Faux Pas On First Dinner In Joyuda, Puerto Rico

First Dinner In Joyuda, A Sweet Beachfront Town on the West Coast

When my Mom and I moved to Puerto Rico, we didn’t know where we going to live long-term, nor did I know the language. This caused many misunderstandings, including one of which was particularly embarrassing and hilarious. Speaking Spanish was easy for mom, because she grew up in Puerto Rico until her family moved to Tennessee when she was twelve. Even though she had not used her native tongue in a long time, it returned easily enough for her to converse with the locals just fine. I, however, knew so few words that it was silly and I wished I had taken Spanish in school.

We had booked a condominium in Ponce, the second largest city, mid-center on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Upon entering the condo, the amount of dust on every surface, was shocking. Instead of doing some house cleaning like we should have done, my mom decided we should find somewhere else to stay. We started driving around the island, to find the place we would want to live, based on expectations of which we were not disappointed!

We chose the far Southwest tip of the island, up along the coast, in a town called Joyuda. It is north of Boquerón, (where I lived) and south of Mayagüez. The town is famous for its restaurants, most of which sit right on the beach. In Spanish it is known as ‘the Milla de Oro del Buen Comer’; the Gourmet Golden Mile.

We gratefully rented a two bedroom cabana on the beach. It was truly a paradise. At night, I could hear the Caribbean Sea waves, gently lapping on the sandy beach, right outside our door. The softness of the air on my skin was temperate and rather sensual. Warm weather, without the need for layers of clothes, was wonderful. There was no doubt I had stepped into a fairy tale.

To celebrate finding such an ideal place, mom suggested a special dinner out, to the restaurant down the road. It was as authentic as we could find, for we were ready to taste the local cuisine, plus we really wanted to make it a memorable first dinner, to mark the day we found our new home! When we entered the mostly empty restaurant, the sun was setting and it was getting dark outside. We no longer could see the horizon, as we settled into the chairs of a seaside table. Our seats were over the water. I could hear and feel the small waves, slapping against the wooden façade of the restaurant, where it’s foundation was partly submerged. As night descended and the restaurant remained mostly empty, our waiter befriended us.

He was a handsome, young man and was clearly flirting with me. He thought I was cute when practicing the language, which prompted me to continue bouncing words out loud, testing my God-given natural accent that made it easy for me to pronounce all the rolling R’s of the Spanish dialect. Dinner progressed and my new suitor was bringing us local dishes to sample, enjoying my tourist reactions to the different foods and how his beloved country’s cuisine, tasted on my untried tongue.

As the waiter became more attentive, I became quite giddy. I was in a new tropical environment and appreciated the radiating attention from the well-behaved, respectful and groomed Puertorican man. By the time dessert rolled around, all the employees were hanging out as though we had brought the party with us. When it was time to go, we requested the dinner ticket. I was still loudly practicing a few words. After we paid the waiter, he turned around to go make change. At exactly that moment, I was adding oh’s and ah’s to relevant words, summing up the way I felt about such a great night. I nonchalantly said,

‘This is soo coool. Totally coolio!’

My back was to the cash register so I did not get to see the waiter react to what I said, like mom did. I thought it was hilarious, the new word I had just made up: ‘coolio’!

Mom started turning white as she watched the waiter, whom had stopped, turned and was glaring at me. By the time I turned around, he was bright red, like a cherry and his face, bloated and angry. He made his way back to me in two steps. Thankfully, right at that moment, mom realized what I said and why it was causing such a commotion. She tried to calm him down by explaining that I didn’t mean to call him a ‘butt’ or any of the other choice derivatives of the word!

He heard me call him a name, insulting him in the American tourist girl kind of way, making him wonder why he reasoned I was different. All those thoughts going through his head, I could see on his face. Immediately, mom explained, in Spanish, that I was only joking around with my Spanish pronunciations, adding the local sounds to the words of the conversation I was having with her, including saying what a cool night we were enjoying, out and about on the town. He was so upset, it took him a few moments to relax as he realized what I said was an unintentional dirty word and had not purposefully called him a butt or whatever name he thought he heard me holler. He then threw his head back and laughed with relief. We were certainly calmed as we joined in with him, finding it quite funny. He almost hugged me because he was glad I had sincerely been interested in him!

That was the end of the party. He didn’t ask me out before we left, nor did we ever go back to that restaurant again. I wish he knew the impact he had on me personally, in a positive and humorous way! Of course, I quickly learned about the locals and decided I needed more sensitivity and humbleness, in a country cautious of tourists.

Looking back through memory, it really was totally cool to have had such a hilarious, welcoming first dinner in the beachfront town of Joyuda, Puerto Rico!

Thanks for sharing my journey to spiritual fulfillment and prosperity!

Jennifer T. Webb

Stay tuned and take care of yourself and your loved ones!

‘May Love Reign In All Universes, and Peace Within Each One Of Us.’

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 Photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

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6 thoughts on “Puerto Rican Language Faux Pas: A Funny Thing Happened In Joyuda While Dining

    1. I too wonder exactly what he heard! Maybe is was ‘coolo’. Does that sound more rude, because that’s how the guy took it, plus my accent did something to whatever he heard that he took great offense to! lol

      Liked by 1 person

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