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Expat Anecdotes in Spain – Foodie fun & confusion

Expat Anecdotes in Spain – Foodie fun & confusion

Expat Anecdotes

Fun with Spanish Food

Expat Anecdotes are part of life abroad. As you may already know, living abroad can be tricky. Far more complicated than a Place in the Sun make out anyway…

You can often find yourself in odd situations. Some of these Expat Anecdotes appeared on my blog last month. Click here to read if, if you did see it then: Expat Anecdotes from living abroad. It´s not difficult to imagine how many of these stories I have accumulated over the years.

15 years abroad certainly gives plenty of time for mishaps. Today I´m sharing a few more of those situations but this time they are related to food.

Tenerife Food Expat Anecdotes

No artificial colours

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I love good wholesome food. So it will come as no surprise to you to discover that I actively avoid food additives. E numbers, preservatives, artificial colours and sweeteners are all avoided wherever possible.

If you speak Spanish you may already have any idea of where this is leading.


In the first few years of living in Barcelona, my Spanish was not quite up to scratch. Even though my Spanish wasn´t great I still would try to get my ideas across anyway. At one point I would often get into a discussion about sweetener. When I have coffee I prefer a little brown sugar. If they don´t have Brown sugar then I prefer my coffee just as it is. I won´t take sweetener or saccharin.

Often asked about this by Spanish friends. Repeating on many occasions: I didn´t want ´preservativos en mi comida´. Then I would explain that I wanted to eat as naturally as possible.

The word for preservatives in Spanish is conservantes. Confusingly it is not Preservativos. Which was the word which I used. That is actually something for the weekend, bought in the pharmacy.

This mistake unfortunately was one that I made many,many times.

I didn´t learn the correct word conservantes for ages.

Photo credit buzztrips uk

Tough Tofu

Another recent mix up was just that. Nothing to do with language or culture. Just a mistake. But was it a big one!

Last Summer I went out to lunch with a couple, friends of mine. They were English but spoke quite a bit of Spanish, certainly enough to order lunch from a menu. So chatting away I paid no attention to what they were ordering. The lady was a strict vegetarian. The place where we were dining was a good restaurant. There was plenty of variety on the menu there. My friend knew how to decide which dishes would be for her as she had been living in Spain for over a year already.

So the order was made, I didn´t pay attention to who asked for what. We were busy catching up on our news. When the food came, we still continued to talk. I took the Cesar Salad which I had ordered and began to eat. The couple were also tucking into their food too.

After a few minutes my friend asked me to taste the food. She was eating as she thought that it was ´off´, she insisted that it tasted strange. I asked her what it was supposed to be, she said Tofu. Well it was a toasted Brown color but the texture was quite strange.

I couldn´t recall eating tofu for along time, maybe I have even eaten any at all. I wasn´t sure what it was supposed to taste like really. It didn´t really matter at this point. The food I tasted was clearly something else and it was quite revolting.

Ecija Restaurante Sevilla

Restaurant Mishap

As we were trying to work out what it was, or how it had been cooked, we really didn´t understand what had happened. I decided it was just easier to ask. So I got up and walked over to the waitress. I politely questioned what it was that she had bought over to our table.

It turned out that the dish was Pigs feet.

They had been sliced into paper thin strips and served onto the plate. It was quite unrecognizable and obviously not apt for vegetarians. The gentleman who was with us (clearly not a vegetarian) had ordered Pigs feet for his second dish.

The order of dishes somehow had gotten mixed up and his second course had been served to his wife as her first course. Luckily having a yummy dessert and a few glasses of wine as all that was needed to get over the incident.

Did you have any Expat Anecdotes or food mishaps while travelling?
Spill the beans….
(couldn´t resist the pun)

Please Note:
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I will receive a small commission. All thoughts, feelings and opinions shared on this blog and in this post are my own.
  1. Molly. Your *preservativos* made me smile. Reminds me of the old story from the 1960s about an Australian girl in London who asked in Boots the Chemist if they had any Durex with “Happy Xmas” printed on it. For those who don’t know, Durex in Australia was a brand of sticky tape, and the word was used generically; in England the Company was best known for its condoms, and the word was used generically there, too.

    I can report my own experience from El Salvador in the ’60s, when my wife and I were “travelling cheap” and staying at cheapo hotels in poor areas. She had terrible constipation, very painful, and lay groaning in the hotel room while I went to the nearest chemist’s shop with my little dictionary and asked if he had anything for “constipation” – pointing to the word. He offered me nose-drops. I had to go through a long and embarrassing pantomime – or was it a charade? – in front of a fascinated audience of about twenty people by the end of the show. You can imagine. The chemist’s light-bulb finally glowed: “Ah, constrenuenso!” He shouted excitedly. I looked that up, and nodded weakly. I was nearly as relieved as my wife, to have gotten it right, in the end.

    Stupid dictionary.

    • Molly says:

      Hehe, your anecdotes made me laugh. That reminds me of the word Embarazada in Spanish, it means is pregnant this is often confused for the word embarrassed.
      If you don’t have anecdotes you haven’t travelled ; )

  2. Lois B says:

    What a surprise for a vegetarian! We lived near Madrid back in the 1980s, can’t believe we never got to Granada. After a night out, a group of us stopped for coffee and pastry at a bakery. My friend just pointed a a big, fluffy turnover when ordering. Of course, she was expecting apple or cherry and didn’t really care which it was. She was shocked when she bit into pastry filled with tuna. Ugh!

    My grocery store mix-up in Poland are still continuing after 4 years! It’s always an adventure, isn’t it?

    • Molly says:

      Chicharrones (pork crackling) I think is the worst addition to pastries… It looks so inviting until you taste it expecting something sweet

  3. Cyra says:

    Great post!

    I was in Toledo last year with a group (I am a Tour Leader in Spain) and we were ordering lunch at a new restaurant we just found on a whim.

    I speak Spanish but there was one meat on the menu that I couldn’t remember confidently what it was (I am vegetarian and don’t always remember the meat names past the standard ones you find around the country!) but I thought it was deer.

    When I asked the waiter what their specialty was, of course he suggested the dish with the unknown meant in it. I asked what kind of meat it was and he told me, it’s like pork, you know. I took that as it was a particular cut of pork. We ordered the dish and it came, it was definitely not pork! The group were definitely not impressed in any case, as it seemed quite “gamey”.

    When he came back I asked him and he said, no what I meant was for us it is LIKE eating pork, but it’s “bambi”.

    What can you do, except for laugh!

  4. Brian McLean says:

    “Preservativos”, only for weekends????? 🙂

  5. June says:

    Hahaha…Funny post! Love the one about preservativos vs. Conservantes 🙂

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