Our expert on Madrid, Lauren Linzer, gives us The Scoop on how she found love as an ex-pat. Better than staying home on Valentine’s Day watching rom-coms by herself, Lauren now does it up for Valentine’s Day with her new boyfriend. She barely spoke Spanish, he could hardly speak English. And they became a couple!
By Lauren Linzer
Valentine’s Day, or as the Spanish call it, Día de los Enamorados, is celebrated in Spain with traditions quite parallel to other western countries: exchanging flowers, candy, and endearments to their sweethearts. In Madrid, sharing a romantic evening any day of the year is not a challenging task with the many charmingly quaint eateries and awe-inspiring strolls being impossible to avoid.
If you are lucky enough to be in such a naturally romantic city for this lover’s holiday and with your significant other, there is no doubt that you will find your perfect evening, sharing sweet embraces and kisses openly as the Spanish proudly do. But what if you are a single new comer, finding yourself in a strange, unfamiliar setting with few familiar faces (let alone a lover), longing for a taste of romantic Spanish passion? Go no further because finding companionship in this vibrant city with a local Spaniard, exotic foreigner, or fellow expat is easier than you may think.
For me, running into a potential beau during my initial months were limited to random cat calls or being pushed into one during rush hour on the metro. But as I began to get more involved in all that Madrid had to offer, I stumbled upon a common activity called intercambio or “exchange”, which is a night designated to bringing together English and Spanish speakers to exchange languages.
The intention is to practice and improve your second tongue with locals and expats, possibly learning some new terms and establishing friendships. Beyond that, it is a convenient and comfortable way to have a conversation and meet people that speak another language without being picked up at a discoteca (night club) or whistled at on the street.
Almost all of these casual gatherings are held in popular bar on various evenings for a few hours, so the added lubrication of a few beers can help ease nerves of conversing in a new language. It’s a perfect way to spend a free evening, whether the outcome is improved Spanish skills, a new friendship, or securing a date for Dia de los Enamorados.
My first Spanish Valentine’s Day was spent eating pizza and ice cream and watching American romantic comedies in Spanish with my roommates; but it didn’t take long for a certain run in to have me googly-eyed and skipping through the city. Never had I felt so compelled to practice my primitive Spanish skills as we both struggled to express ourselves in the other’s language.
Both of us being at elementary level of Spanish and English respectively presented dating challenges. Each encounter, though, was at an elevated level of excitement, digging out every previously learned vocabulary word and teaching each other constantly. Normal activities, like seeing a movie or gathering with friends, were more difficult as we translated for one another and encouraged our buddies to communicate in Spanglish.
But it gave way to me being ushered into new groups of friends, all local Spaniards eager to make this random American a part of the group. And my guy was likewise able to get a taste of America by spending time with my expatriate and visiting nearest and dearest. What grew for us were a strange comfort, a wordless joy, and an inexplicable sense of ease with speaking a new language that we were far from fluent in.
There is not a chance this experience would have been possible back home, and in a city bursting at the seams with young people of various nationalities eager to intermingle, it is only a matter of time before an intriguing encounter materializes, maybe even in time for a certain romantic February day.
The Spain Scoop loves love stories. How did you meet your love?
Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid. She is the author of Eleven Eleven, a travel blog sharing personal accounts of life on the road and living abroad. Read more about her experiences at: http://linzersadventure.blogspot.com/