Living in Spain by wuyunyi

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									Nearly 4,000 Americans currently reside and work at Naval Station Rota Spain. Some choose to
immerse themselves in the language and customs and all that Spain has to offer, while others
stay on base as much as possible. However, all Americans living in Spain will undoubtedly work
and live alongside Spanish citizens.

For this reason, incoming American military and civilian employees are required to attend the
Fleet and Family Support Center’s week-long class, Intercultural Relations (ICR). Family
members are strongly encouraged to attend, as well. In addition to briefs on all the base has to
offer, ICR provides important information about the culture, customs, and lifestyle of the
Spanish population complete with hands-on field trips.

Ask any American living at or near NS Rota what they think about Spanish/American relations,
and they are likely to offer different answers. Some folks stationed at Rota absolutely love it and
feel incredibly well received, while others feel somewhat distant.

So what makes the difference? How can an American increase their comfort level during their
tour in Spain? Rota’s Public Affairs officer, Lt. Ben Tisdale says, “Learn the language.” Among
all advice offered, learning the language is top on the list among Americans and Spanish alike.
There are several opportunities available on and off base. The Fleet and Family Support Center
and MWR offer Spanish language classes, and there are language schools located off base. There
are even classes and programs offered on the computer like Rosetta Stone and numerous other
online programs.

While Spanish language skills do help, enjoying Spain does not rely solely on the ability to
communicate. Even tiny efforts can make a big difference, like a positive attitude. Maureen
O’Reilly, an Air Force spouse who says she is thoroughly enjoying her time in Southern Spain
has advice for those who wish to join her: “I find the Spanish people are welcoming to those that
are happy to be here.”

Joanna Gildea, a long time American resident of Spain and amateur historian encourages
participation: “The best ways seem to be if your children go to a Spanish school or if you work
with Spanish people as I did at the NEX. Otherwise join something like the local hiking club or
do something like take flamenco lessons.”

Donna Domingo runs the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) at NS Rota. “My advice,"
she says, "is get out and see places, try new restaurants and foods. Try fitting into the
community. That’s what I did when I came here.”

And, Americans do not have to try new things on their own. Field trips with the FFSC or tourist
outings with MWR’s Information, Tickets, and Tours (ITT) enable nervous or intimidated
Americans guided tours of some of Spain’s most interesting and exciting cultural offerings. Also,
those with a more adventurous spirit wishing to see the sites of Spain on their own can enlist the
help of Manuel Alba Jaime, NS Rota’s Community Relations Advisor. He is available to answer
questions about Spain’s events and attractions.
Feeling at home in Spain can seem difficult at times, but an effort to accept and understand
cultural differences will likely be reciprocated. Jackie Burnett, a Spanish-American who grew up
in Rota says, “I truly believe that respect and friendship move mountains.”
                                                                               -Melissa Williams

								
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