23 Signs You Grew Up Basque [BuzzFeed]


I decided to do a little something different this weekend. I wrote up a list on BuzzFeed called 23 Signs You Grew Up Basque. Please check it out and share it with your social networks. Like it, tweet it, comment on it, and/or post it on Facebook.

Also, at the bottom of the post, you can click those little Your Reaction icons to move it up in the BuzzFeed lists. As always, thanks for your continued support!


Dance Floor Etiquette

With the Basque Cultural Center‘s big party this weekend (which apparently is a secret on the internet because I couldn’t find a link to the program), let’s go over some simple rules for the dance floor.

1. Leave your drink to the side

While cans are definitely less risky than cups, please leave your beverages off the dance floor. Especially if you have a cup, for the love of the children please set it down. Don’t be that person who spills their kalimotxo all over a middle schooler. It’s very bad form.

2. No smoking

By the same token, don’t bring your cigarettes onto the dance floor. Accidentally burning people is not the way to Carnegie Hall.

3. If you’re leading, lead. If you’re following, follow.

This may seem basic, but for some of us it’s harder said than done. Pushy girls like me often had to dance the boys’ parts at dance practice due to an abundance of girls, so it can be hard to retrain your brain and feet. I’ve literally had a boy yell at me in frustration, “Will you let me lead?” That was awkward.

Avoid moments like that if you can. Playing your part will minimize the chance of stepping on the other person’s feet or bumping into each other.

4. Young ones, try not to bump into old ones.

I know we all get excited during Polka Pik, crashing into friends like we’re in bumper cars. But do your best not to bash into people not playing the same game. Also avoid bumping into people you don’t know. Dancing is safer and more enjoyable for everyone that way.

5. If someone doesn’t want to dance with you, be gracious about it.

You already know why I turn people down, but there could be a million reasons why someone else would. Don’t jump to conclusions and take it personally. Just find someone else to dance with.

What would you add to this list?

12 Reasons to Go to a Basque Festival

1. Make friends


Basque festivals are a great place to meet people and strengthen ties with those you already know. Long afternoons give you lots of time to get to know people.

2. Eat delicious food

Gardnerville lunch

Try the lamb. It’s always exquisitely seasoned, and there’s usually lots of it. Meals are usually meat-heavy, so vegetarians proceed with caution and vegans stay home.

3. Have drinks you can’t find at American bars

Star Hotel T-shirt

Drink Kalimotxos and Picon Punches to your heart’s content at Basque events. The bartender will actually know what you’re talking about.

4. Speak Basque or hear it spoken

Need to brush up on your Basque? There will be plenty of people to converse with. If you’re just a linguistics nerd, come to listen to this language isolate.

5. Socialize with free day care

Chantal + Joana

Everyone looks out for people’s kids at these events. The little ones happily run around with their new friends, but they always come back to mommy and daddy if they get hurt, tired, or hungry.

6. Watch Basque dance performances

Like folk dancing? Think kids dressed up in traditional costumes is adorable? Then a Basque festival is the place for you, as virtually every one involves a dance performance.

7. Polka, waltz, and fandango the night away


If you’re old school at heart, Basque festivals are the place to release your inner ballroom dancer.

8. Play mus or learn how to play


Unless you set up your own card tournaments, you probably don’t get much opportunity to play this Basque poker-esque card game. It can be hard to play on your own since the game requires four players, but you’re bound to find others to partner up with at a Basque event.

9. Catch up on the latest gossip


Sometimes the most exciting part of a Basque festival is hearing what other people have been up to. You hear a lot of interesting things by sitting around all day.

10. Try your hand at the txingas competition

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

You think you’re a tough guy? Prove it! See how far you can lift those heavy weights and maybe earn yourself some bragging rights.

11. Sing at the bar

Let go of your inhibitions! You’re among friends. Basques love to sing, especially after a big meal and a few drinks. If someone starts a tune and you know the words, join in! If it’s new to you, belt out some heartfelt la-la-las.

12. Volunteer


There’s always plenty of work that needs to be done at a Basque festival. Help out with food prep, bartending, serving, selling tickets, setting up tables and chairs, and breaking it all down at the end of the day. Find out who’s running the show and offer your services!

An Open Letter to my French Cousins


I get the feeling from your side of the family that you’re disappointed at how Basque I am. At how much pride I take in Basque traditions, and how little I know about the region of France my grandparents came from.

In my defense, I’d like to explain to you why growing up Basque was so much better than growing up French in San Francisco. I hope at the end of this post, you will understand. It’s nothing personal. I was just exposed to so many more Basque social events than French ones.

Perks of a French Upbringing:

1. Speaking French as a first language

I have to admit, this one’s pretty cool. I get to communicate with my extended family in France, I have an easier time traveling around Europe, and I get to read a lot of great poetry and literature in its original language. (Hi. I’m a lit nerd.)

Watching The Lion King (a.k.a. Le roi lion) in French–not so cool. I seriously didn’t see the original version until I was an adult. Such a deprived, privileged childhood, I know. I don’t feel sorry for me either.

