SSWG is an interesting phenomena, the letters stand for Speaking Spanish While Gringo. After years of observation, I have decided that this is a fairly common phenomena here in Mérida. Even though Husband is usually handsomely attired in a guayabera and pantalones tipo dockers just like most Yucatecos, he has never been mistaken for one, heck he hasn’t even been mistaken for a chilango. As residents, we often end up shopping or eating in places that are unaccustomed to extranjeros as patrons.
I imagine our waiter having an inner dialog as soon as he spots Husband. “That’s a gringo! Gringos don’t speak Spanish, what am I going to do? Oh, no he just asked for something. What does he want? I don’t speak English, beer, gringos like beer!” so Husband requests in perfect Spanish his customary limonada natural and the server blinks and says questioningly “¿cerveza?”. At this point I jump in and say “Mi esposo pidió una limonada natural, por favor.”
Husband then turns to me and wants to know what he said wrong. I can’t answer him, because it’s just a case of SSWG. I have made a resolution that I am not going to “rescue” him anymore when he speaks Spanish. I am going to let the server have a moment to figure it out.
I know that this isn’t just us, because I have heard other similar stories.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. yessica, you are not alone.Thanks for stopping by.

  2. WOW what a relief it is not just me that this happens to. I love your post really brought a smile to my face

  3. Cancuncanuck and Billie, I see it all the time and it just has to be unfamiliarity with foreigners in general and foreigners who actually speak Spanish. Of course when you add in the fact that many Yucatecans also speak Spanish as a second language themselves the fun really begins!
    Isaholic trixie, I have been trying to figure out what body part you have been saying and quite frankly I am stumped! I agree if you move to a foreign country you should try to learn the language whether in the USA or Mexico.

  4. I have always felt that it is better to try and speak the language out of respect. I do this with my Spanish speaking tenants when I go by to fix something or pick up rent.
    I learned from my them the other day that I was pronouncing the Spanish word for kitchen incorrectly and was really using the word for some body part!!

  5. It happens here in San Miguel too.

  6. Oh heck and hallelujah, it’s not just me! This happens over and over again. I know I’ve said it correctly but I get a blank stare or something I didn’t ask for. Hubby now just laughs. I ask “What did I say wrong?” and he says “Nothing, but you are guera and therefore they don’t understand anything about you or what you say.”

    The funny thing is, when my in laws speak with me, they seem to understand just fine, but they always comment that I speak “como un Yucateca”, so apparently I have the accent, just not the look. 🙂

    Tell Husband not to worry, he’s not alone!

  7. Mexico”way”,We have a friend who is a native Greek speaker but he is very fair with red hair and blue eyes. He went to Greece and the comment that he got from the Greeks was that they would not have been any more startled to hear a horse speak Greek than him. I think it just short circuits the Yucatecan brain the same way, they don’t expect it.

  8. I love it when you speak Spanish and there is all sorts of confusion about it. More than several times I’ve had to ask my friends at the table if what I said was clear enough. I know that in fact was, but for some reason it just freaks some people out that a foreigner is speaking Spanish to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll To Top