’m telling the girls that yeah sure it’s totally fine if you give me a makeover (honestly though, they do my makeup better that I do).

However, while it feels like I’ve been here for a long time, I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve only been here for two weeks. And, even in those two weeks, I’ve learned so much more than I ever would have, if I hadn’t decided to come. I mean I am doing such a good job at translating, that when we went and saw the new Despicable Me movie, I was literally trying to translate what the minions were saying into English. So while the mistakes I’m making keep piling up, it’s so far been a really great experience getting to fully immerse myself into the Spanish culture. This immersion has really taught me the differences between the Spanish culture and the U.S. culture.

The first thing that I had to get used to (other than the language, obviously), was greeting one another by kissing each other on the cheek. I remember learning about it, but I 100% forgot that it was a thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to reach out my hand to shake theirs only to remember that that is not how they do it here. Luckily, I’ve been able to catch myself before I make things really awkward as I’m prone to do. My mom probably thinks this means I’ll be more accepting of kisses when I get home, but don’t worry Marge, I still won’t like it when people touch me.

Another difference that I’ve noticed is that their mannerisms are completely different from the U.S.: here they don’t really say excuse me all that much. Where as in the U.S., you could be walking by someone in the grocery store who’s five feet away from you and you’d probably say “excuse me” to them. Half the time I feel like you could run into someone here and they still wouldn’t say it. It’s not bad or rude, it’s just how they operate; I feel like I’m always being overly polite, which is probably not something most people would describe my as; it’s something I’m finding difficult to adjust to.

However, that’s nothing compared to adjusting to how late they eat dinner here. I normally eat around 6 or 7 for dinner, but here it’s normally 11 – which is totally past my bed time. Again, it’s something I remember learning about, but I never really thought it’d be so hard to actually do. It has gotten a little easier, though – the first week, I swear I was about to fall asleep right on my plate.

While there are clearly many differences, and I’m slowly becoming accustomed to their way of life, there are somethings that will never change. For instance, it doesn’t matter how smart you think you are, trying to figure out someone else’s shower is like trying to complete a Rubik’s cube, that’s on fire. Or the fact that it doesn’t matter where I am in this world, somehow no one is really sure about how to pronounce my name. Honestly, I’m beginning to think I don’t even know how to pronounce my own name.


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