2. Eating delicious food

It’s no wonder I was such a tubby child, with all of the croissants, pains au chocolat, and pâté I consumed in my early years. I love food, so growing up eating French food was pretty sweet.

Here, I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t think of any other reasons why being French American in San Francisco was awesome. So let’s just get started on why growing up Basque was so much more fun.

Perks of a Basque Upbringing:

1. Instant friends!

Going to the Basque Cultural Center every few months for a holiday lunch and getting to play with the same kids in the Kids’ Room between courses lays the foundation for friendship. Then you get old enough to join the dance group or get involved in handball and pala, and those friendships are set.

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve known a bunch of people your whole life and you see them all the time. While school friends may come and go, Basque friends are forever. You always know someone when you go to a Basque event, even if you haven’t been in years.

2. Parties all the time!

Like I said, Basque clubs host a party for every holiday. And if you’ve been reading this blog, you know all about Basque summer picnics and how awesome they are. There’s practically one every weekend from May to September! Growing up Basque provides no shortage of parties.

3. Summer camp!

The North American Basque Organization’s annual Basque summer camp, Udaleku, brings together Basque kids between the ages of 10 and 15 from all over the American West. It’s two weeks of having fun, making friends, and trying new things. If you don’t have many friends in your local Basque club, Udaleku gives you the chance to make plenty.

I’d say a big chunk of my current friendship were solidified at Udaleku.

4. Folk dancing!

Although I spent a lot of my youth complaining about how I hated going to Basque dance practice every weekend, I really loved it. Folk dancing is such a random, interesting activity for an American kid to grow up with.

When it came time for the dances of Basque festivals, I had favorite dances, knew all the steps, and had a fantastic time. It’s impossible to be bored at a Basque festival if you know how to dance!

There you have it. Growing up immersed in Basque culture and community gave me lasting friendships, priceless memories, and unique experiences on a much greater scale than growing up French.

So sorry if I tell people I’m Basque before French. Sorry if I forget to mention I’m French at all. It’s cool to be different. And being Basque is definitely that.



23 Tried and True Ways to Piss Off Your Aita

1. Go out with your friends, especially during family dinner time.



2. Don’t get Straight A’s on your report card.



3. Mess up your room and keep it messy.


4. Get in a car accident.


5. Don’t tell him things about your life, but tell your mom and sister.


6. Talk to your mom more than you talk to him.


7. Go on vacation with your mom and leave him at home to watch the cat. Maybe forget to call him one day too.


8. Decide to move to Europe. Or just decide to move out.

Why You Want to Leave Me?

9. Decide to go traveling instead of working toward your master’s degree.


10. Get a spa treatment.


 11. Get something pierced.


12. Tell him you’re sharing a hotel room with a boy for a Basque festival weekend away.

The Lord is Testing Me

13. Go on vacation with your boyfriend.


14. Get engaged to a non-Basque.

 15. Say “I love you” to your cat more often than you say it to him.

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

16. Tell him his piperade omelette looks gross and refuse to try it.


17. Forget it’s time for an oil change.

Shane Dawson Pissed Off

18. Only wash your car twice a year. Refuse to let him take it to the car wash for you. Because you’re independent.


19. Forget his birthday.


20. Tell relatives things about your nuclear family that he wanted to keep private.


21. Accidentally lock yourself out of the house.


22. Ask him to clean up after himself.


23. Write about him in your blog.



My response to it all:


My Love/Hate Relationship with the Basque Country

While I’m proud of my Basque heritage, my trips to the Basque Country have always been bittersweet, usually leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. There are so many things to love about the Basque Country, but there are also a lot of aspects of the culture I could do without. I want to share both of these with you, because I know several other Basque Americans share my ambivalence.

Before people chime in with comments about my view of the Basque Country being completely off, let me preface these lists by pointing out that my main experience of the Basque Country has been on family trips. As such, most of my time in the Basque Country has been spent visiting (older) relatives on farms and in rural communities in Behenafarroa. I have never lived in the Basque Country, and I definitely see it as an outsider.

I cannot speak for the entire Basque Country, but here are my observations of the small pocket I have experienced.

I love:

  • The food
    I swear everyone comes back from the Basque Country at least five pounds heavier, because the food is amazing. Visiting people’s homes, they’re happy to share with you all of the homemade pâté and foie gras you can eat. And don’t even get me started on my aunt’s homemade sausages!

    Even the non-Basque food isn’t too bad. I had fried egg on a pizza for the first time at Zubiondoa in Ossès/Ortzaize, and now I have to eat it (la reine, I think it is?) every time I visit the Basque Country. The Chinese buffet outside of Bayonne also greatly exceeded my expectations.

    Literally, I feel like all I do when I visit the Basque Country is eat. After a week-long trip of sitting around for hours gobbling down course after course, I ate nothing but crackers for two days straight when I got home. I could not imagine wanting to eat ever again. (Leave it to the American to binge eat her way through a vacation!)

  • Marché day
    Aita at bar des americains
    Every Monday in St. Jean-pied-de-port and every Friday in St. Palais. That’s the schedule, and you don’t mess with it. I think marché days have always been sacred for me, because they bring all of the tourists and locals out of the woodwork. Visiting in the summer, you’re bound to run into at least one Basque American family you know from back home.

