Monday, April 7, 2008

"vergüenza ajena" of the "guiri"

It is always interesting for us foreigners to begin to understand a concept or idea that has no equivalent in ones mother culture. For example, the word “Procrastination”, or any equivalent, does not exist in Spanish culture (maybe it is so deeply embedded in their subconscious that it defies verbal expression, because anyone who has spent any time at all in this country knows it exists here).

In Spanish there is a concept called “vergüenza agena” which literally translates to “unattached shame”. There is an enlightening discussion on Word reference regarding vergüenza ajena that I thought was interesting and the final definition given is fitting. The person posting defines vergüenza ajena like this: when “You feel the shame the person who's making a fool of himself should be feeling - if he were only aware of what he was doing”. Bingo.

So why bring up vergüenza ajena? Stacy and I were talking about the vergüenza ajena we sometimes feel when we overhear conversations of American students here sometimes. She referred to two American girls that were speaking in Spanish to each other and it made her cringe with vergüenza ajena. We started to contemplate why we feel this way-- the poor things, after all, they are just trying to learn the culture and are just having fun. Stacy suggested that maybe there is something we recognize in ourselves in them that makes us cringe. For me, I think it might be just straight up envy of them for living a time like I once did with no stress, when everything was romantic and interesting and wonderful and I saw Spain through the beer-fogged lenses of a workaday gringo. “Stay a little longer my dearies”, I feel like saying, “It ain´t all sangria and siestas”.

Having fully accepted my guiri (i.e. gringo) status, on Friday when I got off work, I cracked open a beer for my walk home and thought, either I am a total ghetto rat, or life is damn good and I am a guiri in Spain. And as the Spanish passers-by gawked at me, maybe even with vergüenza ajena, I wallowed in the depths of my guiriness, sat my ass down in a beautiful plaza and finished my beer.

This is living.

-Bluestreak

9 comments:

Rachel said...

Tiff,
You are hilarious! Im glad you showed me your blog. Im sure I will be back to read all the time.

karey m. said...

i feel like i know exactly what you mean...excellent blog! can't wait to read more. SPAIN!

Mamacita Chilena said...

Totally. I think I wrote a post on the same thing a while back...how people who are on study abroad here have such a romanticized idea of the country...and they leave with that idea planted firmly in their heads. After all, they've only been here 6 months and they don't know what real life is like.

but at the same time like you said, maybe there's a little bit of envy. I have a couple of friends that are on study abroad and they help me see Chile through their eyes...and it's a much more exciting perspective, let me tell you :P

oreneta said...

Thanks for visiting my blog...yours looks pretty cool. The housing here is completely wacked too. I think they are set for a big fat correction, and I worry about all the people that are putting themselves into penury for some crappy hole. We rent.

Mel said...

Vergüenza ajena.
Happens all the time... The definition you posted couldn't be more accurate!

mexpat said...

I totally feel this about American and Canadian tourists here in Playa. I regularly cringe when I hear people asking for their change in dollars and other "Ugly American" stereotype-enhancing things. I think this is precisely verguenza ajena...

Jeffrey said...

I studied in Granada, Spain two years ago, and I definitely fit the mold of someone for whom "unattached shame" was regularly felt. I always attempted to carry on long Spanish conversations with my American friends, but instead we usually found ourselves going to the same Irish pub in town...and this was during my study abroad experience learning/practicing Spanish! I still learned a lot of Spanish, but I wish I had done a couple of things differently while in Spain. Thankfully I have kept in touch with my Spanish host family and a couple of my professors and Spanish friends...so my study abroad experience in Spain was worth it in the end!

Deirdre said...

Forgive my thickheadedness - I just realized that Blue Streak is you! I was wondering who was sending me comments on my blog with that nic. Great blog, by the way, and I am so with you on the third-party shame thing. I've thought a lot about why my gut reaction to obvious guiris here is so violent, and I reached the same conclusion as you: it pains me to think that I was once the same way and would like to forget my past faux-pas, but Americans here are an unwelcome and ever-present reminder, hence my resentment. Sounds silly, but it's a very real and very strong feeling!

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Yep, yep, yep.. all that, and I even speak the language here.