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Easter in a Catholic Country

Depending on where you are today, you might be collecting hidden chocolate eggs, having a family lunch, lighting a bonfire atop a hill, or going to Church. In Catholic countries, one doesn’t exactly go to church, but rather, the church comes to YOU.

Easter might be the only holiday in Spain that is not about shoveling food down your throat non-stop. The concept is simple: someone in the 15th century decided to take their sculpted Biblical personalities out on the street. That way, the common folks would experience Jesus’ last days on Earth, relive his pain, and repent for being such dreadful sinners. The idea spread like wildfire, and nowadays Easter in some provincial locations of Spain looks like this:

Source: Pixabay – Semana Santa

If I were an unknowing tourist right there, happened to make a turn and bump into these people, I would run away so far that not even Google would be able to find me. But fear not, these people are not here to murder you in your sleep. This somewhat creepy outfit represents the Christian sacrament of penance i.e. reconciliation with God. Pretty much like football teams, each congregation has its own penitential robe, conical hat, flags and symbols. They take the streets carrying their pasos (floats), each more lavishly decorated than the next, depicting scenes of the Easter story.

For a whole week, some Spanish cities and towns look like this. Every major street turns into a heavily incense-scented escape room. For a whole week, there’s a grave, gloomy atmosphere lurking all over the place, and Catholics really feel “it”. Basically everyone is devastated until Jesus comes back from the dead.  Yes, the dead.Expat Gone Foreign, Christianity, Religion, Catholicism, ResurrectionGrowing up in rural Andalusia, Catholicism was ubiquitous. Reciting prayers in kindergarten gave way to Sunday mass and Bible study in school, and that’s where trouble began. The stories just didn’t hold up.

For instance, Noah would have had to build a 10,000 square meter ark – that’s roughly the surface of 30 basketball courts lined up – in order to fit two animals of each kind in his boat. God was a trinity, which meant three persons coexisting in one entity. Nothing weird about that. There was this dude who allegedly feed a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish. I’m sorry, that’s not a meal. It’s not even tapas. The guy who wrote the Bible had clearly failed physics, biology, math and common sense across the board 1.

Creationists didn’t like questions, so I was told that biblical texts were not meant to be taken literally, but rather understood as the story of a nice guy who went around preaching love and doing good things. That was a relief. Basically, being Christian was about acting nice and loving thy neighbor – unless your neighbors were gay, agnostic, promiscuous, black, Muslim, or belonged to any other deranged minority. Catholicism wasn’t exactly fond of the ladies either. Just because Eve ate the apple, all women were by default the root of all evil and needed to be kept in line 2.

Fortunately, things have come a really long way.

Nowadays, participating in the Easter parades is more about aesthetics and folklore than religion itself, and I do understand the artistic value of sculpted scenes and the street performances 3.

I also understand the human need to belong, to have some sense of community. Religion has fulfilled that role for centuries: it kept people together and gave the common folks some reassurance in times of plagues and famines. It served its purpose at a time when science wasn’t there to explain miracles.

My point being: how is THIS still a thing?

British Politeness

“Getting around in the UK will be a piece of cake, I’m already fluent in English!” – Boy, was I wrong. I had to learn how to read between the lines, a skill only found in the British genome.

You see, successful communication in Britain is all about the implied meaning rather than what is actually said. In fact, Brits are the best at not getting to the point. But worry not! Here is a comprehensive guide to decipher the cultural enigma of British politeness.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, culture clashes comics, British politeness, life abroad

If you liked this strip, check out British sinks.

The Finno-Ugric Enigma

When you arrive in a new country and speak none of its language, you might find yourself in somewhat awkward situations. This is basically what happened to me on my first day in Finland: the Finno-Ugric enigma of non-anthropomorphic signs in restrooms.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, foreign language comics, Finnish, Suomi, faux-pas, abroad

When I first arrived in Finland, “sauna” and “perkele” were the only words of Finnish that I knew. Of course everyone in Finland speaks English, but that didn’t stop me from getting myself into embarrassing situations. Up until then, not knowing the local language hadn’t posed any problems in getting around Europe 4.

I could always resort to the few Romance and Germanic languages that I already spoke to figure out the situation. Lost in an Italian town? Mix Spanish and Latin. Interacting in Denmark or Sweden? Pull out German. To my surprise, the althochdeutsch 2 literature courses really came in handy when deciphering the Morgunblaðið in Iceland.

Finnish however, belongs to the Finno-Ugric linguistic family, along with Estonian and Hungarian. How do you crack a language when there are no similarities or linguistic strings to pull from? I knew all the letters, but their combinations didn’t make any sense to me. How do you navigate life when you can’t even read? I felt almost illiterate, but also genuinely intrigued by the Finno-Ugric enigma. And it was then, in a coffee shop in Turku, that I decided to learn Finnish, the beautiful language of the bazillion cases and insane grammar categories. ♡

What about you? Why did you decide to learn a particular foreign language? Leave me a comment!

If you are into Finnish, check out Poronkusema and the Finnish Linguistic Landscape.

Tú, usted, vosotros

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Uve van Haven, Vos, tú, usted, vosotros, Spanish pronouns, pronombres personales español

Tú, usted, vosotros, vos. You, you, you, you. No wonder native English speakers attempting to speak Spanish may want to flip tables. When it comes to delving into a foreign language, the toughest bits to grasp are the ones that your L1 3 conceptualizes in a different manner. In this case, the English pronoun <you> correlates with several variables in Spanish 2. That’s quite the challenge for a native English speaker to comprehend, let alone use correctly in speech. So, when do you use which one? Let the Linguiputians 3 explain:

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Are you talking to your friend or acquaintance? Use . Are there more than one? Use vosotros. Are you addressing your boss, an elderly person, a big fish, or an aristocrat with a monocle wearing a wig? Use the formal and reverential usted 4.

