The Universal Language II: Smiley Face Icons

What have we become, when the tone of our written communication can be changed by a smiley, winkey or tongue-hanging-out face? Have we become less “cultured”, as we rely on these universally understood but horribly overused “delights” to communicate successfully?

It used to just be teachers that could leave you a smiley face to say “bien hecho”.  Now it’s all 🙂 :D. 😉 and 😛 on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp etc.

Your choice of smiley face can actually completely change your perceived intention….

😉  can mean: “I’m cool”, “I’m patronizing you”, “I know everything”, “Any time baby”, “Great!” “THAT’s it”, “I’m really a very friendly person”…. Whatever, it usually comes off as slightly condescending.

🙂 is more, “I’m nice”, “I’m genuine”, “I’m innocent”, “I’m at peace with myself”, “I’m pleased about that”…

😀 slips into “I’m fun”, “I’m crAzy”, “I’m enthusiastic”, “YEAH!” “I’m sweet”, “I’m REALLY OH SO pleased about that”…

:P. “hehehe, you’re so silly”,  “I’m slightly coy/flirty”, “I’’m teasing you” etc.

XD “HILARIOUS”, “I’m silly and proud!” :/ “I’m a little worried/confused” :O “I’m SHOCKED”

O_O “WHAAAAT?”

The list goes on… We could add LOL (you are rarely laughing out loud when you write it) and hehehe/jejeje vs hahaha/jajaja (looks like a fake laugh if ever I saw one)….

And don’t even get me started on English kisses: xXxxXxxXxx – Would you give someone that many kisses in person?! I guess it depends ;). Oops, there goes the wink… I’m as guilty as the rest :(. Aaah! I’m addicted! I can’t express myself without them! XD

Why are words not enough anymore? Shakespeare and Cervantes would be devastated.

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Spain a Pessimistic Nation?

This morning I did my declaración de la renta (tax return). Just as I was saying politely to the funcionario (civil servant) attending me, Perdone, tengo una cita previa a las 9.40 (Excuse me, I have an appointment at 9.40), the man turned round to greet his colleague behind him: Quillo, ¿ya te has fumado un cigarro?” (Mate, have you had your ciggy break already?). I didn’t get a, “Good morning”, a “Just a second Madam”, or even an acknowledgement…

When the man turned back to me, he gave me a number, which one of his other two compañeros (colleagues) would call out when it was my turn…

Rather than pessimistic, I would describe Spain as conformist. The Spaniards are mostly deeply fond of their country and culture, both of which are extremely charming and attractive. Spanish people know how to enjoy life, and they have the climate, geography, food and traditions to do so.

A sizeable percentage of entrepreneurial Spaniards, do enjoy taking risks. Yet, as a nation, the Spaniards are not generally risk-takers. Why would they want to put at stake what they highly appreciate, when there are few incentives to do so?

Other nationalities are more prone to leaving everything: families, friends, and loved ones for a professional opportunity. This extreme is not desirable either.

However, in Spain, up until now, the greatest aim of many has been to become a funcionario. They are on average the best paid jobs, and once you pass the long, harsh and painful exams ‘Oposiciones’ (many Spaniards have to repeat them for years…) to achieve one, it becomes “A job for life”; it is virtually impossible to get fired…

Hardworking and passionate civil servants do exist, but there are also countless funcionarios like my ‘friend’ this morning. The system does not give them incentives to do the best they can, and this affects productivity and quality in some of the main public services

Conformist, yes. Pessimistic? Not in every sense. How could a country that is so beautiful, cheerful, culturally rich and talented at sport (ignoring last night’s performance!), be pessimistic?

Too Rich

Not something we often hear, other than perhaps in verbal attacks on politicians, hedge funders and football players… But I’m not talking about money. This reflection was inspired by a random conversation I had about chocolate the other day.  In English when something is overly sugary, fatty and creamy or ‘chocolatey’ we say that it is sickly, or “too rich”. In my early months in Spain when I claimed that a chocolate brownie was “demasiado rico”, I got strange looks. In Spanish when food is delicious, it’s “rich”: ¡Qué rico!  There’s no such thing as “Too rich”. The Spanish say “empalagoso”, which more or less translates to sickly. A dish being “too rich” is incomprehensible for the Spanish; a bit like the idea of driving on the left, or measuring distance in miles ;).