    The shops and stalls are super cute, and I love watching my aita reunite with all of his old friends and enemies in the bars. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting down at the bar’s outdoor seating for a drink between a petit tour of the shopping and the afternoon pilota match.

  • The sceneryCountrysideAnyone who’s seen pictures of the Basque Country can tell you it’s a gorgeous country. Lush green mountains, adorably picturesque towns, beautiful coastlines. The Pyrenees have innumerable trails to hike through, and I could take pictures of Basque farmhouses for days.
  • The history
    St. Jean-pied-de-port
    The Basque Country has so much amazing history! Plenty of old buildings to explore and historical sites to visit. I haven’t seen nearly as many as I would like, but I’m definitely going back one day for more. For history buffs, the Basque Country is a fascinating region to visit.
  • The bestas
    While I wish I had more young Basque friends to go around to the summer bestas with, the few I have experienced have been memorable. I love the idea of these small towns coming together to host activities and dances for one weekend, creating a big outdoor party for everyone to enjoy. The community spirit of it all is so quaint, and I love how similar the dances are to those at Basque American festivals.
  • Seeing familiar faces on people I don’t know
    Even though I know very few people in the Basque Country, whenever I go out to the marchés and bestas I see countless familiar faces. I feel a surreal sense of being at home when I see strangers who look like friends and family from our Basque American communities. It solidifies for me a real sense of identity and belonging, that this is the land my father came from.

Now for the rest…

I hate:

  • The fact that everyone knows who I am, but I have no idea who anyone is
    It’s a little unsettling to walk through a village with people’s eyes following me. They all know I’m the American. Pretty much everyone knows who I’m related to, how long I’m visiting, and why I’m there. They talk to me like they know me, but I’ve never seen them before in my life.
  • The lack of guard rails on narrow, windy mountain roads
    That shit is terrifying! I’ve prayed the hardest in my life on car rides through the Pyrenees. It doesn’t help that whoever’s driving usually loves to tell me all about the people who have crashed and died on the road we’re traveling on. People get their kicks at the petrified American’s expense.
  • People making comments about my body
    Some trips they say I’m too fat (in French, costaud which Google translates to “beefy”), others I’m too skinny. Either way, their judgment of my weight affects how they talk to me over food. If people think I’m too big, they make jokes if I help myself to seconds. If they say I’m too thin, they pressure me to eat food far beyond my comfort level.

    I’m sure they’re just concerned, but I could do without so much attention on my size. It could make a girl insecure…

  • Anti-American sentiment and political discussions
    Why people think it’s cool to talk about U.S. politics to us over the dinner table, I don’t know. Different cultures, I guess. Since I was raised to not talk about politics in polite company, I find it very uncomfortable when people bring up what’s going on in American politics–especially because I usually disagree with them.

    A lot of my relatives have expressed disapproval of whoever is President of the United States at the time of my visit. Which brings me to my next gripe…
  • Casual racism and xenophobia
    So much hatred of gypsies! Distain for British families buying vacation homes in the Basque Country. Jokes about how ridiculous it was that a black man in the marché spoke Basque. And my uncle literally named his black and white cat Obama. Because that’s so funny.Coming from the Bay Area, it’s a little shocking how little comments here and there add up to create such a negative landscape against anyone who is different.
  • Partying until the break of dawn (sometimes much later still)
    I know, I know. Call me boring, call me an old lady, but I’m a morning person and I hate staying up late. For a good party, I’ll stay out until 4:00, but 7:00 AM? That’s a little much. Staying out that late (or early, I guess) completely messes with my sleep schedule for days and makes me physically sick. I would much prefer starting the party earlier and getting to bed while it’s still night.
  • Over-hospitality and marathon meals
    Summer vacation Europe 2011 047
    People are major food pushers in the Basque Country. I have yet to find the balance of accepting enough servings of food to satisfy (i.e. not insult) my hosts and not stuffing my face to the point that I hate myself.

    Not only do people insist I eat a ton of food, they also insist I drink. People definitely give me a hard time for not drinking alcohol, but they certainly look at me like an alien if all I want to drink is water. Is it so hard to accept that I like to stay hydrated and save my calories for the foie gras?

    On top of the over-hospitality, I dread six hour sit down meals. Getting together with family to share a meal is not a simple affair. Course after course after course gets served so slowly that by the end of the dinner my butt’s asleep in the chair. I know Basque culture can be very anti-fast food, but does it have to be so pro-slow food?

Bring on the comments! What do you love and hate about the Basque Country?

10 Ways to Spot a Basque

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.

Photo Credit: arditegia.com

Photo Credit: arditegia.com

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

Credit: reactiongifs.com

Photo Credit: reactiongifs.com

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.

Photo Credit: Project 44 - Eve and Adam

Photo Credit: Project 44 – Eve and Adam

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

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

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?

7. Rosacea

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

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

Photo Credit: Scott Larsen

Photo Credit: Scott Larsen

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.