Last night I went out with my coworkers to honor a very sacred Chilean tradition “Pagada de Piso” or “Pay the Floor”. Basically the newest staff member has to take the whole office out for drinks and pay for the first round. Now I’m assuming this IS in fact a Chilean tradition and not just a way to trick the new, confused foreigner into buying everyone drinks, but I wasn’t the one buying, so I didn’t question it.
I guess they made an exception for me, since I’m an unpaid intern, but Katie did have to buy the first round of drinks (all $60 of them).
I almost didn’t go to this event. I do like my coworkers, but sometimes I feel kind of awkward around them, since my Spanish is no bueno. Sometimes they’ll just start talking to me in Spanish expecting me to understand and when I shake my head they incredulously ask “nada?”. I know they mean well, but it just makes me feel so ashamed.
Honestly, it’s the worst part of being here, the horrified reaction I get from people when I don’t understand something they’ve said.
In my mind, “nada” doesn’t just mean “nothing?”. It means, “Didn’t you learn any spanish at all before coming here? How dare you come to our country and not speak our language!”
I know I’m making it out to be worse than it is, but for me, it’s a domino effect. I’m embarrassed by my Spanish incompetence, so I clam up and don’t say anything or I get nervous and can’t think of the correct response, which just makes everything worse. I normally just stick to speaking English to the few bilingual employees, but I’m not really learning that way.
Well last night, after having a drink recommended by a fellow coworker, called a Caipiroska (essentially vodka with sugar and a lime wedge), I loosened up a bit, and I realized…
I speak spanish when I drink!
It’s an exaggeration of course, alcohol can’t magically give a person knowledge of something he or she doesn’t already know, but something about being in a bar setting instead of an office, and having fewer inhibitions about my accent or if I was using the right verb tense, made it much easier for me to have a fluid conversation.
This is obviously the reason I never did well in my French class. I was just too sober!
- Learning Spanish in Chile (chilchile.wordpress.com)
- Becoming Bilingual (justlovepeople.wordpress.com)