https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee

Language, and reaction.

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When traveling I have experienced people react very differently when you speak their native language, especially of you are in their country.

Some prefer you speak English rather than speaking their language poorly (Norway), some take it for granted that you know their language, and may even get rude if you don't (Paris), and others get very happy and hospitable even if you only speak their language on a elementary level (Spain).

How does people in your country react to foreigners speaking their language?

May 2, 2015

64 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R
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When foreigners talk to us Filipinos, we go like: OMG! WAAAT! KGEDJK! we go crazy [well for me] when they talk in Tagalog, then after that we would usually ask A LOT of questions to them then we react again like crazy people because it's not everyday you see a white man speaking Tagalog.

[Edit]: And also when my school had a field trip/ exchange program to South Korea, I read a lot of words in Hangul. I told my foster brother that I can read Hangul, so when we went to school he told his friends and they made me read all of their classmates names. They even made me read a book, but I didn't understand a single word. XD

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jdfromdublin
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That's how I react whenever I hear a non-Filipino speak Tagalog.

Sana naman tangapin nila ang aplikasyon natin :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R
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Ok lang ako, hindi naman ako magaling sa Tagalog eh. Pero sana tangapin ka nila.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jdfromdublin
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Salamat! Sana nga :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pillowtibers

Haha, that's what my mother said happened to her! She lived in the Philippines for a short time when she was young, and she said everyone was so kind and helped her learn Tagalog. I still catch her singing Ang Pipit sometimes. She loves the Philippines. :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R
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Ang Pipit. One of my favorite folk songs

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Balaur
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While I've never experienced anything like this myself, since I don't know any Tagalog (...yet), I once got to sit next to an old Filipino woman on a short flight, and once I found out about her background and asked her about her language, she was more than enthusiastic to teach me a ton of words and phrases in Tagalog. From that experience and from what you've said here, it seems that Filipinos are quite proud of their language. :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R
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According to a famous song here in the Philippines, "Ako'y Isang Pinoy" (I am a Filipino), it says in the lyrics "Ang hindi raw magmahal sa sariling wika, Ay higit pa ang amoy sa mabahong isda." which means "The one who does not love his own language, is stinkier than a smelly fish." hehehe

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ilovejs

This is my experience with Filipinos and it's very encouraging seeing this sort of reaction.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R
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Hehe. We are very happy people. Even if there is flood, as long as there is a camera, we smile. And did you go to the Philippines?

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KaiBark
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I'm Indian-German. When I was in Germany they were just surprised that I spoke it well and that my mom was the white lady next to me haha. I've also surprised some Russians, but I actually get approached to speak Spanish since I'm a dark guy living in Texas :P

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee
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Thanks. Have some lingots.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/sheldolina
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Generally, foreigners trying to speak Dutch are met with disbelief - "why would you ever want to do that?!" - and we switch to English, since most of us speak English fairly well. Most of us would be happy to keep speaking Dutch with someone if we're asked to, though.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gymnastical
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I've heard it's much harder to get them to speak Dutch to you than it is to learn their language. Online that's less of an issue though. Can you explain why it's less of an issue online?

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Markus_H

I would like to learn Dutch! I traveled in the Netherlands and Belgium when I was young and really like the countries and the people. I also have distant relatives in Amsterdam. I find it fairly easy to read Dutch, it reminds so much of German and Nordic languages but the pronunciation is my biggest obstacle. We used to read Dutch but talk English in the Netherlands.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gymnastical
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Try listening to Dutch music. It will help a lot with that

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Markus_H

Music is a great help! I´m learning Turkish now and I listen a lot to Tarkan.

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/sheldolina
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Pronunciation can definitely be a big hurdle, but practice will help a lot with that! You can watch Dutch tv online here, that might help you get a feel for the sounds. And like Gymnastical said, music could help as well :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gelaarsd_Schaap

You can also use tv for mimicking facial movements that come with a language. This appears to be quite helpful.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee
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Thank you. Have some lingots.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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I'd replace "France" by "Paris" ;)

I'm always glad to hear a foreigner trying to speak French, it makes you want to help, even if you switch to English afterwards. Also, in shops / cafés you have to be super polite, and foreigners don't always know that, so that might be a reason why people react like they do.

(edited comment)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee
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Thank you, I will change it. Have some lingots.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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You didn't have to, I was just saying that because outside of Paris, it tends to be quite different :) Thanks!

