September 7, 2011

Local Vocab: "Los Guiris"

A comedy club that caters to the large guiri
communities in Madrid and Barcelona.
It is helpful to learn some of the slang used by Spaniards, and probably the best word to start with is "guiri." If you are reading this, chances are that you are one. Guiri is the word that Spaniards use to refer to foreigners on vacation in Spain (including all you exchange students). It used to specifically be for Brits, northern Europeans, or the French, which is to say for the kinds of foreign tourists that flood Spain each summer. Americans were (and still are occasionally) referred to as "yanquis" and the French as "franchuten." But today guiri has become the catchall term that Spaniards use for everyone on vacation in Spain who is from North America or Europe. The adjective functions much the way "gringo" does for how Mexicans refer to Americans.

Typical cartoon humor about "Fooling the guiris."
(Note: Guiri is _never_ used to describe Africans, South Americans, or Asians, and it is never used to describe visiting businessmen.)

While it's true that people here probably only ever use the word to refer to you when you are doing something annoying or slightly out of place, you shouldn't take it too personally. In general, it is a whimsical way to refer to foreigners. They know that you're just having fun and don't know your way around. So it is not an insult. Just a way that they let off some steam when they have to deal with non-locals clogging up their day-to-day routine.


yo said...

Just to make a point: A guiri is that "fresh from the plane", flesh burned tourist. People living for some time in Spain and with local knowledge stop being "guiris". i.e. my german g/f, more tanned than me, and who even speaks valencian is not a guiri since long time ago. So one could say that "guiri" is more a state of being.

BTW, I love your blog, keep it going!

An American Spaniard said...

Thank you for reading, yo! You make a good point. That's why I said that it is used more for vacationers, and not for businessmen, for example. Though I suppose it is a bit of a state of mind, since year-long exchange students out to have fun would probably also be called guiris, when they're out at the bars being silly.

Certainly a fast way to get rid of the label 'guiri' in Valencia would be to learn Valencian. There's no better way to win over the locals, and be treated like a member of the community.

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