Refranes Castellanos; Also known as what the hell do you mean?


“say what…?”


Refranes … how I love them!  The truth is once you can master the refranes, that is when you know you’re bilingual status in another language.  Refranes are commonly used expressions to impart wisdom … in other words “Sayings”. These are brilliant in my respectful opinion.  The one thing that makes the language and culture rich are these expressions.

I remember the first time I one was on a car ride here in Madrid.  I was with a couple of then colleages and one of them said, “te canto las cuarentas”.  In that context she was basically telling me “let me tell you how it really is”.  However, in my head I translated it as “I will sing you the 40”.  I thought to myself, “what the hell does she mean?”  I remember thinking I will need a separate dictionary just for refranes.   I have kept a long list since I have gotten here.  I think I will keep a page just for them and just keep adding as I go.

So here are just a few.  Enjoy!

  • “no vendas la piel del oso antes de cazarlo” literal translation is “don’t sell the bear skin before hunting it.”.  The Spain version of  “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
  • “dos no discuten si uno no quiere”  literal translation..  “two can not argue if one does not want to.”  We have a similar one in English.   It is “it takes two to tango”  I don’t know why we use “tango” .. In this case I believe the Spanish version makes more sense.
  • “esta como un tren”  Ladies, this when you see a hot guy and it literally means “he is like a train”.
  • “estar pensando en las musaraña”  Literal translation means “to think in the shrews.”  This one has a bit of history.  One of  Spain’s writers wrote a book and explained this description as daydreaming.
  • “dos que duermen en el mismo colchón se vuelven de la misma condición”. Literal translation  “two that sleep in the same mattress become of the same condition.”  It’s similar to “birds of a feather stick together ”  However,  not quite. It’s like saying that their opinions are rubbing off on each other.
  • “allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres.”  Our English version is “when in Rome do as the Romans.”
  • “Que me quiten lo bailao” … literally means Let them take away my dancing.  Our meaning, ” they can not take away my fun.”
  • “Quien se pica ajos come”. Now on this I have heard two definitions to this one.  So If any of my Spanish follower would not mind leaving a comment below which is correct.  It would be greatly appreciated. First explanation, If someonw says something and it does not sit well with you it is probably because you have some involvement in the situation.  Or … ” If the shoe fits wear it.”
  • ” No esta el horno para bollos”.  literally means the oven is not for buns. ( My favorite one)  It’s like saying you are not in the mood or don’t “F” with me.
  • ” No dar pie con Bola” direct translation is “to not give foot with ball”  It means, to not be able to resolve or figure it out.

I am sure this is probably me… but I feel this is what makes learning a language fun.  What do you think?  If you have any other expressions please leave a comment below.


Calling all English Teachers …

Most of you know that I don’t like to promote businesses. The primary purpose for my blog is to chronicle experiences, cultural aspects and provide helpful tips to people who are interested in coming to Spain and sharing what I have experienced. With all that said, this week in Madrid, there is now a new forum for native English teachers who wish to teach in Madrid.

This start-up company has been created as a new forum to allow teachers easy access to students and visa versa. Think of it as an “Air B&B” for languages. This new forum is called Go Profe. This user friendly forum has made it easy for new teachers who are new to the Madrid area to get their private lesson services out there.

Why should you sign up? Well speaking from experience, one of the drawbacks of providing private lessons can be that awkward moment when you are teaching a class and then you realize your creepy student is interested in other intercambios. The second most obvious drawback comes at the end of the session when your student says they will pay you at the next session. Yes, I know! Gasp! At which point, you will find yourself empty-handed, walking home with Rihanna’s “Bitch, give me my money” playing in your head. Then there’s the third drawback, the one that really chaps my a$$. This is when they cancel a scheduled lesson on you altogether while you are in route to their house. Granted, I understand that anything can happen, but going through all the trouble of scheduling the lesson ahead of time and actually making your way to their house makes it all the more inconvenient. Well here is one start-up company that has managed to take all these drawbacks into account and will minimize their occurrence, it not, do away with them altogether. The forum also does away with any confusing lingo bongo and clase particulares.

It’s easy.  Click Here to log in. First, fill in your basic information. Then, you set up a simple profile of the type of classes you teach and any certifications you may have. Shortly thereafter, you will be prompted to select the area where you would like to teach. You must upload a photo of yourself. Lastly, set up a tag line for your advertisement. Very simple.

Once a profile is set up, they verify that you are who you say you are. You are also given the opportunity to agree to teach a potential student or not. As far as avoiding the possibility of walking home empty-handed after providing a lesson, the student is required to set up payment for the classes through a secure forum called Mango Pay. The funds are released once the class has been provided. The best part – if the student cancels at the last minute less than 24 hours from the scheduled time, you still get paid. It really is that simple.
So if you are interested, sign up and be one of the first to take advantage of this new forum.

Where were you when…

 I was making my afternoon tea and finishing my following week’s blogpost when I received a text asking me how I was doing.  It is not out of the ordinary for me to plan a trip at the last minute to go somewhere, anywhere and just pick up and go.   So since most of my closest loved ones were all of a sudden asking me how I was,  I was not particularly surprised.  Then I heard what happened in Paris hours earlier and understood why I was receiving texts asking about my well-being.   A long-time friend, a person that wholeheartedly supported and encouraged my move to Spain, called me and we spoke at length about the ugly events that had just happened in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.  He and I were both struggling to come to grips with what we were seeing on TV.  As we talked about the absolute, horrific atrocities that happened a day earlier, I realized I was having a hard time digesting the events that had happened in a country that was next door to the one I’m living in.