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ivanka_ps
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Cool! I was in a very similar situation when I went to the south of France with my familly, everytime people discovered that we spoke Spanish, they wanted to practice theirs, even if they only knew a few words. I wasn't that good with my French at that time, and I remember this switching to English thing... I have good memories of that travel and I would like to go back someday.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/LittleCatz

I had good experiences, even in Paris :) I was in Paris and couldn't find a subway stop so I asked a lady on the street "Pardon, où est le métro?" (I took one quarter on French in college, after this trip, so I really don't speak much at ALL) and she started pointing and explaining where she thought a stop was. The two friends I was with were amazed afterward when I said "Ok, she said there might be on down there but she thinks there's one over here too." One friend said "I didn't know you speak French!" and I said "I don't, she just pointed."

I also found that foreigners in Paris were REALLY excited to talk to you. My friends and I went to a falafel shop in Paris run by a Turkish man and his son. I spoke to the son in German for a little bit which was really awesome. He was very friendly and excited to hear about where we were from in the US.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee
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In Norway (at least in Oslo) we prefer speaking English rather that listen to someone speaking in bad Norwegian. If you ask us to speak with you in Norwegian because you would like to learn (we value learning and knowledge greatly), we will do so gladly, but NEVER show or imply that you want recognition or approval for being able to speak a couple of Norwegian words (The law of Jante). Unlike a lot of other countries, you will not be admired for knowing a few words, and if it is obvious that you want approval, recognition or respect for speaking a few common Norwegian phrases you "loose points", and might even be met with disdain (We will smile and laugh, but hate you on the inside) in some extreme cases.

So my tips; when you speak Norwegian in Norway, do so with humility and a desire to learn.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/aaditsingh8
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When foreigners talk to Indians in their native language (the most common being Hindi), the Indians get crazy and start speaking with them so politely! There's a saying in India, अथिति देवो भवः [uh-thi-tee dey-vo bhuh-vuh] which means 'Guests are Gods', :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Pratyush.
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You are right, nothing pleases us as much as some other person speaking our language. Some will even ask why anyone need to learn our language. About the saying that @aadit said "अथिति देवो भव" भव (bha-va) is imperative of भू (Bhu) which is root of word for 'To happen' . so closer translation will be "Let guest be God." . It third in line of maxims:- मातृ देवो भव, पितृ देवो भव , अथिति देवो भव ( maa-tri dey-vo bha-va, pi-tri dey-vo bha-va) which has 'Honour your mother" , "Honour your Father" , "Honour your Guest."

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/aaditsingh8
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Of what I know भवः is to be or to become. :/

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
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Whenever I've been to an Ethiopian restaurant (although only actually twice), I've spoken Amharic to them. I've asked if they speak Amharic, then when they said yes, I've replied "አማርኛ እያተማርኩ ነው።" ("I am learning Amharic") - to which they are very surprised. After all, it's not every day you see a white guy speaking an Ethiopian language! They have then been very happy to know that I'm learning their language and have helped me learn some phrases and told me all about Ethiopia after I told them how much I love it. It's awesome seeing how much it means to them that I'm able to say things like "አዋዜ ጥብስ እፈልግ ነበር" ("I would like Awaze Tibs"), "እባክዎ ኮካ-ኮላ እፈልጋለሁ" ("I want a Coca-Cola, please"), and "አመሰግናለሁ" ("Thank you") in their own language, and not just speak to them in English.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MusingThoughts

In my experience Ethiopians are nice and helpful!

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
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አዎ፣ ኢትዮጵያውያን ተወዳጆች ሰዎች ናቸው! (Yes, Ethiopians are lovely people!)

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/chou_wang
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People from English speaking countries generally expect people from other countries to speak English. Unfortunately they often do not extend the same courtesy when visiting other countries. However, it does make a big difference if the effort is made, even if it only consists of a few polite phrases. I went to Japan with my adult son, who is fluent in Japanese, and we found that people were more open and friendly than one expects from a people often regarded as polite but reserved. In Vanuatu I had learned a few phrases in Bislama which is the national language of Vanuatu. I thanked an artist who had demonstrated sand drawings in his language and was hugged and received a wide grin( hopefully not because my Bislama was so bad it was comical). People appreciate it when someone at least tries to use the language of their country especially if it is not one that is common on the world stage. Even if you don't intend to travel the world , immigration is making contact with people from other countries more common, and Hello, How are you? Good Day are not that hard to learn. Bon jour, Guten tag, bon giorno, buenos dias, dzien dobri, ni hao, konnichiwa, merhaba, selamat pagi etc

