Curly Gurl Power Activate!

Maybe they won’t notice that I haven’t said anything for the last hour? Yeah, they all think I’m having a great time. I’m laughing at jokes I don’t understand in all the right places. They bought it.

Now, if I can keep up my façade for the next three hours, I can gracefully exit this party to go home and ugly cry. What, this doesn’t sound familiar to you? Well, you must be one of the lucky ones whose personality hasn’t taken a nose dive since moving abroad. I guess unicorns do exist.

I’ve had to make many adjustments since deciding to remain in Spain for love and I’m cool with most of them. Things are gonna be different living in a new country but why the hell am I different now? That is NOT cool.

I’m funny damn it! I can talk about stuff. I’m smart. Why doesn’t anybody realize this? Oh yeah, I forgot my personality doesn’t translate.

I Got the Power!

If I get the chance to engage with someone in English, I am on fire. You wanna talk about politics? Trump is a dick. Am I right or am I right?

Curly Gurl Power

In English I can do anything!

You wanna laugh until you pee yourself a little? Pour me a cosmopolitan and I’ll work the room like Chris Rock at the Apollo.

Oh, you want to speak in Spanish? Hmm, gotta go. Any time I work up the nerve to speak in Spanish, I think I come off super quiet (I don’t even swear) and boring. I’m still surprised I have Spanish friends that actually want to talk to me. Man, they must be desperate for friends.

My identity is so warped in Spain I have names for my two distinct personalities: Curly Gurl and Spaghetti Head.

I have naturally curly hair and Curly Gurl speaks English (sometimes Spanglish). I ain’t ashamed of it. Do you know how many verb tenses there are in Spanish? No fucking puedo!

Spanish is My Kryptonite

Spaghetti Head speaks Spanish, only when spoken to, and usually stutters or says umm a thousand times before answering back. It’s bags o’ fun.

I hate Spaghetti Head. When I’m her, it feels like I have chemically straightened my hair and flattened out all the things that make me Janine. I’m left with a dry and brittle personality that I wouldn’t even want to hang out with.

Spaghetti Head

This is not a good look on me!

Over time, my Spanish has improved a lot but it always feels false when I have to communicate with people as Spaghetti Head. Yes, I’m speaking the language of my adopted country, as one should at least try and do, but it doesn’t feel like me.

Don’t get me started on trying to use Spanish expressions. I know them all (especially the filthy ones) but I feel like an imposter when I use one. I picture myself as one of those douchebag expats (you know the ones) trying to prove that she is native now.

It’s weird though. When I’m chillin with my Spanish speaking friends, they all seem to laugh at my jokes in all the right places. Does that mean I’m speaking fluent Spanish (hot damn!) or is the constant humidity in Spain turning my straight hair curly? Hmm.

Special thanks to Tall N Curly for letting me use her amazing comics for this post. If you like her work, go to to check out more.




2021-02-01T17:34:09+01:00 July 3rd, 2019|Expat Life|12 Comments


  1. StrawberryGirl at - Reply

    Janine, I can hear your voice as i read this article and you sound wonderful in English. I am sure your Spanish friends find you just as funny and engaging while you speak your second language. 😉

    • Janine at - Reply

      Hey girl! You are probably right about my Spanish friends. My personality is so obnoxious I think it’s beginning to translate.

  2. Oh snap. You said it! And you really said it! I feel like I have split personalities too. I’ve never been a quiet person, but every week during my local concert band practice, I become mute. I have given myself a Swiss name because everyone laughs at April. SO, you’re Spaghetti Head and I’m Heidi, nice to meet ya! At least all my Swiss friends think my name is funny!

    Keep this up…puh-leez!

    • Janine at - Reply

      Glad you liked the post. Nice to meet you too April! I’ll try to keep it up!

      • Kendra Hoover at - Reply

        Once upon a time I wrote on my identity being like a dictionary I saw, strewn out on a Czech field. It WILL make you stronger!!

        • Janine at - Reply

          Hallelujah. Preach Kendra! You my gurl.

  3. Deirdre Spratt at - Reply

    Janine, love this and the spaghetti head character, the artwork is tops. Big congrats to you really am enjoying reading your blog x

  4. Your Spanish sounds like my Turkish, but things get better when you use your second language in unintentionally inappropriate places. AwwwHA! is a great expression, very emotive without words, (and cleaner than FFS), and it just came out when I saw the extortionate price of a fridge recently. My husband was horrified, and (having picked it up from him in the first place) told me it wasn’t a dignified noise to make in public. I sometimes feels like a kid who’s repeated a rude word in front of granny. Great Post 🙂

    • Janine at - Reply

      I feel the same way sometimes. My husband is Welsh and sometimes I think my Jamaican/Canadian “outbursts” offend his British sensibilities. Don’t really care though. He knew who he was marrying.

  5. Charlotte at - Reply

    I totally know where you are coming from.
    I have a friend who has the opposite experience, though. She came to the US as a business transfer and whenever she goes back, she is “her parents’ good daughter”, not the US residing professional woman who is her Curly Girl. It doesn’t matter that both her parents are dead now. Switching into her mother tongue is enough to make her cringe. Ones motivations for being abroad really makes a difference – as does the ability to express this awesome personality in the local language.
    But hey, it does take time to grow new hair long in a new place. Glad yours is growing…

    • Janine at - Reply

      Thanks for this comment. Your friend’s version of her “curly girl” is so interesting. Love hearing how people are handling their expat life. Motivation and language is definitely key. Thanks Charlotte.

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