Sadly, what happened this past Friday stirred up all too familiar feelings.  We will all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on that awful day in September fourteen years ago.   I was 15 years old, just dropped off at my friend’s house, getting ready to carpool to school.  I remember waiting on my friend who was doing her makeup.  An ordinary day by all accounts.   “Good morning, America” was on TV.  The first plane had already hit one of the buildings and everyone was discussing how such an “accident” could occur…then I remember seeing the second plane hit the other building.  No accident.  I’m talking about this because I remember the feeling of uncertainty and confusion that I felt when I was a 15 year old teenager.  Which state is the next target?  Which major city gets hit next?  My state?  My city?  Sadly, it wouldn’t take long before those questions were cruelly answered.

As he and I talked, we could not help but struggle with the” Why” question? WHY attack the most famously loved city and the City of Love?  We wondered about the hours leading up to the attack.  It was supposed to be a normal Friday night.  We were certain that most Parisians were probably either excitedly making their way to see the soccer game at the stadium or on TV at their favorite cafe or simply sitting somewhere, people watching,  getting ready to enjoy a meal and/or reflect on the week over drinks with friends.

Instead, Friday the 13th, 2015, has become one of those – “Remember where you were” – kind of nights.  I am profoundly saddened by what happened, and am old enough to know that when tragic events like these happen, they put your life in perspective.  The frantic pace of the rat race that we find ourselves dealing with on a daily basis comes to a screeching stop and our communities, our countries ask once again –  where were you that night?…the night that we will inevitably remember for the rest of our lives.  My neighbors in France will never forget neither will the rest of the world when the city of lights was a little dimmer than normal, but just for a little while…


Coffee Break TIME … If you learn anything go to Coffee Break time

Coffee break-time here is a bit of a religious experience regardless of the business or work environment you are employed in.   I would probably compare it to the Happy Hour festivities we partake in the states.  Let me explain.  I know it sounds confusing but it is probably one of the few traditions that Spaniards and Americans have in common, but the Spaniards have taken it to all new heights as is their nature.

Regardless of your work environment in Spain, there is a an early morning break that everyone participates in and almost appears to be mandatory through an unspoken rule that is known to everyone.  In the school where I teach, the coffee break-time is usually when my coworkers take the opportunity to catch up on what they did the previous weekend and discuss work issues, but most importantly the break allows everyone to establish and reinforce coworker comradery.

I quickly learned last year that if you want any chance to make friends here in Spain, you have to participate in coffee break-time.  Everyone knows I am not really a fan of coffee partially because my doctor says I am not allowed to have it because of a particular medical condition I have.  The irony for me is the Spanish are fervent coffee aficionados.   Coffee break-time, on several occasions, has served as an icebreaker between my colleagues and me and is responsible for getting me several invitations to other events including an invitation to take trips to fellow teachers’ hometowns.  Coffee break-time is also responsible for landing me other job opportunities in the form of providing private English lessons.

Coffee break-time consists of more than just coffee.  It is usually a very light breakfast that includes pastries, coffee, toast and jam.  We Americans would basically refer to this as a continental breakfast.  Local coffee shops happily accommodate this customary morning tradition.  Most (if not all) coffee shops here offer a serving of coffee with a bolleria (pastry) at a usual fixed price between 2.20-2.50 .  Not bad if you are a baller on a budget!

So even if you’re not much of a coffee drinker like yours truly, have an alternative like hot coco and participate in the tradition and see where the experience will lead.  I, for one, am sold on this tradition.

Eat, Drink, and Be Happy

 Everyone knows that my favorite part of the meal is dessert. If you were to ask me I would actually say that that your dessert should be served first, then the rest of the courses should follow. I know it seems rather unlikely, but what if you go into cardiac arrest or have a severe food allergy during the earlier courses of your meal. This is why I think that you should eat dessert first.

Which brings me to one of the top reasons I decided to stay in Spain. The Spanish really pride themselves on their gastronomic prowess and definitely have the right to do so. In fact, I would say Spain is probably one of the best places to eat well in Europe without burning a hole in your pocket.  The best part of the eating out experience in Spain is meeting random people and engaging in interesting conversations.

As most of you know I am not a stranger to the latter. Last October I basically lived the mantra “expect the unexpected.” As we got ready to go out this past weekend, my “Meow” friend (you know who you are) and I posed the question of what to do when you have nothing planned for the weekend. The Go-To activity – checking out the Mercados (Markets) in Spain. I know I have spoken about the Mercado of San Miguel, which is the most popular in Madrid but not necessarily the best. So this particular day we went to the mercado in San Ildefonso . It is in an unpretentious area called Malasaña . Malasaña  has an eclectic scene with bars playing music ranging from rock and metal, house music, Latin, nudist, mainstreet music and bohemian. Funky little retro shops can also be found in Malasaña.

My friend and I decided on a particular market to visit and we were seated next to two couples (communal seating is the norm here). They heard us speak in English and invited us to join in their conversation. Somewhere in the middle of the lively conversation they offered us each a pint of beer. Needless to say, the conversation became livelier and we instantly made new friends in Malasaña.

I may continue to live in Spain forever or I may return to the states or I may decide to live in an another country altogether, but wherever I end up I hope the opportunity always presents itself where I feel I can join in the merriment of the moment which transforms strangers into friends!