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gymnastical
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Most of my American friends (I live in America) say they don't need to know other languages and thatr's why they don't learn. I do because I know it's meaningful and rewarding and liberating. So I know how true that is.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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Sadly, I'd say the same is largely true in Britain. We tend to assume that everyone else does or at least should speak English. It's an embarrassment,

Personally I always, always try to learn at least a little in the local language of any country I visit, I just find it rude not to make at least some effort, so like you I have the ability to be polite in many more languages than I have any real knowledge of the language!

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MusingThoughts

Yes and even in the UK there are other indigenous languages though not so widely spoke

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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True. Indian languages for sure, and these days a lot of L1 Polish speakers, too. Most also speak English, in my experience.

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MusingThoughts

I did mean indigenous British languages (AKA Celtic languages, Anglo Romani, Jersey french etc) but yeah it's good to know that there are so many Polish speakers

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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Of course, I didn't even think of them. My brain is mushy! Though I guess the same is true of them, that most users are functionally bilingual with English.

I wish I'd grown up with two languages!

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/LittleCatz

This is tangential, but I have a college degree in German, even though I'm out of practice right now. Last September I was in Berlin for a conference. I got off at a subway stop and a guy on the platform started speaking to me really quickly, faster than I could understand. I couldn't really understand what he was saying but I knew enough to tell that he was asking for money. I told him "Sorry, I don't speak German" (yeah, I lied) and then he switched to fluent English telling me basically the same story about how he needed money for such and such. sigh It's times like that that I wish I was a native speaker of some obscure language that beggers don't know haha

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
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When I went to Zambia last year we went to a market, and since we are white we stood out from a mile away, so we had loads of people come up to us trying to sell us what they claimed was "beer" (though who knows what it really was?), asking for money, or wanting us to buy stuff from their shop. Because I speak Hungarian, I would just answer them all in Hungarian and they had no clue what I was saying so they left us alone lol.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MusingThoughts

Haha funny. Why were you there in the first place? People in Zambia can speak English

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
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We went there to an organisation called Ndubaluba (Named after the sound a bird makes, if you're wondering), and we did things like helping teach children at a school, climbing a mountain, going to a Zambian church, and we were even attacked by an ostrich!

My friend actually vlogged quite a bit while we were there and if you'd like to see them, they're here. (Hopefully that link works)

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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I have been known to do that with Russian! I remember being in Tunisia in a souk, and managing to fend off eager people trying to sell us stuff by talking in Russian. I was very much a beginner at the time, so I was really glad no one turned round and started talking back in Russian 8-o Most people we met spoke at least two languages out of French, English and Arabic, and sometimes more, so having a relatively exotic language was pretty handy. I imagine Hungarian works really well for that!!

You have a real range of languages under your belt, I'm jealous :D

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
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Hungarian does work really well for that - unless you're in Hungary... (Although when there I just walked away from people lol).

You've got a good flair going, and you seem to be doing well with your languages, keep it up! I'm cheering for you! :)

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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Thanks and ditto!

My flair is a bit misleading LOL French is revision (my French is far, far from perfect, but it's as good as it's likely to get), and the other Romance languages I just did the starter lessons because I wanted to look at the bonus features!

I've mostly been doing German, Turkish, and a little Dutch... all the languages I'm really interested in are yet to reach beta.

The only languages I'm really functional in besides English are French and Russian. My Russian is more accurate, my French is more entrenched - I'm not really what I would call fluent in either!

I'm excited to learn Hungarian 3 I've been learning Esperanto elsewhere but I'm looking forward to being able to study it on this platform!

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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Remember, you don't need fluency, you just need a few really obscure phrases in a really obscure language :D

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Kunstkritik
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In germany people are probably happier when they can try to use english with you (at least that is my impression for the majority) since we rarely have opportunities here and we love english

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SorrisoMW
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I think in many cases Germans prefer the easy way. If you speak German fluently they will use German, otherwise they just switch to English.

However, even though most Germans have no problem with switching to English, if they directly talk to a foreigner, it is highly recommended to have a basic understanding of German.

If you're in a group with only a few people not speaking German it is not always common to use English when talking to each other, so you might miss large parts of the conversation if you don't understand German (As said before, it is no problem at all to join the discussion in English at any point).

