Updated: Jun 12
✦ And it's not what you think. Spain is so much more than the cringe-worthy stereotype of Flamenco, Bullfights and Siestas.
Finding myself in Luxembourg recently on a family visit to see my new granddaughter, I decided to treat myself to a little break and run away to the sensual land of Spain for ten days. After all, it's not every day that I find myself in Europe. So carpe diem was the mantra of the day and, since I had never been to Spain, thought why not hop over and see if the rain in Spain really falls mainly on the plain?
Truth is, those who have a strong wanderlust (which has been very much stifled during the pandemic) will find any reason to travel. I've always felt a curiosity and hunger for new experiences. Any chance to see and learn something new, I'm right in the front of the queue ready to sign up. I don't believe we ever stop learning, and close friends, family and colleagues know me well by now - I simply do not know how to stop! There's a reason why I've earned the nickname of Speedy Gonzales.
And by the way, before anything else, one vital detail I need to clarify having been to Spain is this - Speedy Gonzales is NOT Spanish! The next famous mouse after Mickey is actually Mexican.
Those who have wanderlust in their DNA can attest to this, that travelling opens up your mind and heart. It can be a very humbling experience where you get first hand experience of your own prejudices or misconceptions being torn down. Like any other country, Spain has its myths and stereotypes, and my little journey through the country has given me a fresh new perspective of the country. And yes, it really goes way beyond flamenco, bullfights and siestas.
Note: While countries are opening up with COVID-19 restrictions waning, remember if you travel to Spain you now have to fill in an FCS health form as dictated by Spain Travel Health if you do not have an EU digital COVID certificate.
One thing that stops people from visiting certain countries is the mistaken conception that because their native language isn't English, the locals there must growl and bark like some undiscovered tribe with an unknown language and that one would struggle to survive and navigate a tour through the cities.
One of the ironies of globalisation is many are still trapped by language prejudices about how certain groups of people either do not speak English, don't speak it well, or hate English. Spain unfortunately has a somewhat negative reputation for not being the strongest when it comes to English, compared to its neighbour, Portugal.
I've done my fair share of globetrotting throughout my career, so language is not something that intimidates me. With a few languages under my belt (English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Bahasa Indonesian, Malay, German) I'm sure I can make myself understood somehow! There is always a way to make ourselves understood if we genuinely wish to communicate. Patience is the true language here.
I found it fairly easy to ask for what I wanted and needed through my travels in Spain, having passed through cities and towns such as Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Zaragoza and Barcelona. To be fair, I did not venture into deep Spain where the tiny villages are. Still, I believe our common needs are basic - it's not like I wanted to strike up a philosophical conversation about existentialism.
From room mix ups in a hotel, or finding a charger for my phone, I found that all I had to do was go up to someone, speak normally to them in English, and they all naturally responded in the best English they had and it was more than enough to get the problem solved. One of the clearest and most respectful ways of communicating with another person is to behave as if you trust they do understand you and not feel the need to 'dumb down' anything. Keep your speech clean and clear and you may just find yourself having a rather interesting conversation even if you don't share the same native language. And when you show you trust in the other person's wish to communicate, it sparks off a genuine desire and effort in the other person to connect, and not spiral into self-esteem issues about how well or badly they speak a language. In an age of globalisation, it is no longer in fashion to stick our noses in the air at anyone who doesn't speak our language, and to be condescending if they don't speak it as well as we do, or assume they don't speak it well just because they're a foreigner.
Fear of communicating in a different language stops many of us from wandering further than our backyard, when the world is really full of amazing sights to see, adventures to experience and people's stories to hear.