Okay, bear with me here, but as a proud owner of two passports, one British and one Spanish, I like to consider myself something of a cross-cultural Hannah Montana. Growing up I felt like they were two separate identities of my life (much like the Miley and Hannah situation – you see, it makes sense!), only to recently realise that they are one and the same. Because in fact this is something which gives me a unique outlook on life, especially as a languages student.
For context, my mum is española and my dad English. I’ve lived most of my life in England but lived for a year with (and am very close to) my mum’s side of the family who live in a small village in the Castilla y Leon region in Spain.
En 2020 pasé el primer verano de mi vida en Inglaterra gracias a las restricciones de la pandemia. Fue algo que me hizo reflexionar sobre mi “doble-vida”. Siento que llevo dentro de mí dos identidades y dos experiencias de haberme criado con asociaciones completamente diferentes con mi vida inglesa y mi vida española. Empecé a pensar en como ha cambiado lo que significa tener doble-nacionalidad para mí en diferentes fases de mi vida hasta ahora.
From my childhood, I have fond memories of watching both Make Way for Noddy and also Barrio Sesamo. I had one grandparent serenading me with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and another with Cinco Lobitos. Being poorly as a kid meant a spoonful of Calpol or Dalsey and the tub of Vix Vaporub which expired back in 1997 (which seems to be a staple in any abuelitos’ medicine cabinet).
I spent my first year of primary school in my tiny rural Spanish village primary school wearing my babi (the iconic brightly coloured chequered overalls that all kids wear in pre-school) and popping home at 2pm for lunch and a little siesta before afternoon classes, a somewhat rude awakening when I started school in England and had to go a full 6 hours without a nap….
And then it was pre-teens time, and my understanding of Spain started to change. Going to an all-girls secondary school in the UK, my interactions with boys were limited to say the least, so veranear in Spain meant boys (!) and falling head over heels the way you do when you’re 14.
Tuve que aprender todo el vocabulario que pertenecía a esta nueva etapa de la vida; ligar, tirar fichas, botellón. Y aprender a disfrutar de la novedad de ser ‘la inglesa’ en el pueblo en vez de sentir vergüenza por tener un acento rarito y a veces decir las cosas mal.
Summers during my teen years meant swapping school for playing tute, mus, and la sota (card games) by the pool; less worrying about homework and more worrying about whose parents we could convince to drive me and my friends to go village-hopping during fiestas. Alongside all this, the ever-constant dreaded awareness that this half of my life would soon be over for the year again.
The last couple of weeks of August were always full of anguish - leaving my summer romance brokenhearted, leaving my family and friends, leaving behind the sun, the balmy late nights and smell of tobacco and sun cream, and the rapid-fire sounds of the Spanish language (yes, I was a melodramatic child).
Ahora con veintiún años, me he dado cuenta de que mi identidad española no es algo que empieza con aterrizar en Madrid y acaba cuando vuelvo a Londres – sino algo que llevo conmigo todos los días y que me ayuda vivir y ver la vida de manera única.
I have come to understand that the experience of living cross-culturally is something that cannot be explained to a mono-cultural person. The beautiful bittersweetness that is having more than one culture that feels like home is something that I have considered even more now that I have temporarily moved abroad to Portugal as part of my university studies; the double-edged sword that is the incredible opportunity to live inter-culturally, finding my place amongst a whole new way of life and the homesickness that comes with it.
Make a home away from home wherever you can.
I had my family come to visit me for the first time in Portugal last week and amongst our verging-on-tearful goodbyes, we remembered Winnie the Pooh saying “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. I think back to those disconsolate end of summer adios-es and see how amazing it is that I can love so profoundly in different languages.
That’s my personal experience with dual nationality growing up. However, in a more general sense, nobody said it better than the woman, the myth, the legend – Hannah Montana herself: “You get the best of both worlds”.
What do I want you to take away from this article? Well, first of all, the best life lessons apparently come from iconic childhood figures such as Winnie and Hannah. Secondly, if life ever presents you with the opportunity to experience life through a different culture – take it and run. Make a home away from home wherever you can.
About The Author: Sofia is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and is currently on her year abroad in Portugal. She is undertaking a BA in Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Manchester and speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.