Categorized | Daily Life

No tacos here

Posted on 11 February 2014 by American expat!

Due to the fact that a third of Americans and even Canadians I encounter through work don’t even know that Spain is in Europe (link is to a personal blog but I ranted about this very subject one day), I have taken to stating that I live in Barcelona, Spain and add that it is about an hour from the border of France. The response has been markedly different than I when merely say “Spain”.  (Though if I don’t want to bother with the long phrase, I will just say Europe.) That always gets a big “lucky you!” much like when I lived in Italy or Hawaii, and not the typical blank stare when I don’t elaborate on where it actually is on the map.

I’m pretty sure this is because in North America, everything coming from and existing below Texas is referred to as “Spanish”, even though the only thing remotely Spanish would be the language (and that doesn’t even apply to the largest country in South America). So people get all confused. They freely mix the terms Latin and Spanish and this gets crossed over to people as well. I have heard plenty of individuals from Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc referred to as Spanish.

If North Americans do know that Spain is in Europe, then it is still rather common for them to expect it to be full of Mariachi bands and tacos. I have actually listened to American students arriving from the airport excitedly describing what they think Plaza Catalunya will be like, and that description included Mariachi bands playing giant guitars. And I just had to explain to my mother (who actually is well traveled) that a tortilla in Spain is not the same as a tortilla in Mexico. She kept asking if a Spanish tortilla was made of bread, or corn, or flour and had trouble understanding that it is not something you wrap around other foods. Tortilla is its own dish, made of eggs and potatoes and usually onions and is like a chunky frittata that you eat with a fork. It wasn’t until we actually served it to her than she understood that the word tortilla isn’t ubiquitous for “round, flat starchy thing you fill with beans and rice”. And of course, it goes without saying that Spaniards don’t eat the tacos or burritos that Mexican tortillas would be an integral part of.

None of this would be remotely interesting if it weren’t for the fact that the neighbor to the north-east, France, never suffers this misappropriation. You don’t tell someone you live in France and have them think you live in Niger. They know immediately that you are eating crepes and paté and not Bánh mì while you lounge topless in Biarritz. And neither does the next neighbor to the East, Italy. Most people can not only identify the national dish but can even point it out on a map, thanks to the unique footwear shape of the jutting land mass. Neither of which anyone who hasn’t been here can do for Spain. People will refer to it as a city in Brazil, a Central American continent or “one of those countries down there”, but it is a rare occasion when someone utters “I’ve always wanted to go there…” while looking wistfully off into the distance when I merely name the country wherein I now reside.

Which is fine by me. It means there aren’t hordes of Americans migrating seasonally to this country looking for glamor. That’s a job for our neighbors France and Italy.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. James Schipper Says:

    I guess I’m just smarter than the average american, having grown up in California. I thought everyone knows tacos don’t come from Spain. They come from food trucks in L.A.

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