Yes, that is bad Spanish. Well, it’s not really Spanish at all. But it’s what we Americanos studying in Spain have taken to saying. Why? We sound like idiots; people add O’s to English words only when they don’t know how to speak Spanish. So why am I, a pretty fluent Spanish speaker, making up such words?
Because there is simply no translation. Google Translate’s suggestions are all related to different connotations of the word: awkward/clumsy movement, awkward/difficult to understand wording, and the like.
It’s fascinated me in the two months I’ve been here: the absolute lack of even the concept of “awkward.” Sometimes I want to feel it; I itch a little bit, because I’ve been told so long:
This is an awkward situation. Steer clear.
But when my host mom’s boyfriend and I argue about my president over lunch, we’re not on edge. We’re animated, but nobody at the table feels uncomfortable. When I do that weird sidewalk dance – you know what I mean, when a person coming the other direction steps the same way as you, then you both step the opposite way, then you both wait, then you both go again at the same time – with a stranger on the street, we don’t lower our heads and run away afterward. We smile a little and move on.
And the staring! It’s not weird to stare here. At first, it made me uncomfortable. Now, I meet eye contact as boldly as I can, having a game with it. I stare at people on the street, on the subway, in cafés … and it’s okay. I love it; I feel so much more connected to where I am, where I’m going, and what I’m doing. It gives me a sense of understanding that I haven’t felt before. Then, as if the staring isn’t enough, there’s honesty.
We all know that honesty – eek – can be the most awkward thing.
I didn’t like a sandwich my host mom made me, and agonized over how to tell her. Finally, I just told her that I liked the other sandwiches more and didn’t like this one. Without a pause, she said she wouldn’t make it anymore. Easy. In fact, the honesty here extends to complete strangers. Crossing the street the opposite direction from me, an old woman told me I was pretty. It’s normal to hear a compliment from a complete stranger, standing outside for a smoke as I walk by.
Living in a country that lacks the “awkward” phenomenon, I feel free. I wish I never knew that itch that tells me to stop being honest, stop being curious, and stop discussing important topics. Is it a side effect born from our interest in political correctness? I understand the need for sensitivity – people do say some awful things sometimes – but,
At what point to we allow it to start restricting our daily life, and in turn, or capability to be honest?
What do you all think: have we become too sensitive? I mean… it’s just a sandwich. It’s just an interested stare. It’s not awkward until we give it the name.