12 Daily Doses of Motivation

‘Motivation’ is a fashionable word at the moment. Like ‘empathy’ we use it without really thinking about what it means. There’s a gap between theory and practice. Motivation is universal but it’s also incredibly personal. What motivates you is what keeps you going, animado y con ganas – in all aspects of your life.

We can pursue motivation by manipulating our thoughts and actions. So, avoiding Maslow’s hierarchy and other studies, I would like to suggest 12 daily doses of motivation that work for me. Some of them are overlapping, and they are not in any order:

  1. Being creative – in my case, writing, singing or composing…
  2. Making a difference – Wow, what I’m doing actually matters!
  3. Making someone smile, laugh, happy, enlightened…. Subidón.
  4. Spending time with friends or family. Content feeling.
  5. Conversation with someone you admire. Admire has a multitude of meanings…
  6. Attention and recognition. We’re human.
  7. Physical activity. Energy!!!
  8. Tonterías and laughter. Endorphins to the max!
  9. Getting things done. List is ticked, objectives reached…
  10. Being entertained, inspired, learning.  Music, books, films, conversation etc
  11. Looking forward to something! Key to getting through duller moments.
  12. Doing something difficult. I DID it! I couldn’t before, or at least, I never tried..

What motivates you?

God Save the Queen

The word Queen makes me happy. The Spanish word Reina is not quite the same. Perhaps because Freddie Mercury and co were a genius creation. Or perhaps it’s that I really feel some British pride for our 60-year-ruling Elizabeth II.  There is no denying that the monarchy partly defines us as a nation, whether we approve of it or not.

Yesterday I began to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Spain. We lifted our mojitos and cried “Salud”. OK, so Gin and “Cheers” (in a very posh accent) are more Elizabeth II’s thing, but at lease I am in flag-covered Britain in spirit.

I have never been particularly patriotic, but parts of British history and culture are embedded in me. This week I have missed British manners. Our “pleases” and “thank yous” can be very pesados, but we have unwritten rules that occasionally seem to lack in Spain: Formalities, sticking to our word, not talking over other people when they are speaking, aiming for punctuality…

We also have many things to be ashamed of, such as our nation’s historic tendency to drink too much. Yet, the great thing about the British is that we are capable of laughing at, and making parodies out of ourselves. This is why many love our Queen’s fake twitter account, where she tweets as a sarcastic, swearing, drunkard… https://twitter.com/#!/Queen_UK

God Save the Queen. And God let us appreciate the wonderful elements of different cultures… while being able to constructively criticize our own.

Happy 60th Anniversary Liz.

Coming Soon: The Heat in Seville

The afternoon sun is omnipresent. The blanket has been thrown off my bed. I can almost smell those evenings when I dive outside into a pool of heat.

The Sevillanos ask me “Conoces Sevilla en agosto?” (Have you ever lived through an August in Seville?) Never mind that this will be my fourth consecutive summer here, I think what they mean to say is, “How can someone so pale and English aguantar (put up with) such heat?”

I am a typical guiri. I love the sun and I solve the ‘heat problem’ with flip-flops, short skirts, sun cream, swimming pools, beach and air-conditioning…However, I must admit, the sleepless nights, heavy head and inability to go for a run until late at night, do get to me.

Before, I was worse. When I was on Erasmus I got stopped by a policeman while I was sunbathing.  I was in my bikini by the river in August, eyes closed, and suddenly I hear, “Rubia, rubia, te has puesto crema??!!” (Blonde girl, have you put sun cream on??)…

How embarrassing! I can safely say I have never done that again, and partly of course, because I’m now a little older and wiser ;).

I digress…The heat will be here by next week. I would like to take this opportunity to think, while I am still able to do so clearly. I would like to reflect, and to consider my plans and aims for the next few months before they slip away in front of my eyes. I would like to be aware that I am living, and not just merely alive. So, hold on please 40 degrees days, I’m not quite there yet.

Tell the Story

I went and did it. I dressed up as a gitana (gypsy) for the Feria de Jerez. People ask me if I feel “fully integrated into the culture” now… I would say I feel more like a true payasa (clown). I did it to be silly; a bit like dressing up as a pirate or an Indian. In fact, thanks to the rather serious look on my face in this photo I got nicknamed the “Gitana asesina” (Gypsy murderer) and gave a few people some ideas for Halloween.

The dresses are beautiful, I love them…. on Spanish females who know how to dance.

