My Life as a Gringo at a Hispanic Ad Agency

27 September 2018
By: Jeffrey Reichel (Copywriter)

It’s 10:30 am on a Thursday, and amidst the sporadic chatter filling the room, I hear someone yell, “Gregorio!” Two years ago, that name wouldn’t have received a reaction from me, but this is my new reality. I am Gregorio. Inspired by a series of Victoria beer commercials where a gringo makes daft attempts to fit in with his Mexican “friends,” I was aptly dubbed that name within a few days of working at PM3. Since then, I have taken on a multitude of identities at the agency, such as Justafo, Paco, Jeffrito, and the list goes on.

Hi. I’m JEFFREY, and this is my life working at a Multicultural ad agency. To start, let’s address some frequently asked questions. “How did you end up there?” I was originally hired as a freelancer to work on a General Market campaign and meshed well with the team, so they kept me around. “Do you even speak Spanish?” No—not really. My fluency rivals a Taco Bell drive-thru menu. Fortunately, everyone I work with is bilingual, so that helps. “What’s it like working with all Hispanics?” Quit asking questions, and I’ll tell you!

latino advertising pm3 agency gringo at a latino advertising agency

Picture yourself

working abroad, in a place where English is not the preferred language, just absorbing the experience and culture. If you can imagine this, you’ve managed to get a taste of my typical work week. With Hispanic employees from all over the world, PM3 hosts a unique environment for me to make a living. While many of you drive to work in the morning, I might as well be blasting off in a rocket to some foreign planet where everyone speaks different types of Spanish. That’s right. There are over 10 variations of Spanish out there folks, and the second you think you know one word, a Colombian co-worker will tell you it means something very profane to them. My whole day is full of little quirks like these, many of which don’t even phase me anymore.

For example, maybe you’ve witnessed the classic, Hispanic kiss-&-hug greeting before. Please note that seeing it is one thing, but performing it is an entirely different ordeal. When I first started at PM3, it appeared that the everyone from the office had just returned from a decade-long space mission or some other type of incredible journey that would warrant such a passionate greeting. Nope. I quickly learned it was just another casual Monday morning, no different than any other day. However, being “Gregorio,” I wanted to fit in but had one small issue. How do I know which cheek to kiss? Surely, if I could figure out this greeting, I would be that much closer to becoming “one with the tribe.” On the contrary, if I accidentally kiss someone on the lips, that might set me back a few strides. So, I began surveilling everyone’s “morning routine” and came to the consensus that I just have to go for it. I must admit, my initial attempts were about as comfortable to watch as a rhino giving birth. But, nowadays I’ve gotten myself down to two cringeworthy greetings a week. That’s what we call progress my friends.

With the morning routine now less of a concern, there were still plenty of things to figure out. The most obvious obstacle for me being the Spanish language since that’s the primary way to communicate here. It’s oddly similar to the one year I played high school football, a sport I knew nothing about. Despite running around like a cat chasing a laser pointer, I gradually figured it out and managed to get a few touchdowns. In retrospect, that experience was merely a stepping stone for where I’m at today. Now, instead of chatting it up at the cooler when I’m supposed to be in the game—I’ve managed to sit through full meetings that I shouldn’t even be in because I misinterpreted an email. Thanks, Google translate. I’ve also shown up to work when the office was closed because I saw an email announcement in mostly Spanish and figured it wasn’t for me. Needless to say, I can relate to the face-palm emoji on an emotional level.

Humorous shortcomings aside, I’ve come to learn that my Hispanic workplace is far more dynamic than just language, greetings, and lunches that would make Lucifer himself sweat. You see, just as everyone bands together for a good laugh; they also surround around each other, and me, in times of uncertainty and stress. This kind-hearted concern extends to situations outside of work, which makes these people more than co-workers. It makes them family.

multicultural advertising agency gringo resting at hispanic ad agency

As I’ve integrated into my new family, I’ve discovered there is a unified heartbeat that echoes throughout the office.

As I’ve integrated into my new family, I’ve discovered there is a unified heartbeat that echoes throughout the office. Despite everyone’s differences, when someone is having a tough go, that emotion can be felt throughout the space. In these moments I’ve seen a sincerity that goes beyond the typical Hallmark card. People will pull you aside to ask genuine questions and will selflessly offer anything they can to help you. We’ve all heard people claim to give you the shirt off their back, but how many actually would? I can personally attest, that when I went through an unfortunate situation with my car, multiple people at PM3 offered me theirs and I ended up driving my boss’s car for a week. I’d like to say that came as a surprise, but that just isn’t the case.

I see instances of compassion displayed in our office on a daily basis. It happens so consistently, it’s impossible to not let it become a part of you. Never was this selfless attribute more apparent, than when Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Maria. As a multicultural agency, we have a decent amount of people with ties to PR and needless to say, our entire office was shook. But, instead of making a Facebook status, we created the Puerto Recovery initiative.

hispanic ad agency gringo joking at a multicultural advertising agency

This grassroots movement managed to unite hundreds of similar relief efforts in the southeast to successfully distribute millions of supplies to PR. While I played a tiny role in this effort, I saw many Latinos in our office, and throughout the region, undergo many sleepless nights, pouring themselves into this cause. I already know the Hispanic population is huge across the US, but I didn’t expect them to share the same endearing qualities as my Multicultural family.

I’ve realized it’s not just the Hispanics at PM3 that abound with passion and care; it’s their entire culture. Every day, I’m fortunate to work alongside these genuine people. From sharing their food with me at lunch to lending me a car in a tough time, there is something exceptional and inspiring within this very culture. Even on the most difficult days, I can always rely on my work family to get my back and vice versa. So, to summarize what it’s like to work with all Hispanics, I’ll make it simple — It’s a Baja Blast®.

¡Gracias!

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