We are having fun trying to communicate while finding our way around Puerto Rico where the predominant language is Spanish. It is one of the fun parts of our adventure.
To complicate matters, the Puerto Rican language is a different dialect from the little bit of Spanish I remember. My translation app does not always help. It will often give me a word in Spanish that the Puerto Rican people find confusing even if I show them the spelling. I am timid about trying my awful Spanish but most Puerto Rican people are glad we make an effort and will help me to pronounce the words or phrases more correctly. Our really bad Spanish is greeted with smiles as they try to help us using their sometimes broken English. Their English is always much better than our Spanish.
We have found that most young people speak English well and want to practice using it with us. English is being taught in grade school through high school. The closer we are to the touristy areas the more fluent the English. We have not really had too much trouble communicating while we are here.
After a long day of being tourists we thought we would stop at a very American fast food chain. We’ve been to this chain back home. It will be easy. Just order by the numbers. Tendré un número uno, por favor ( I’ll have a number one please). We can count to ten in Spanish so don’t order any meal over ten. We’ll be fine.
It was the same chain but the menu and food were a bit different. And—there were no numbered meals. Uh oh. Time to break out the translator and hope the line moves really slowly. Once we reach the counter it was evident to the cashier that she was going to need a bit of help with us. She smiled politely, turned and asked her manager for help. Two very patient employees and one manager would converse quietly among themselves on one side of the counter. They would all agree, smile and turn to us, the silly tourists on the other side of the counter. The Manager would then give us the English phrase they had all agreed was correct. And, it was. We all laughed as this routine continued several more times. Before we left we were all in agreement that we had the correct order and were happy with our purchase. The amazing part was that the customers behind us in line–a very long line at this point–were very patient. When I turned and apologized to them in my very poor Spanish, they all smiled and replied, “It is not a problem”. The people of Puerto Rico do not seem to get rattled easily. They seem to be very patient people.
The people of this beautiful island are friendly and helpful as well. They will often leave whatever task is at hand to help a friend or stranger.
Driving is interesting. Whenever we travel abroad I renew my appreciation for tourists who visit the USA where all the traffic signs are in English. Thank goodness for universal signage. Even though the road signs are in Spanish the shape of the sign gives us a clue what to do. For the other road signs, if I can see the word I can often times figure out what it means. At 55mph or more it can just be a big blur.
Road signs, billboards and menus might be in all Spanish or a mix of Spanish and English.
When we visit a new county I like to read about the customs of the people. I do not want to do anything that would offend anyone while we are visiting. I read that in Puerto Rico it is considered rude not to open a conversation with small talk. This is right up my alley. I have always felt it rude not to greet people with pleasantries before getting down to business. Why the big rush all the time? Most Puerto Rico businesses try hard to please their customers and pride themselves on customer service.
We are enjoying touring Puerto Rico by both car and boat. It is interesting learning about the culture and history of each stop on our route. It is one of the great things about this lifestyle. We get to take time to truly experience the places we visit.