After 3 years of living in Madrid, I speak fluent Spanish. But there’s just a teeny tiny problem: the Spanish that I learned there doesn’t just differ from Central American Spanish with the use of “vosotros” and “ustedes”. It’s actually considered really rude and abrasive. I realised within the first 24 hours that there was a distinct lack of people swearing, as I didn’t hear anyone at all saying “joder” (fuck) as in “no me jodas” (lit. “don’t fuck me”, meaning don’t mess with me”, “mierda” (shit), “coño” (bastard), and (everyone’s favourite) “me cago en dios/la vírgin/la puta” (literally “I poo on god/the virgin/the bitch), but I didn’t know that many of the seemingly less innocuous words I used in my daily life in Madrid were less than polite. Here are some examples of my faux pas to date:
1) Some little girls were playing dares, and touching my bum and then running away. I turned around and said (theatrically) “No toques mi culo” (“Don’t touch my butt”). But here, “culo” is much stronger, more like “ass”, and the accepted term is “pompis”. Oops.
2) Last night, a group of older girls showed me the dance that they had choreographed for the show that I’m helping them with. To express surprise and awe, I said it was “de puta madre”. This was met with 10 seconds of silence, and then an eruption of laughter. They had never heard that expression before, and didn’t know it was meant positively. Vaya.
But, I suppose that it’s obvious to people as soon as I open my mouth that I am not only foreign but that this is not my native tongue. So far, no one has taken offence, which is all to the good. I’m sure there are more linguistic landmines in my lexicon from Castillian Spanish just waiting to be stepped on, but hopefully it will be cool, or “macizo” (as the girls say here).