If you are unsure about whether to use tú and usted, pay attention to the people around you and how they address each other. When in doubt, just use usted at all times unless you are talking to a child. Better to be safe than sorry, amirite?

You might be thinking: hold on, if tú has the plural vosotros, what happens if you talk to more than one monocle-enthusiast, wig-wearing aristocrat? I’m glad you asked.

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

In this case, we ought to use ustedes, the plural form of usted. In addition, if you address multiple female friends or acquaintances, pick vosotras – as opposed to the plural masculine pronoun vosotros.Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

“Waaaah! The Linguiputians are making my head hurt!” – I know, too much information. Let’s recap before we move on to the fun part:

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Whereas English is quite happy with its functional and simplistic <you>, Spanish seems to be a master hoarder of personal pronouns. But how did we get here? Well, it all goes back to the original language.

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Latin had two personal pronouns for the second person: <tu> and <vos> 5. The pronoun <tu> worked in the same manner as the modern-day Spanish tú 6, and <vos> had two usages: plural 7 and reverential 8 – pretty much like the current French <vous>. Quaint, uh?

The Castilian folks inherited these two pronouns from Latin, and used them happily throughout the Middle Ages. However, a few things happened to vos. First, having only one word for both “y’all” and “Your Highness” was somewhat ambiguous, so they came up with vosotros (vos + otros) 9 in the 13th century. So, at this point we had:

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Additionally, vos – originally reserved to monarchs and nobles – became an ubiquitous trend. Everyone was tweeting about it: #LinguisticChange, #ImVosToo. Everyone wanted to be a vos. It became so overused among peasants and their family members that, in the 17th century, the pronoun had lost its deferential usage. It was basically a “you” to address your king, lord, trusted blacksmith, spouse, fellow farmer, dad, sister, uncle, lover, cattle and stray dog 10.

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, español, Linguiputians

Monarchs and overlords weren’t pleased. They needed to flaunt their power and wanted a linguistic device that separated themselves from their subordinates. That’s when the plebs came up with deferential formulae such as “vuestra reverencia” 11, “vuestra señoría” 12 or “vuestra merced” 13 in order to keep their masters happy.

As it always goes, artifacts we manipulate the most, wear out faster 14. These formulae were not an exception. Their phonetic surface morphed after years of prolonged, recurrent usage. It went down more or less like this:

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Uve van Haven, Vos, tú, usted, vosotros, Spanish pronouns, pronombres personales español

Whereas most of these formulae were rendered obsolete, “vuestra merced” turned into usted, the reverential pronoun that made its way to present-day Spanish 15. That’s how Peninsular Spanish ended up with tú, vosotros and usted, and the pronoun family lived happily every after.

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Oh, right. Not only did vos lose its deferential value, but it also became quite derogatory in its final stages, and left to address folks of inferior status. Vos wasn’t cool anymore 16. By the 18th century, it had vanished into thin air.

Expat Gone Foreign, tú vosotros usted vos, Spanish, español, language comics, historic linguistics, Latin, español

Sorry, my bad. Vos was no longer around in the Iberian Peninsula because it had become a globetrotter of sorts. It joined the Spaniards who crossed the Atlantic during the 15th and 16th centuries. But vos didn’t travel around the vast continent all at once, nor did it stick everywhere it went. Some regions embraced it, some leaned towards tú, and some kept both.

And that’s why vos is nowadays alive and kicking in no less than seventeen Latin American countries. Vos is predominant in some regions (e.g. Argentina, Nicaragua), absent in others (e.g. Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico), and some have a the three-tiered system – vos-tú-usted – that reflects the degrees of respect and familiarity (e.g. Honduras, Chile) 17.

And that’s also why – in my opinion – Spanish is one of the richest, most vibrant and fascinating languages on this rich, vibrant and linguistically fascinating planet of ours.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Linguiputians, Vos, tú, usted, vosotros, Spanish pronouns, pronombres personales español

#challengeforchange

A few days ago I stumbled upon the #challengeforchange. The instructions were simple: “take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it”. The more pictures I saw, the more inspired I became. Thousands of people around the globe have been doing an amazing job cleaning up their coastal regions. So I though: “Hey, I can do this too!” 18

Given that I’m currently visiting my family, I decided to go with the Nature Park Los Toruños. I picked this gorgeous location because the plastic litter that accumulates around the marshes is dragged by the River San Pedro into the Bay of Cádiz before making it into the Atlantic Ocean.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, #challengeforchange, #wedontdeservethisplanet, environment, parque natural Los Toruños

[Source of the map]

I don’t have one particular “before” picture because I walked around 5 km of marshes, but here’s the “after” image. I know that three garbage bags it’s not going to solve the massive pollution problem, but at least I got a full body workout, enjoyed the gorgeous weather and spent the day with my childhood sea.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, #challengeforchange, #wedontdeservethisplanet, environment, parque natural Los Toruños

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, #challengeforchange, #wedontdeservethisplanet, environment, parque natural Los Toruños

Every little step goes a long way.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, #challengeforchange, #wedontdeservethisplanet, environment, parque natural Los Toruños

Shall we walk this journey together?

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, #challengeforchange, #wedontdeservethisplanet, environment, parque natural Los Toruños

#challengeforchange
#TrashTag
#wedontdeservethisplanet