Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In a bad mood

I'm going to complain about Spaniards, or rather about Spanish behaviour, so, if you're Spanish and you're easily offended this is one entry to skip.

We were in the Mercadona supermarket car park in Yecla. It's a tricky little car park, all wrong angles and sturdy pillars. As we stowed away our purchases I noticed that the car across the way was getting ready to leave. Another car turned the corner and could easily have waited for us both to go - reversing lights and open doors on the car were a dead give-away as to our intentions. But no, this bloke couldn't possibly wait a few seconds to make it easier for him and easier for us. He had to plough on blocking both of us from leaving. As the newcomer began to manoeuvre into the free space next to me he was within centimetres of bumping into my car. I didn't know where the horn was but I found it just in time. He decided to do a circuit and let us both go.

A little later we were at the "Feria de la Tapa" - lots of stalls selling lots of snacks. Spaniards and eating definitely go together. I usually enjoy the crowds, the life, the hustle and bustle but today it just seemed that everyone was determined to slam into me. I was standing quietly at a counter waiting to get some michirones. I wasn't looking forward to asking, I was sure that, given my mood even the simplest phrase would elude me and I was cross with myself because of that. Suddenly a fat, fifty something woman purposely barged into me in an attempt to get past me and to the front. I repulsed the first onslaught and with a quick shoulder movement sent her staggering backwards. She just picked the wrong moment. She's probably complaining on her blog about the rude foreigners as I type.

Obviously these are a couple of isolated events but I've been noticing a certain disregard for other people recently. For instance, years of training means that I tend to give way at doorways and hold doors open for people. It upsets me that Spaniards don't. It upsets me that, door in hand, people behind me take the opportunity to push past or that the person crossing the threshold decides to stop mid manoeuvre to turn and chat to their friend who is following behind. I learned years ago that Spaniards seldom say thank you for such a common courtesy but there is something extra disrespectful about being discourteous in the face of courtesy. It's the same on zebra crossings when people purposely dawdle as they cross - as though they are fingering their nose at you.

Maybe it is a difference between their tribe and mine or it could just be because I'm a grumpy old man who has been in a bad mood all day.


claire said...

Oh Chris!! You are such a gentleman. If it makes you feel any better we would gladly exchange your wonderful fiesta experiences and all that wonderful drama of the Spanish culture for daily life at St Ivo. When I browse your photos I can't believe how much they put into all of that commmunity. Maybe this makes them a little distracted and single minded at other times. I know I'm trying to make you love them all again! is it working? We are so suffering from withdrawal symptoms I don't think we are going to get there until August! You can alway come and stay here with us for a bit if you fancy some English manners. We'll look after you both. With love Claire XX

Chris Thompson and Maggie Brocken said...

Claire: I'm sure that you know it was just a blip. Living in Spain is something I have no regrets about at all. Every day a mini adventure.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Chris.

Thanks for keeping up these blogs. I was given to understand that Spaniards don’t say “please” and “thank you” as often as, for example, as Brits might under the same circumstances. However, I was also given to understand that Spaniards very frequently give a kind of general “hola”, “buenas tardes”, etc. upon entering elevators, shops, etc. I was wondering what your experience has been in this regard in Spain, and if it’s something that is also common, in your experience, in the U.K. If this is not something that you’re generally used to doing in the U.K., how has it been trying to adopt this habit in Spain?


Chris Thompson and Maggie Brocken said...

True indeed. Lots of Spaniards give a general greeting as they enter shops, restaurants, post offices and the like. Maggie particularly likes the "enjoy your meal" that the majority of Spaniards say as they pass close to your restaurant table. Not things I've encountered very often in the UK.

I think the courtesy of please and thank you is often expressed in other ways - for instance by the use of the polite, usted, verb form as distinct, from the informal, tú, form.

Anonymous said...

We don't say "Thank you" as often. In fact, we find quite unnecessary and funny the hundreds of "thank yous" you say per day. Cultural shock.
Most of us find your English Manners too exagerated, and cold, and false, and elusive. Most of you are truly elusive people who only deal with people like yourselves. And most of you criticize the Spaniards as if all of us were rude and impolite people while all of you were the Queen of England. When all of us know that is not true.
The good thing is nor all of you nor all of us are the same.