Hola (spoken with an absurd American accent), my name is Adam Strube and I am a Business Administration/Spanish double major, currently studying abroad in Toledo, Spain. Here is a story for you…
So it’s my third weekend here in Spain and I decide to leave Toledo and travel a little bit around Spain. Seven other SNC students and I decide to spend the weekend in Salamanca after going on a day excursion to Escorial with our program. Sunday, on our way back to Toledo, we decide to spend the day in the beautiful town of Ávila. The first thing we do is go to mass in a wonderfully historic church. Then, afterwards, we entered this small, modern-looking, seemingly peaceful café. All is going well. Some of us order some café con leche and others just sit down to enjoy whatever snacks we had left over from our hostels version of a continental breakfast.
Now pay attention because here’s where we learn our lesson:
I’m in this café right now with a running nose because it was super windy that day, but also because I am getting over a common cold. Therefore, naturally, before I eat any of my snacks, I find some napkins on the table next to me and I start to blow my nose.
***Side note: Aside from one man sitting across the café, we are the only ones in this place.
So I am blowing my nose because, well, nobody likes to eat anything with a running nose. Ok, to be honest, this was a good minute of me blowing my nose, but hey, I was getting over a cold, so naturally, a ton of snot was coming out. Y’all know. Anyway, I hear this barista (older man) say something about “educación”. When I turned to face him, he was staring right at me and I assumed he was asking about our education. Since we are often asked where we are from and where we are studying within the first few weeks in Spain, I didn’t think anything of it and began telling him about how we are all studying Spanish in Toledo, but we were just here for the weekend. My relaxed, friendly nature only seemed to frustrate him even more. He proceeded to yell something at me in Spanish and when I told him that I didn’t understand what he was saying, he was enraged. Luckily, one of my friends helped me out and told me that he was angry at me so I immediately said sorry and sat down. Turns out, he wasn’t curious to know what we were doing there. Not at all. He was saying something like this, “Hey, you there! Do you have little education? You must be stupid because clearly you have zero manners/common sense! If you have to blow your nose, go to the bathroom!”
That was the most awkward meal we have had this entire time in Spain. This really made me rethink a lot of things. First of all, is this a well-known manner that I just haven’t been taught? Second, how many other things do I do that just give away that I am American or that enraged Spaniards? Third, Is there a limit on how hard you should blow your nose in certain places? What’s the line? Was this 100% my lack of education and lack of manners or was he just an angry Spaniard with an irrational hatred toward all Americans?
Well…not every experience is pleasant, but every experience is valuable!! Make sure to learn from every experience, regardless how unpleasant or how small it might seem. We are so lucky! Make sure to get the most out of life!