1. Basque nose
Many Basques have a distinctive bump on their noses. While non-Basques get their funny looking noses from breaking them multiple times, Basques are just born with them.
2. Sporting lauburu (Basque cross) jewelry or tattoos
A lot of non-Basques take this ancient symbol to be a type of Swastika, with some school kids going so far as to call you a Nazi for wearing one. Researchers have been trying to figure out for years where the lauburu came from and what it means, but they haven’t managed to agree on anything quite yet.
The point being: this symbol is hella Basque, and if you see someone wearing one, they’re most likely definitely Basque.
3. A thick accent
While many Basques have French sounding or Spanish sounding accents when they speak English, Basques from the mountains who spent much of their lives speaking nothing but Basque sound completely different.
Compare the accent of your aita/ama/aitatxi/amatxi/aitxitxe/amuma to that of the young people you meet from the Basque Country today. You might never guess they came from the same region!
This accent can often be hard to place as well. My aita has often been mistaken for Eastern European.
You can hear some good accents in this clip of Alone on the Range: Basques in Wyoming.
4. Crazy last names like Begiristain, Mariñelarena, Berasategui, Arizmendiarrieta, and Goikoetxea
It’ll probably take you a minute or two to figure them out, and they’re never pronounced the way you think they should be.
5. Men who are either very short or very tall
Why is there such a huge gap in Basque men’s height? I think of it this way: the men from the mountains are like hobbits living in the hills, while the men from the coasts and cities are giants declaring to the world, “Look at me, I’m here!” From Napoleons to Nordics, Basque heights run the gamut.
6. Wearing a beret non-ironically
Every once in a while you’ll see people wearing berets for a costume party, but Basques wear berets on the daily. They’re not just costume props to Bascos, they’re actual hats.
And aren’t they adorable?
From years of drinking wine and sun exposure, many Basques eventually develop rosacea as they age. You can see a nice example of it above.
8. Sausage fingers
Whether from a lifetime of manual labor or playing pilota, many Basques have sausage fingers. You win the Basque jackpot if you find someone with sausage fingers AND missing fingers.
9. Pronouncing Guernica like Gernika
When I learned about the bombing of Gernika in school, I was surprised to hear it pronounced Gware-nick-a. I tell you, Americans really have a knack for butchering beautiful foreign words. No Basque I ever met has pronounced it the American way.
10. Mullet + gold pirate hoop earrings + unshaven face + cropped pants + fanny pack around shoulder = hella Basque
Here I’m talking about a very specific breed of Basque male, in my experience originating from Hegoalde. These are the people I see randomly peppered into large Basque American festivals (usually with the visiting band or group of pilotaris) and I say to myself, “Now that dude’s legit Basque.” (Yes, I’m from California, and that’s actually how I speak to myself.)
I don’t understand why this is a look or who thought it was cool and trendy to look like a pirate, but I’m not here to explain it. If you have a picture of this phenomenon, please send it my way! I wish I had the drawing skills to illustrate it, but just know that this look is as ridiculous to my American eyes as it sounds.
While I recognize that each of the items in this list may not be exclusively Basque things, find someone with a few of these characteristics and there’s a good chance they might be Basque.
- You Know You’re Basque American When… (hellabasque.com)