experiences / study abroad

Handling a surprise: My streetside marriage proposal experience

An aerial view of Sevilla. There's apartment buildings and parks surrounding the bullfighting ring. The river is on the right.

I had a list of things I expected to experience my first time abroad, but a streetside marriage proposal from a stranger on my way home was not one of them. I still have a goodhearted laugh about this story!


Organized litter on a twin sized bed. There are 56 bottle caps of various colors organized by color into rows. There's a green plastic spoon, scrap metal (including 2 keys), a clothes pin, 2 plastic water bottles, a baby thermos, a café cup, 2 green plastic bags, and a white plastic bag. Everything is laid out neatly for the photo.
A collection of litter I picked up during a trip back to my apartment! I kept the café cup.

My route to and from class was the same everyday. I’d leave my apartment in Triana, pass through Plaza de Cuba and over the bridge, turn right down Paseo de las Delicias, go through Parque María Luisa, and head up Calle Brasil. I could leave my apartment by 8:25 AM and get to campus reliably before 9.

I would take the same route home in reverse afterwards and pick up litter along the way (pictured!). It was a great system, and I never felt unsafe taking the same route every day. Finding a routine sated the autistic part of me while also preventing me from having to pull out my map. The journey down de las Delicias and through the park was beautiful, too!

Other than giving a tourist directions, I did not speak with anyone on my commute. I popped in my earbuds and listened to Lindsey Stirling accent my walk with her violin. Plenty of opportunities to take photos arose because Sevilla is full of beautiful scenes.

Early July, 2021 – Paseo de las Delicias

One particular school day, I was taking my usual route home down Paseo de las Delicias. I was walking back next to Sevilla’s main river, the Guadalquivir, when a man on a bike appeared. He rode along the sidewalk in the bike lane against traffic, saying how much he loved my blonde hair and that I’m beautiful. I was stunned and came to a stop because I’d never been called after like this before. I’m not conventionally beautiful, so it caught me off guard.

A photo of a street. The sky above is blue and cloudless. On the left side, there's a visible part of the Mercadona logo above the Mercadona, and next to it is a beautiful church with old architecture. On the right are clusters of apartment buildings. The closest apartment cluster is white and has minty blue-green accents on the lowest floor. Closer to the camera, a red light hangs above the street from the right side, almost out of view. To the left of the street is an unlit street light.
Calle Pagés del Corro outside of my apartment, part of my route to class

Too shocked to come up with a Spanish response, I thanked him in English. It turned out to be a mistake on my part, but I was too nervous to think about it. Instead of saying something in Spanish and the conversation ending, I had gotten his attention. As I continued my route home, he shouted back in accented English, “wait, you are from England, no?”

I told him I was not, that I was from the States, which piqued his interest even more. He started raving about how beautiful America must be, and that I am very lucky. At this point, I’m anxious to leave this conversation and kept walking. This is not because I felt unsafe– there were people all around me as de las Delicias is a very prominent street in Sevilla. I was self-conscious about being this stranger’s center of attention, and people were staring as they passed. Regardless, the admittedly attractive stranger kept up on his bike, still going the wrong way.

The moment

Then, he proposed to me. He said he was from North Africa and in Sevilla for work, and that we’d marry. He said we could “come to Spain anytime” and that I could take him back to the States when I go back home. At this point in my trip, I was homesick and not having any serious thoughts about staying in Spain. I also had the words ‘sex trafficking’ tattooed on my brain courtesy of my parents. Needless to say, I was ready to take off.

A photo taken on a bridge overlooking the Guadalquivir. It shows a blue sky with small, whispy clouds towards the lower part of the sky. The Torre del Oro is on the right by the water's edge. White passenger boats line the edge of the water. Green trees follow the coastline.
Going over the bridge from Plaza de Cuba to Paseo de las Delicias

“I’ll add me to your Whatsapp, okay?” he said as he grabbed my phone from my hand. This caused me to panic internally for a second that he was going to ride off with it, and he totally could have. Plus, he had caught me switching playlists, so it was unlocked! As I’m learning that my fight or flight response had chosen freeze for this encounter, he texted himself from my Whatsapp. He continued to try to convince me about how well he’d treat me, and my phone was returned to my hand.

It felt nice having gotten a guy’s attention, but Americans are not this forward, so my heart was hammering. I couldn’t help but be wary while still appreciating his kindness, especially since it felt everything was happening at once. I nervously told him I was flattered but that I couldn’t accept. He didn’t push the marriage proposal topic. Instead, he asked, “well I can text you and we can get to know each other, yeah?”

The option of getting to know this stranger long distance satisfied my anxiety. I pulled a half-lie about being late to meet someone, and headed on my way. To my relief, he rode off going the right way instead of against traffic this time.

Recommended reading: The Great Escape: How I decided to leave the USA for Spain

To this day, I still receive brief but persistent Whatsapp messages once every few months about how much he misses me. Sometimes they are simple “I miss yous,” while other times he sends me random YouTube videos. Other than the study program staff, this stranger is the only contact I’ve managed to communicate with since the trip.

He was no threat and was very kind, and obviously from a culture where people are more forward, so I didn’t feel too threatened. At least, after the fact once the initial shock wore off. The situation might have been different if he had caught me in a less crowded part of the city, though, such as my apartment block!

Maybe if we had met at one of Sevilla’s lively riverside bars or cafés, he could have had the slightest chance at the relationship he was looking for, ha ha! That is, if his main goal weren’t to marry for a visa.

A gif of a Black man sipping a green beverage out of a green straw in a plastic cup. He's looking side to side with a smile on his face.

This encounter was one of the key interactions I had in Spain that influenced me to dive a bit more deeply in learning about cultural differences. As I researched and observed, I became more and more aware of how Spaniards interact with each other. Knowing the culture also helped me connect more with the language, which was great for a night out with classmates!

The study program staff thought it was very funny! I hope you guys found it to be at least a little entertaining, and maybe a nice break from the NALCAP series. The NALCAP series resumes next time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! See you in the next.


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