I decided I would include it in this blog as I was walking towards the feria, and that got me thinking. How much of what we do, do we partly do to tell the story? For example, the typical facebook status that tells everyone that you are “contemplating the world on a train” when really you are “bored and time-wasting on facebook”, or the “I’m having the time of my life” status and photos…

Undoubtedly, our need and possibilities for recognition have been accentuated by the web 2.0 and social networks. Yet, as humans we’ve always loved telling the story; sometimes more than living the actual event.

For that reason we have the marvellous expression in English: “That’s one to tell the Grandkids”…

Will I tell “the Grandkids” about my gitana asesina moment? I’m not too sure it’ll make it on to the list. 😉

The Universal Language: Small-Talk.

It’s the moment when you look into that person’s eyes, smile, and realize in a precious instant that… you have absolutely NOTHING to say to them. PANIC! So you get out that age-old, universal, silly small-talk.

You talk about the weather. It’s SO hot/cold! ¡Qué calor/frío hace! What miserable weather! ¡Vaya día! What a glorious day! ¡Qué día más bueno! You continue by contemplating what the weather is going to do over the next few days, what it did last weekend… en fin, a nicely dull, and time-filling topic of conversation.

The traffic could be your next juicy topic. It’s a nightmare!! (As Michael McIntyre says – have you ever actually had a nightmare about traffic?!) ¡Qué horror! Well, if traffic jams are a ‘horror’, what will people do when a real tragedy happens?! Great small-talk tool though ;).

Using the same but more exaggerated intonation, you might moan about the price of petrol. It is of course, “ridiiiiculous!!!”

You could finish up by talking about holiday plans. Are you going away for Christmas? I don’t know you very well and I don’t care too much, but let’s kill that awkward silence! ¿Te vas de Puente? 

Can you think of any other classic conversation fillers?  All this talk of small-talk is making me yawn. 😛

Reasons to miss the UK

This post is dedicated to one of my best friends, Noah, who has recently accused me of being “the least patriotic person” he knows…

The Greenery! It’s lush, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful. The English countryside is a pure delight. You somehow feel like there’s always a cow watching over you…

British banter! Otherwise known as a sarcastic exchange of loving insults. It’s never quite the same in another country. 😦

The Pubs! The atmosphere of a local English pub is unique. Pub food, beer, pool, music, and if you’re lucky, a nice pub garden to sit out and drink Pimms in. 🙂

Fresh milk! Ooh yes, it’s nothing, I mean nothing, like the carton stuff. A cup of tea’s never the same abroad. Talking of that:

The Tea solution! No matter how bad it gets, it can always be solved – or at least made better – with a ‘nice cuppa tea’…

Customer Service! In the UK the customer is ALWAYS right. (Well nearly always…)

The Seasons! Those “falling autumn leaves” and “swaying daffodils” primary school poems will always hold a special place in my heart…

Walking in the rain with no umbrella! In Spain I just get called loca :S

London! Enough said.

Family and Friends! Get out the violins, because they’re what I miss most about the UK, hands down.

If you can think of anymore, please add to the list :).

The Walk of Shame

In English there is an expression: “The walk of shame”, which would be something like, “El paseo de la verguenza” in Spanish.

The walk of shame is the journey back to your house after staying over at someone’s house… unexpectedly.

The morning after, you return on the same bus as the workers going to work, or the students going to university…

If you are a girl you are still in your high heels, skirt and smudged make-up from the night before. If you are a guy your shirt is hanging out, your trousers are half undone… You look like a mess.

And it’s obvious to everyone on the bus or in the street what you’ve probably done. SHAME on you!

You want to sneak back to your house unnoticed, but suddenly you see your old teacher, your boss, your arch-enemy or your loud, talkative uncle.

During the walk of shame you feel the lowest of the low. But to everyone else it’s hilarious!

And Sevilla this week is full of walkers of shame! 😀

This morning at the bus stop, girls and women in beautiful flamenco dresses stumbled over the road, while boys and men in messy suits hobbled along like drunken old men.

Yet the difference is, there’s nothing shameful about being an all-night “Feria-goer”. The Feria only lasts a week… the walkers of shame are the hardcore ones who really make the most of  it!

In England, with our early everything (lunch, dinner, closing-times), let’s face it – we just ‘ain’t’ capable of regular all-nighters… Shame on us! 😛