1. Your Car has Basque Flag Bumper Stickers and a License Plate Frame.
Most likely with cutesy phrases like “Proud to be Basque” or “World’s Greatest Aitatxi.” Most likely purchased from the legendary Etcheverry Basque Imports. Most likely tacky yet fabulous. Everyone who sees your car will be dazzled by your ethnic pride and confused by what flag that is.
Your friends might think it’s disgusting, but you grew up with it. Amatxi probably told you it was chicken, and you went with it. Now these treats get you a little nostalgic, so you have to order them whenever you can.
Call it Jambon, Jamon, or Xingar–it’s overly salty and it looks like an entire pig’s leg. (Is it an entire pig’s leg? I don’t know! My city girl brain just knows it’s huge and a little creepy to have hanging from the ceiling in your house.) You know your aita/aitatxi is proud of these massive hams, but it’s embarrassing to have friends come over and think your dad is some kind of serial killer for a hot minute before you can explain. He’s not an axe murderer, he’s just Basque.
4. You Say You’re French Basque or Spanish Basque.
No one outside the Basque community knows what the hell Iparralde and Hegoalde are, or what you mean by “Northern Basque Country” and “Southern Basque Country.” Heck, even a lot of Basques in the U.S. don’t know what Iparralde and Hegoalde mean, and that’s okay. I’m only fortunate to know those terms because of culture classes at Udaleku.
But actually, if I’m being honest, most Americans don’t even know what Basque means. So when trying to explain things, we don’t bog them down with the details.
5. You Get Told You Either Look Like Your Tantta Maite or Otto Manex.
Or any number of mystery relatives from the Old Country you’ve never met. But your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents will swear you are the spitting image of this stranger. Just roll with it and hope it’s a compliment.
6. You Have a Marching Band Playing in Your Catholic Mass.
I know I’ve mentioned Klika quite a bit, and I know bugle corps are mostly an Iparralde thing (see what I did there?). But that’s not something you see every day. A band of men marching up and down the church aisle beating drums and blasting loud bugles? So bizarre. While other cultures might find making such a racket during mass disrespectful, it’s just Sunday as usual to us.
7. You Don’t Remember the Difference Between Euskal Herria and Euskadi, and You Don’t Really Care.
Euskal Herria is the Basque term for the entire Basque Country, all seven provinces included. Euskadi is the Basque name for the Basque Autonomous Community, a government entity in Spain comprising the three Basque provinces of Araba, Gipuzkoa, and Bizkaia. Again, this is something I learned at Basque camp.
I’ve also been reminded of the correct usage of these terms by highly politically correct visitors from the Basque Country. While I understand the sentiment behind their proud lessons about the homeland, I don’t appreciate the grammar lesson. Don’t they know we Basques in America are the descendants of backwards, illiterate sheepherders? You can’t expect them to have told us everything about what’s hip in the Basque Country nowadays.
8. You Hear Lamb Birth Stories at the Dinner Table.
Or a variation of such educational farm anecdotes. For me, it was learning how pigs are slaughtered to make blood sausage, while eating blood sausage. (Thanks for that one, Aita!) While these gems only come out once in a while, they really leave an impression.
*I realize I’m neglecting my country Basque Americans here. Perhaps instead of hearing stories of animal births and slaughters, you’re actually witnessing them? In that case, I applaud you for your strong stomach and thick skin. My French cousins would call you a vrai basque.*
9. Your Aitatxi Can Outdrink You.
Dear ol’ Aitatxi has probably been drinking wine and/or cider since he was four-years-old. They made it on the farm, after all, and he’s got the cute rosacea red face to prove it. If your aitatxi’s like my aita, maybe he doesn’t even drink water unless it’s in his wine. Maybe he doesn’t even consider wine to be alcohol. It’s only like 12% alcohol. To your aitatxi, that’s child’s play.
10. You Think You’re Hella Basque, Until You Go to the Basque Country.
The times in my life when I’ve felt the least Basque–and by extention, the most American–were when I was visiting the Basque Country.
You grow up, going to all of the picnics and festivals, learning Basque dances, card games, and sports. No one can question how Basque you are! You are hella Basque. Until you go to the Basque Country for the first time and realize it’s a whole different world out there. An actual different country!
You realize your knowledge of cultural traditions is mostly irrelevant in your travels, as Basque people don’t actually spend all of their time folk dancing or playing cards and pilota. While you may impress people with your “Ni neska polita naiz!” [translation: I am a pretty girl!], your language skills are useless.
Really, you’re just in a foreign country you thought you knew everything about.