It might be noticeable in this report that I don’t know where to begin when I have to write about my short Basque life. I’ve had just so many impressions en new feelings coming over me. It would be nice to describe every little conversations, every little thing that I’ve noticed on the streets and every little feeling that I had here in details, but I’m afraid that the printer would not contain enough paper for all of this.
This is a positive thing because it means that I am enthusiastic, I also have it when I am talking about something that I’m very font of. The talking goes to fast and it can go just on and on..
So be prepared for this final report about the Basque Country.
What I’ve learned
I start with what I have learned about the Basque people and their culture because it will explain a important cultural difference between the Netherlands and the Basque Country.
First of all I came here without any expectations. Information about the Basque Country in the Netherlands is limited and mostly based on opinions so it was as good as unfamiliar to me.
The only thing I did know was that I was going to a very different culture and this was what made me go. I love to read studies about different cultures and for that I am a big fan of history as well. The curiosity was big, the same goes for the hope of meeting some new nice people.
When I arrived it was pretty soon clear that I wasn’t in Spain. Even though everybody in the Netherlands just say that the Basque Country is the north of Spain and is therefore Spain.
The people here have told me multipul times that it was not Spain were I was living but the Basque Country. At first I thought that they were just being really nationalistisch. But the longer I was here the more I understood their attitude and I can imagen myself feeling the same about the Basque Country if I was a Basque myself.
In the Netherlands we never almost lost our language and it was never forbidden to speak Dutch, we don’t know discrimination in this way. The same goes for the Basque prisinors that have been put away in the other part of Spain. We haven’t experiences torture like this.
People from outside might think strange of Basques trying to increase the Basque language and feeling insulted when they are called Spanish but after being here for four months you understand that it is not because of Basques not being open to other cultures. My experiences here are the proof of the Basque people being very warm and open actually. They are open to other cultures and at the same time they have to protect their own.
The first step
Many times I felt that they thought of me as a strange person, they held back on me. In the at the first week this could feel like a insult sometimes but soon enough it is clear that it is just all about showing the effort. Take the first step and make friends on who you can always fall back is my opinion about Basques.
From day one I have been meeting people here. My Basque teachers, colleges, local shops and bars employees, erasmusstudents, lagunas, classmates, housemates and friends for them and so on! The meetings didn’t stop and that is one of the reasons that is making me sad for leaving because I would like to make more little adventures with the people I’ve met here.
With these new friends I made I´ve been travelling around the country a lot. During this travels we went to local fiestas, many nice dinners, their houses, their towns and to their lovely families. For me all these things have been nice little adventure on their own.
A lot of memories are what I have left from all these adventures and I think that they are the kind of memories that will stay with me forever. This is because I’ve felt really at home for so many times by the way people have treated me here. Of course they are some things of which I disapprove but in general I must say that my experiences here where all very positive.
It is just how people opened up to me. This made a very big impact. The social being of the Basques is different compared to the social being of the one of the Dutch people. I was really surprised when we got invited to the family of Gorka for example for dinner, that he invited us for a weekend in Noja and to many parties with his friends and what I of course have to mention is the ‘Basseria’ that his family took us to. That was amazing and I felt so welcome by the owners of the ‘Basseria’ as well. Another good example is the dinner in the gastronomical club in Ellorio that our teacher Joxe invited us to. We were very lucky to know a member of the club true him because in that way we could join some locals for a really good and social meal like the people enjoy to have them here.
Another thing shows me how social people are in the Basque Country. One day I was waiting in the busstation and a womes said to me that it was raining very hard. “Yes, it is cold as well”, was my respons in Spanish. That was it, it meant nothing. But the next day she walk on the other side of the street and started to wave at me and shout “Epa” just because she recognized me.
Things that I disapprove of are not things that people are personal responsible for, it are just things that people are used to over here, it are customs.
For example the custom of people not washing their hands after leaving the toilet. Surprisingly in most bars washing their hands isn’t even a option if they wanted to because there simply just is no soap. It is just normal to eat ‘pintxos’ with that same hands after using the toilet.
Another thing is all the joints that people smoke in bars. I’m not a smoker and I don’t mind people who do smoke but to smoke that much joint as the young people do here is really something I disapprove of. Smoking joints is just really unhealthy when you do it to much. It surprised me that people smoke cannabis that much here because it is illegal. In the Netherlands cannabis is legal but you can’t smoke it in any bar, just in some ‘coffeeshops’, they are especially made for using soft drugs like cannabis. Therefore it is strange to notice that people smoke joints over here in just any bar.
The bus connection with Arrasate is the last thing that I’m negative about. In Arrasate you are very depended of the bus connection and unfortunately the busses don’t go in the evening to bigger towns like Donostia and Bilbao. For this it was always necessary to watch the time and when we wanted to stay for a dinner in another city we needed to book a hotel or arrange a place to sleep.
On the positive side, the ‘fiestas’ over here last all night long therefore taking the first bus back after them was no problem.
A thing that I don’t dislike but that still gets my attention sometimes is the distency of the Basque boys towards me. To the girls I was the first to say ‘Epa’ but after the first time they just come up to me with conversations. For the boys it’s different. When Tieme walks towards some Basque boys that we know they slap him on the shoulder and everything and when I follow they are suddenly queit and give me a shy ‘Hello’ and ‘how are you’. It is not that they are not nice, some made me feel very welkom, but it’s just a cultural difference that has to do with the Basque shyness I guess.
The same goes for people over here living with their parents untill they are 30. Strange, noticeble.. but of course acceptable!
Something which reminded me of the Netherlands was living in a flat with students because I’m used to that way of living and it was a good thing that I had two Basque and one Dutch student for housemates. I think we had a very good time together. We are all in to cooking and I can just remember a few meals in which I wasn’t companied by my little family over here. Basque I’ve learned a little, it was very nice to use it on the streets for now and if I had planned to live here longer it would be nice to learn some more Basque even though it is difficult for me to learn.
I’m happy for learning a little because the respond of people on the streets was so good when I tried to use the little Basque I know.
As for my Spanish, my knowledge of it is a lot better. When I came here I didn’t know much more then ‘Holla’ and now I am able to have conversations in Spanish. I think my housemates carry quit a responsibility when it comes down to my improvement. On the other hand I’ve noticed there English improving so for the improvement of language skills it was good for all of us to live together.
What I love the most
The love that Basque people have for food! The lunches and dinners are all well prepared and shared by good company. Often it seems that eating is the most important thing of the day here and the relaxtness that comes with it is very nice. You can see that socialising by dinner makes people very happy people over here. I am a big fan of cooking so it was no problem at all to participate in this Basque tradition! The Basque kitchen is a very fine one and I am not going home without my little book with recepies that I have written down during my stay here. The beautifull country view in the Basque Country is a thing that I will have to mention here as well. Just looking up the mountains, when there is a little sun of course, gives me such a nice and relaxed feeling. For sure I am going to miss the Basque view!!
My Basque experience is a experience that I will never forget. I have loved getting to know the Basque culture and to be a part of it for a while. For people who don’t know the Basque culture I feel sad because it is a very interesting one in which you can feel very at home.
That is why I am not saying ‘Agur’ but ‘Gero Arte’ because in my mind I can never really leave the Basque Country.