``You should know that Basque people are very shy´´, is what people told me when I started talking about my four month study in the Basque Country. Others said things about having some good sangria and dancing flamingo..
Ok I could laugh about the last comment right away because by the hits that Google gave when I typed the Basque Country I understood that it would not be like the Costa Brava or something.
But still, I thouhgt that the people who told me about the big shyness were just blowing things out of proportion. That was at least until I came here..
The first time I entered my flat and met my housemates..The first time I entered a shop or supermarket.. The first time I entered a full classroom.. People were looking at me all the time like I was a very strange object and they didn´t spoke to me right away. Even now after I have been here almost three months they still look at me like that on the streets sometimes.
At first I thought like `what´s going on? ´Do I have something on my face (except for my freckles)? The first feeling I got was to walk pass everybody really fast because I didn´t like the starring. But then I let my brains work realized that of course I must be strange to everyone here. In Arrasate for example most of the old people probably have never seen a foreigner before, except for on the TV maybe. Then they see me passing, a 1.83 m tall girl with red hair and freckles (that on top of that wears shoes with heals because she isn´t tall enough yet).
So I decided to just say “Hola´´ or “Epa´´/“Keitxo´´, which I learned here, to people while I was passing by them. Surprisingly the curious and a little afraid looking faces turned into smiling faces! I got a greeting back, most of the time followed by a question or a comment. Unfortunately I didn´t understand everything that people told me right away, especially not when it was in Basque, but I learned a little and I´m still learning.
And once the contact with a Basque is made it´s not hard to make friends at all. Everybody has been very interested and friendly to me. Most of the time people have a good sense of humour as well.
But even now I know the way it works around here I can´t help it like still mentioning the shyness of people. For example..I can´t forget the faces of the two old men that I was passing by yesterday. It was raining so I held my umbrella a little higher trying not to hit them. While I did that they looked up to me with big eyes and there mouths fell open. So I smiled and said “Keitxo!´´ Which made them look even more shocked, that came over as rude so I just walked past them. But then behind me I heard “ Keitxo!´´, and when I looked back one of the man was waving shyly at me.
This happened on my way to school were I had to give a presentation with some classmates about a Basque restaurant that we want to open in Tokyo (just imaginative of course). During the presentation again the shyness of the Basques suprised me so much.
My group of five stood before the class, all with a blush on their cheeks and giggling. They asked me if I was nervous and actually I really wasn´t because I have known that class for like 2 months now. And that´s exactly why I was so surprised of them being shy, they have known each other for almost four years now.
Our presentation was well prepared by all of us, we did good research and had some interesting background information so I accepted it would go smooth. But no..Once the teacher interrupted the first speaker with a question they all looked at each other like ´you give the answer, you give the answer´. So I started speaking but I didn´t know the full presentation so some parts I had to guess.
I looked at them while I was speaking and added “Right?´´ to my sentences. They nodded on everything. Then the presentation continued one of my classmates whispered me in my ear what the answser that I gave should also have contained. So I said to him that he should open his mouth because it would be could for our credits. He nodded. Then their fell I silence and I said to teacher, wait he has to add something. We were all looking at him waiting for his comment but then, and I felt so bad about it because I had placed him in this position, he turned all red en said to me “ No, you say it! You say it´´. Of course I did but it surprised me so much! Why should they be shy to speak in public? Especially when it is in front of their classmates who they have known so long now.
I think it could be because they had to speak in English. Everybody here keeps telling me that their English is terrible but I don´t agree because they tell me bunch of funny stories in English all the time. For sure they know English..
If it was up to me then I would say that they just shoudn´t be so stubborn, it´s much better to just try and make fun of it when you use a wrong worth or something. That happens to everybody, even to the ones for who English is their mother tongue.