This is the second part of my conversation with Kelli, an American woman who moved to Spain a few months ago, after walking the Camino Francés last year.

Last week, you could read all about Kelli’s experience on the Camino with her teenage daughter (if you missed the first part, you can check it here).

But I also asked Kelli for a short list of essential Spanish words for the Camino: either the ones she most frequently used or the ones she wished she had learned prior to walking the Camino.  She gave me so much more… and that’s why I thought all that info deserved a whole new post.


What Kelli had to say

K: Here are the things I wish I knew:

First, before the Spanish language bits, the cultural norms of interaction.

  • In the US we almost never say ‘good day’ before starting a conversation or asking a question. In Spain, people say buenos días (good morning) or buenas tardes (good afternoon/evening) before launching into asking a question even in a shop. It’s a more formal way of interacting. And more respectful.
  • People meeting acknowledge each other with hola or the greeting of the time of day.  Even relative strangers. And they will say hasta luego (see you later) or a clipped version of this at parting. In the US, there would never be a goodbye to strangers in an elevator.
  • In the US and the UK, we are overly effusive. We ‘thank you very much’ too much. So it doesn’t really mean anything. And we thank wait staff for every little thing they bring us. Here, one gracias is fine and saying hasta luego when you leave the café is just courtesy, even though you may never see them again.

M: I’ll add that the same rule applies to por favor (please). There’s no need to add por favor at the end of every sentence when you’re in a shop or café for instance. One por favor is enough.


Kelli’s vocabulary list

Disculpe (sorry). I wish I had known that word when I accidentally broke a cup at a cafe.

M: Disculpe also means Excuse me! So you can use it if you need to ask a stranger a question, to get their attention.

Lo siento (really sorry).

¿Dónde está… ? (Where is…?) + almost anything: albergue, tienda, mercado, Catedral, el camino… My daughter had a bad allergic reaction in Melide on an early Sunday morning. No one but little old ladies on the street and I struggled to get across that I needed an emergency room or urgent care.

No entiendo (I don’t understand).

Pequeño (small).

Mediano (medium). I knew grande was large.

Media (half).

Otro (another), as in ‘other vino rosado’.

Antes (before).

  • Regarding food, reading a menú del día on a chalk board in cursive writing is a challenge. Google translate can’t help. So learning:

Pollo (chicken).

Carne (meat).

Pescado (fish).

  • Knowing my numbers 1-10 in Spanish helped but if I had to do it again I’d study 1-100 and understand how to say my own birthday, passport number and phone number in Spanish.


And one final tip

  • Words in English that end in -ity will be the same in Spanish but replace the -ity with -idad. I’ve tried to find a word in English that this doesn’t work for and I can’t so far.  And suddenly, Voilà! Your vocabulary just quadrupled.
Kelli arriving in Santiago de Compostela

Kelli and her husband Jeff moved to Spain in Spring of 2018, after she had walked the Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. In her blog Viva España you’ll find everything they went through to get their visas, make the move and set up house as well as their new life in Spain. It’s very informative, especially if you are thinking of making a similar move; and… it’s so much fun too!

Today’s Spanish words


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¡Buen Camino!