Cultural questions for a Brit abroad:

Being a foreigner sometimes feels like you’re on a bizarre quiz show.  Round 1: Royalty, Round 2: Languages, Round 3: Tea… The questions range from the curious to the hilarious and reveal some of the cultural differences between the UK and Spain.  Here are my most frequently asked questions:

  1. You want milk with your tea? Are you sure?

Yep, I’m quite sure!  For me, nothing beats a normal cup of tea with milk and sugar.  But as I have discovered, it’s not a “normal” cup of tea here… it turns out it’s an English Breakfast with milk.  Who knew?

2. Why do you love the Queen?

Because, she’s epic – and because she doesn’t choose to go shooting elephants for $25,000 dollars a day in the middle of a recession, like the Spanish monarch did.  Enough said!

3. Which foreign languages do you speak?

(Ashamed pause).  I always feel slightly embarrassed by this question, particularly because, normally, the person speaking is asking in English: in a foreign language.  However, I tend to respond by noting that I learnt French and German at school. (I also tend to neglect to mention that this education doesn’t mean I can actually speak the languages).

4. But I don’t understand… Don’t you love your family?

Yes, I do love my family (but being British, declaring this in public makes me squirm).  And being British, I don’t feel the need to live close to them.  Catalans, who often live just around the corner or just upstairs from their parents, seem to find this bewildering.  In fact, they often seem to see it as a possible indication that I am somehow inhuman or emotionally malfunctioning.

5. So … BREXIT?

Out here, when someone breaches this topic, they don’t even need to form a sentence: the word ‘BREXIT’ sounds like a big ass question mark and joke all on its own.  To be fair, there doesn’t seem to be much need to ask whether I voted to remain or leave, as let’s face it, right now, I’m living in Spain.

6. Why don’t you wear more clothes?

Don’t worry, Mum, I am wearing enough clothes; it’s just a lot warmer here.  A cold day for a Catalan is like a short-donning, suncream smearing summer’s day for the British.

7. When do you eat dinner? … Don’t you get hungry in the night?

As with many nationalities, the Catalans, who eat at 9 or 10 pm, find our eating times baffling.  Likewise, I still haven’t fully adjusted to their custom of eating late at night and have found myself trying to enter empty or closed restaurants at 7 pm on more than one occasion.

8. What?

This is the response that a lot of my jumbled Catalan / Castilian attempts get… Fair enough, I did once confidently ask a shop assistant to bring me a church (rather than an ankle boot).


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