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.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hello bed, hello room

There's one of those professional looking videos that does the rounds on Facebook that I rather like. In it a succession of people walk into a bar and greet nobody in particular. Then someone comes in and sits down at the table without saying a word. There are meaningful looks between the waiters and the bar becomes a little less lively. The bar owner goes over to the customer and asks "Is it that we slept together?" The client immediately grasps what is being said and restores calm and good humour to the bar by saying hello to everyone and no-one in particular.

It's absolutely true. Spaniards say hello to the room. Waiting in a bank or post office you get to greet lots of strangers. Maggie and I were in a hospital waiting room yesterday morning and everyone who came in said hello or good morning as they looked for a space to wait and most people said goodbye too as they came out of the consulting rooms and headed off somewhere else.

I know this is the custom. My trepidation over speaking Spanish does not stretch to problems with saying hello - though there is a little linguistic catch. There is not the usual match between a couple of paired words in the morning greeting - it's not buenas días it's buenos días. Spaniards do the opposite of Britons by shortening, for instance, "good evening" to "good" rather than following the English language habit of cutting "good evening" to "evening". The easy thing about this is that I can avoid this potential arror by simply saying "buenas" and, even better, that easy to say word will work at any time of the day.

There's something though that stops me greeting the room. I have no idea why but it doesn't seem to be just me. I was thinking about it this morning and I'm sure that most Britons who live here, Britons who are well aware of the practice, don't generally follow it either though I'm sure there are exceptions.

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