Sunday, July 03, 2011
Being British I behave like a Brit. I turn up to places on time, I like written information, I don't queue jump and I eat food from every corner of the globe.
I try my best to live an ordinary immigrant life. I keep up with the news, I pay taxes and I vote. I don't speak Spanish much though as I'm paid to speak English and, obviously enough, Maggie and I speak to each other in English. You don't get to practise a lot of Spanish at the supermarket or buying a newspaper and the truth is I'm a bit unsociable anyway trying to avoid small talk in any language.
When I'm with Brits I'm often accused of having gone native. Being only vaguely interested in the news from "back home" or what's just happened on the X Factor is regarded as a venal sin. What do I care about David Cameron's posturings or whether it's a bank holiday? Those things affect me no more and no less than Berlusconi's pronouncements or Bastille day. Not always wanting to go to the quiz or for a roast on Sunday at one of the several expat bars is tantamount to treason.
When I'm with Spaniards they think of me as being as British as pea soupers in London. Lots of Spaniards are remarkably ill informed and firmly believe that fog and high tea are British realities. When I ask about culture, politics or social customs I'm never quite sure whether the simplistic answers I get are because they class me along with the inquisitive five year olds or because simplistic is what they have. I can't recount the number of times I've being asked if I've ever eaten paella. Being spoken to as though I were stupid is a far too common an occurrence.
When I'm in mixed Spanish and British company the Spaniards will corral we Brits into the same corner so that we can talk about dear old Blighty. It never crosses their mind that for many of us Spain is now our one and only home. Spain is where I go to the doctor, get my hair cut, buy bread and tax my car. It's also a place I chose to live and a culture I like and enjoy.
The truth is that I am adrift - no that isn't right - it's more that I'm not quite anchored. Caught between two existences and a bit at a loss in either. My links with the UK are pretty tenuous nowadays and my links with Spain are pretty shaky too. It's the language of course. Brits think I speak good Spanish whilst the Spanish think I'm a gibbering, incomprehensible fool. The quizzical look on the shopkeeper's face as I ask for a juicer. The sheer terror of making a phone call.
Yes, definitely strange