Skipping the Pleasantries

What I know I’ll say and what I really mean when I come home to visit

As some of you may have already found out, I am preparing for my first visit home since moving abroad. In just a few weeks, I will be taking a “vacation” to all the familiar places and people I have missed for so long. I have to admit, it’s a bit of a strange feeling to think of going home to a place that, at least for now, is not really.

Now, don’t get me wrong — there are PLENTY of things about home I have missed terribly. Especially warm weather, craft beer, my grandmother’s smile, and friend-watching HBO (where you mostly pay attention, but also drink wine and spend an inordinate amount of time critiquing outfits and guessing what other movies and TV shows the actors are from). I suspect it won’t be long after my plane lands for me to be fully engaged in Target shopping appropriate athlesurewear and flip flops, carrying a giant grocery bag of Ranch dressing and hot sauce.

There is one aspect of the trip I am not as excited about: the dreaded lightning round of questions about life in Spain and how I’m doing. I have engaged in these conversations a few times via email or text and never felt like I gave a proper answer. With only so much time and so many characters, it is far easier to summarize with a quick “it’s amazing!” Fact is, things aren’t always amazing, great, terrible, incredible, or any other adjective I can come up with. Life abroad is an ever-changing learning process that is thrilling and exhausting from one moment to the next.

Now I fully realize, as my mother has reminded me countless times before, there are plenty of social situations where being polite is a far better alternative to my natural instinct to go off on a tangent and barf out whatever I happen to be feeling that day. This is particularly true when it involves a few glasses of wine and seven months of pent up emotions I have been unable to express in Spanish. So I will remain polite, pleasant, and ready for all your questions with a simple and easy to digest answer. But if you would like to know how I’m really doing, here is a quick guide to decoding our future conversations when I visit home:

Question One: How are you doing? Are you getting used to life in Spain?

What I’ll say: I’m great. It’s definitely a process getting settled, but I’m learning something new every day.

What I mean: How am I doing? I’m not really sure. I am so tired of feeling dumb. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be here, but oh my GOD I spent six hours trying to buy a mirror last week. Who DOES that? Are you going to finish that chicken finger?

Question Two: How’s the weather there?

What I’ll say: Barcelona has a really mild climate. It’s sunny most days and it doesn’t get nearly as hot or cold there as it does in North Carolina.

What I mean: I’M FREEZING. Like, all the time. I’m halfway through May and can’t believe I am still wearing a coat! For most Europeans, a long cool spring is welcome. Well bless their hearts, but I’m from the South and Spring is for suckers. Got any Ranch to go with this chicken finger? I already went through an entire grocery bag earlier this week.

Question Three: So what are you doing over there?

What I’ll say: I’m preparing to incorporate in Spain and register as a self-employed marketing consultant. I help highly technical professionals in the US and Spain who struggle to market and sell their services: accountants, financial advisors, lawyers, etc.

What I mean: I am so overwhelmed and have no idea what I’m doing from one day to the next. The fact I am here eating this chicken finger and not naked and destitute on the side of the road somewhere in Barcelona is a small miracle. Can we please not talk about work?

Question Four: What do people think about American politics and Donald Trump?

What I’ll say: It’s not something too many people talk about there.

What I mean: You think you have a migrant crisis? There is an entire continent of refugees washing up dead on the shores of the Mediterranean. You’re worried your president is racist? There are avowed Nazis getting elected to public office in Europe! I totally understand that people are more worried about what is happening in their own backyard, but it would be nice if we all had a little more perspective. It would also be really nice if we had more chicken fingers. Can you check?

Question Six: How’s the food ever there?

What I’ll say: Generally speaking it’s wonderful. It’s fascinating to me that in Spain (and Europe in general), whole, fresh produce is easier to buy than junk food. There is so little processed food and the portions are so much smaller that you can’t help but eat a healthier diet.

What I mean: This chicken finger is the greatest thing I have eaten in 7 months. Can we go to Chick-fil-a after this? I’ve been hungry since October.

Question Seven: So do you eat like, really late now? I heard they do that in Spain.

What I’ll say: It definitely takes some getting used to, but yes. I tend to eat later in the day, especially when I’m eating with other people. Spain has a very unique, unrushed pace of life.

What I mean: Seriously, can we go to Chick-fil-a? I’m so tired of waiting until 10pm to have dinner. Do you want to split a party platter?

Question Seven: How are the men over there? Any boyfriend prospects?

What I’ll say: Nah. I’ve been really focused on working and learning the language. Dating is not a priority given my situation so nothing new to report.

What I Mean: Young and virile, but still not as good as Chick-fil-a. Vamos!

Writer, Marketing Consultant, and Professional Bohemian. It’s like being a regular bohemian, but with business casual clothing and a nicer laptop.

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