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My Time Abroad: Encounters with Los Hombres

Before I came to Spain, I heard all sorts of stories about the men- how they heckle, how they are more touchy-feely, how you feeling uncomfortable can be part of the experience.  And let me say, for the most part, this has NOT been the case.  Spanish men and American men seem fairly similar (although most Spaniards seem to be able to dance better- sorry boys.)
There have been a few incidences where girls on my program felt uncomfortable, but for the most part, any unusual encounters were more funny the next morning than upsetting.  This is not to sugarcoat anything, but thankfully up to this point * knock on wood * nothing serious has happened to us.

During the final week of residencia (the dorm-frats at the university) “hazing”, the Spanish students spent most of the nights partying, drinking, and celebrating in the streets.  While we were out one of the nights that week walking to a club, a group of fairly drunk men (man-boys? they seemed quite young) began to say in a sing song way, “sexo duro, duro sexo!” This basically translates to ‘rough sex’ or ‘hard sex’ – unless we were missing something, but I don’t think we were.  We ignored them.  They became more persistent, walking right behind us.  One man started making really odd animal sounds in my friend’s ear.  She continued to ignore this, but all of a sudden, she whirled around and barked extremely loudly in his face.  The poor guy was so startled and frightened that he immediately froze, turned around, and walked rapidly in the opposite direction.
One afternoon, I was walking to meet a friend for coffee.  An old man began to chat me up.  At first the conversation seemed harmless: we chatted about school and my time in Spain.  But then he began to tell me how kind and beautiful I was, while occasionally touching my arm; a little creepy, but manageable, as I was about to walk a different way than him. Unfortunately, he changed his destination to walk a little further by my side. Then, after calling me beautiful again, he leaned in for the Spanish good-bye air kiss on the cheek.  As this custom is much like the neutral American handshake, I complied, but then, grossness-of-all-grossness, he instead kissed my neck!  Twice on each side!  I became so thoroughly ickified that I practically ran away. This has been the most disgusting thing to happen to me this semester.

Now, I could dwell on the drunk college boys or the yucky old man, or I could instead see the humor in the barking
and try to brush off memories of neck kisses (only the bad ones, obviously).  I prefer to think about the cool guys who I’m now friends with in my classes, or the group of guys from the Dominican Republic who liked to dance as much I do and told me “You dance ver’ good,” or the incredibly welcoming men on the ultimate team.
If you focus on the negative, you won’t enjoy the good, friendly guys whom you meet on your travels. Have a positive outlook! The little stories can add spice to your time abroad, but don’t let the negative bits color your entire experience.

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