Having lived in Spain for two-and-a-half months already, I have done quite a bit of traveling around the country and continent. During this trip, I have visited Cartagena, Granada, Lorca, Almeria, and a few beaches. In each place, it’s become clearer to me that catcalling in Spain happens all the time, especially when you look like you don’t belong. Luckily, it is normally a harmless (and very macho) expression of appreciation for youth and beauty, and it’s usually older Spanish guys who do it.
My theory is that catcalling is meant more for the guys than the girls. It is so that other guys know that they are manly men, thus when the older Spanish men do it, it is to reaffirm their own machismo. However, regardless of why it happens, it is (as I said) usually harmless. The exception to this is when it is late at night (following some partying) or if you react. Thus I give you Sarah’s guide to avoiding creepy Spanish guys:
1. DO try to dress like a Spaniard.
If you don’t, the locals will know that you’re a “guiri” (slang for foreigner). I don’t know about the rest of Spain necessarily, but I do know that in Murcia, locals dress for the month and not the weather. This means that even if it is 75 degrees outside and really sunny, you better wear a leather jacket and jeans if it’s between November and March.
2. DO NOT hide from weather.
During a rainstorm in Granada, I met the people who I most wanted to travel with. A bunch of guys, who had been catcalling, offered me an umbrella to be nice.
3. DO ignore the catcallers, especially late at night.
Pretend you are in your own little bubble; I call it my Spanish bubble. (Do not, however, get this mixed up with your personal bubble when you meet new people because that does not exist in Spain.) According to my theory, they just want you (and the other guys in the vicinity) to know that they are there and that they are manly. They aren’t going to follow you. The only time I have ever been followed was when I said “hi” back. Apparently that means you are interested. In that case I suggest threatening to call your boyfriend “Voy a llamar mi novio si me sigues” or the police (in which case you substitute “al policia” for “mi novio“) if the catcaller is really creepy.
4. DO NOT be overly sensitive.
If a guy on the bus says he thinks you’re pretty, it’s not a big deal. Also “guapa” (meaning “pretty”) is really just a standard greeting. And if you shut yourself off completely who knows whom you’ll miss out on meeting. Maybe that guy is Antonio Banderas’s cousin and he can introduce you!
5. DO NOT give your number to the guy who works in the store down the street…or maybe that’s just a lesson from my experience.
In reality, most college-age guys who I’ve met, traveling or just in town are really nice and don’t mean any harm. The only guy who I’ve regretted giving my number to was the guy down the street and so I saved him in my phone as ‘do not answer.’
So that’s my guide…pretty simple huh? I’ve found it works during my walks to class or solo travels in Granada. Don’t shut yourself off too much or you might miss some great experiences. Spanish people (and again I really mean Murcians because I don’t want to generalize) are super-open and eager to help you if you’re lost. And don’t worry about not speaking the language. They appreciate a good effort.