Recently Amanda and I discussed how often we have been put in a very awkward type of social situation while in Spain. The scenario, at least for us, has happened without fail while in Laredo, especially while at our schools. It occurs when you are speaking with an acquaintance or colleague. During your conversation or interaction, a stranger to you, but a friend/acquaintance of whom you were talking to walks up. Instead of being introduced to the stranger by your acquaintance, your friend fails to introduce you and leaves you de facto out of the new conversation with the stranger. It’s a total non-introduction.
Without a proper introduction, you’re left feeling awkward and slightly belittled. The person you know begins a conversation without you and you don’t know what to do. Do you step up and listen in on the new conversation, step aside and stay out of it, or just go on and leave your own discussion unfinished? Without that introduction I just usually go on and forget what I was saying. But then again, if I was in the middle of something important, I might wait around to finish it. Of course there’s always the option of just introducing yourself and casually blaming your acquaintance for not having done so, which can be pulled off pretty smoothly by someone slick, but proves (at least for me) rather difficult, especially in a foreign language. In English I can follow every word of a conversation and know the body language and social clues. In Spanish between two native-speakers, it’s still pretty easy for me to get lost in a conversation, especially when they are telling inside jokes or speaking in Cántabro (not a language, just local expressions or vocabulary). So I forget the idea of just butting into a conversation and pulling out my own introduction.
With the awkwardness of what to do, you also face a sense of insignificance. By not giving you an introduction, the other person has excluded you and thus intentionally or unintentionally said you are not that important to know this person. I think this situation usually is not intentional. But it really is amazing how I can feel belittled by not being introduced and left out of a conversation.
What’s so sad is that this dilemma can be solved so easily by the person who is the common link between the two strangers. The common acquaintance can easily say, “Manuel, this is Andrew, the English assistant this year. Andrew, Manuel teaches science.” With even that little, you can jump in a conversation and not feel weird about it. It doesn’t require much, but it does require being pretty aware of who you are around.
While this scenario has happened to us a lot in Spain, I’m not saying that the non-introduction is a Spanish custom or norm. I think it happens a lot in Spain, but I think it also happens in the USA. At any rate, it’s rude and usually won’t be forgotten easily by the person offended. It’s best just to introduce someone and continue.