No pasa nada. Literal translation: nothing happened.
Throughout my time in Spain, this three-letter phrase has become my favorite.
If I had a dollar for every time that I heard this saying during a typical day, I would have enough money to buy a gooping-hot, chocolate-y Napolatina every morning for the rest of my life. Enough money to ride the tram to and from the Spanish university two times a day. Enough money to take advantage of all of the sales that take place at the end of January in Spain.
To give a little context, let me spell out for you all that this wonderful phrase encompasses:
If you accidentally spill your drink at dinner, no pasa nada. If you come home at six in the morning and accidentally hit the doorbell instead of the hallway light, no pasa nada. If you get lost on a morning run and miss your class, no pasa nada.
(Yes, these are all things that I had done while in Spain. It has definitely been a learning process.)
But really, I think the Spanish are on to something here with this oh-so-casual expression. Reflecting the calmer and more relaxed Spanish culture, this colloquial phrase is like a breath of fresh air, in lieu of the harried, frantic air that most Americans seem to breathe.
Everything moves just a little bit slower. And if something doesn’t go according to plan, that is OK. It’s not the end of the world (despite what many Americans might think).
For instance, instead of grabbing a venti iced-coffee (for that imperative morning caffeine boost) and going, with Palm Pilot and Bluetooth earpiece in tow, Spaniards sit down and chat over coffee, enjoying their drink and one another’s company.
They don’t do things for the “likes” they can get; they do things because they like to. They don’t fill up every single minute of their schedules because it “looks good”; they sprinkle their schedules with things that will make them feel good.
The Spaniards take a few minutes to actually smell the roses, if you will, instead of just quickly snapping a photo of said roses to later post on Instagram.
In other words, this culture embodies another favorite phrase of mine: carpe diem – seize the day.