Every time I go back home, back to Seville, I realize how different the experience of talking to someone can be as compared to that in other countries. Nothing to do with the language itself…, although… wait a second! How could it not be? Of course it has everything to do with the language too!
As you know, I come from the south of Spain and this might be more common there than in the north. Anyhow, Spaniards are, in general, very expressive.
Think about it. In a large part of the Mediterranean countries, for example, in Italy, we do find very expressive people. Close your eyes and visualize an Italian person saying “mamma mía!” while waving his/her hands. Easy picture, right?
Well, this is what I’m coming to tell you today. You, Spain lover who enjoys having that strong connection with the Spanish culture, and dreams of feeling one more among Spaniards… You also can help yourself and express even more with a couple of gestures.
When you say something without moving a finger or not making a funny face, the other person, the listener, might not know if you are being serious or not, or what you really think about what you just said. They might even think that something bad happened to you and that’s why you are not moving at all! Using some gestures can help you to make yourself understandable. It’s a great and easy way of leaving no room for doubt about what we are really saying. Everything is clear from the first moment and that is wonderful for the good communication, don’t you think?
But gestures do not only help those who are listening to understand our message better. I’m Spanish and I love making gestures (can’t help it, really) and I believe that this also helps the speaker, because we feel liberated when talking. We feel comfortable and that is why we dare to fully express ourselves. I won’t say “don’t trust anyone who doesn’t make gestures when speaking”, but I believe that when we feel good, like when we are with friends, we are more likely to be quite expressive. Ever thought of that?
Nonverbal language is very important in any culture, and it’s interesting to know what a certain gesture means when we are talking to another person. So, if it’s about blending with the Spanish locals, look around you, observe, talk and connect with Spaniards. You will see what gestures they like to use and when. There are probably some small regional differences, but I’ll show you now some of the most used among Spaniards:
1. When saying this place is so crowded.
In Spanish you would say something like “esto está abarrotado” o “lleno de gente”
- ¿Vamos al bar de la plaza?
- Uf, ese sitio me encanta, pero siempre está así.
2. When saying you don’t have any money or you are broke.
You would say “estoy a dos velas”, “no tengo un duro” o “estoy tieso” while you do this gesture.
- ¿Te vienes al cine?
- Pues esta vez paso, porque estoy a dos velas.
3. When saying that someone has got some nerve.
In Spanish we say “¡qué cara tiene” o “qué caradura” o “qué cara más dura”. At the same time we do this gesture.
- ¿Sabes que me acaba de pedir dinero otra vez?
- ¿De verdad? ¡Qué cara tiene!
4. When saying someone is a bit crazy.
I don’t know why but everybody seems to know this Spanish sentence really good “está (un poco) loco”.
- A mi jefe no le gusta salir nunca de su despacho.
- Yo creo que está un poco loco, ¿no?
5. When saying someone has been cheated.
Yes, it sounds crazy but we got a name for someone who has been cheated, “cornudo/a”. The action of cheating is “poner los cuernos”, that’s why we make a gesture imitating a couple of horns.
- Oye, ¿te has enterado de que Luis y María se separan?
- Sí, y no me extraña, porque él le ponía los cuernos.
6. When talking about someone who is or has become really thin.
We say then, “está así de delgado/a” or “está canijo/a”.
- Tu amiga Rosa está demasiado delgada.
- Puede ser, pero ella siempre ha estado así.
7. When saying you don’t have anything to do with something.
If we don’t want to know anything about it, then we would say “yo no quiero saber nada, me lavo las manos”.
- Os dije que tuviérais cuidado con el coche y mira qué sucio lo habéis dejado.
- Yo también se lo dije y no me escucharon, así que me lavo las manos.
8. When letting someone know you are leaving or when asking someone to leave.
We say “bueno, yo me voy” or “anda, vete ya”.
- Bueno, me voy ya que llego tarde.
- Vale, ¡nos vemos!
9. When asking for the bill in a bar or a restaurant.
We say “¿la cuenta, por favor?” or “¿me dices cuánto es?”.
- ¿La cuenta, por favor?
- Sí, claro, ahora mismo se la traigo.
10. When asking someone if he understood what you just said.
Normally used after using irony. Then we say “¿lo pillas?” or “¿lo coges?”.
- Jajaja, ¡qué buen chiste! ¿lo pillas?
- Pues no, no me hace gracia.
11. When saying something is really delicious.
We say then “está increíble, riquísimo, buenísimo…” or “está para chuparse los dedos”.
- Me encanta la ensaladilla de gambas.
- Pues, en este bar está increíble.
12. When you want to make someone hurry up.
I see myself saying to my daughter “¡venga, vamos, deprisa…!”
- ¡Venga, vamos, que llegamos tarde!
- ¡Ya voy, ya voy!
13. When saying you want to avoid someone.
“Huy, yo a esa persona le hago la cruz”.
- ¡Anda, mira quién viene por ahí!
- Huy, yo a ese no lo quiero ni ver.
14. When letting someone know they are very late.
We say then “¡ya era hora!”.
- ¡Hombre, ya era hora!
- Lo siento, perdonad el retraso!
15. When saying you are tired or fed up of something or someone.
Then you could say “estoy hasta aquí”, “me tiene harto/a” or “estoy hasta la coronilla”.
- El perro del vecino no deja de ladrar. Me tiene hasta aquí.
16. When warning someone to be careful with something or someone.
I would say something like “ojito (ojo) con eso” or “cuidado con eso”.
- Por favor, tened mucho cuidado esta noche.
- ¡Que sí!, no te preocupes.
17. When telling someone that 2 people have a (romantic) relationship.
Then we would say “están juntos” or “están liados”.
- ¿Qué me tenías que contar de Ana y Fernando?
- ¡Que están saliendo!
As you can see, I just made a rough selection of some of the gestures we, Spaniards, use the most. There are many more. And like I said before, there could be regional differences in some cases too.
Make these gestures your own. They will make it easier to understand the Spanish locals and they might also help you to express yourself when you are in Spain. This could be a nice start to feel more like a local and less like a tourist.
Enjoy the videos! And let me know which ones you already knew and which one you will probably use the most when speaking Spanish.