Edit: So what I wanted to say is that it is more important for a (young?) German, that you understand what is said, than which language you are using to respond.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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In my experience - which I should stress is pretty small! - in the Western parts of Germany, people were very fast to switch to English, whereas when I was in Berlin, people seemed very happy to assume I spoke German, though when they realised I spoke English, those who spoke English were eager to practise. I don't know if that is an experience lots of people have, or if it was unusual. I had whole conversations with people where my side of the conversation was basically "Ja, ja nods ja."

I think it helped that the small bits of German I could speak, I spoke well and confidently with a decent and not-obviously-English accent, but it was quite entertaining to be in Berlin, alone, for several days, with very little German, and have only one or two people go "Hey, you speak English?? TALK TO ME IN ENGLISH!"

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Victstee
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Thank you. Have some lingots.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Balaur
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Here in Taiwan, people generally get ridiculously excited when a foreigner speaks Mandarin, and they'll usually compliment you even if you just utter a few words or phrases. Since it's apparently so rare for foreigners here to actually put in the effort to learn even basic Mandarin (which is mind-boggling to me, considering the relatively large number of foreigners in the capital), they'll occasionally continue speaking English, assuming that you can't possibly have much more than the basics down, but they'll usually switch to Mandarin once they realize you can hold a conversation in their language. For older folks, speaking Taiwanese is usually even more surprising, and they'll often be very happy to speak it with you, but it's usually more unbelievable that any foreigner would know any Taiwanese, much less know more than a few phrases, so many tend to switch to Mandarin.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/CosmoKaiza
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In Geneva we don't really mind. Even if it is a plus if the foreigner speaks french, we can still survive with German, English or Italian :)

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pabos95
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When I was in Yucatán some shop owners offered disocunts if you talked to them in Maya.

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MusingThoughts

That is awesome! I thought that Maya wasn't widely spoken

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Markus_H

I do appreciate if tourists want to learn to speak Swedish. But they do not need. I´m more than willing to try out my english with native speakers.

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gymnastical
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I am learning Swedish. Will Swedes be more offended if I speak their language really bad or if I speak English?

May 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Markus_H

I don´t think any one would be offended if you try to speak Swedish. But they will probably answer you in English =) Many swedes, at least all people born after 1950 have basic skills in English and e like to talk English.

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/olimo
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I'm Russian, and I believe most Russians will be happy to talk to you in Russian. In fact, an average Russian is not too good at languages, so answering you in Russian can be the only possible way.

I have spoken with random foreigners just a couple of times, and our brief conversations were in English and happened in tourist places. In my town, the chance of meeting a foreigner who speaks Russian is almost zero - unless you study in a university and meet some foreign student. These students mostly stick to themselves, though.

I have an Australian friend, and he claimed that everyone was super-friendly with him. Why, even the ticket clerks at the bus stations (who are usually very cold and often even rude to the general Russian public) did everything they could to help, although they knew no English, and my friend knew very little Russian. I guess this may come from the USSR where people were afraid to fail to "represent their great country" really well :-)

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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I've bumped into Russian speakers in England, and their reaction to someone who speaks Russian is usually 8-o and being really excited to speak their own language, even with someone who's so out of practice as me!

In Russia, in memory at least, in St Petersburg there were a lot of people - especially younger generations - who would take any opportunity to speak English. In Ulyanovsk, by contrast, there was much less interest. I remember one girl asking me and a friend to meet up specifically to speak English, and then she brought her non-English-speaking friend with her so we ended up talking to her in Russian instead! It was quite nice actually, they were more interested in us for us, rather than as language practice, whereas in St Pete it often felt like people were only interested in you as a foreigner in order to practise English.

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/olimo
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That's an interesting insight!

I like how you shortened "St. Petersburg" to "St. Pete". Do you know that Russians usually call "St. Petersburg" just "Peter" (Питер) in informal speech?

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
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Hah, yeah, I'd forgotten till you said but I remember people calling the city Питер - I love it, it sounds so affectionate somehow! <3

May 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KaiBark
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In the US people are either rude, helpful, or we try finding someone who does speak the person's language. At work I usually get called over to help some customers. I understand that English is confusing and I always try to help those whose language I can't speak and vice versa.

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Sjodni
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In America, some people will act like they do in Paris, and some will act like in Spain. It depends on the person.

May 23, 2015
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