Scribbler in Seville

Nine things I’ve learned while living in Spain

 

 

If you live here too, you may have experienced some of these quirks – and learned how to deal with them; and if you don’t – well, it’s a little insight into living in this intense, upside-down part of the world.

Some of these may be peculiar to Seville, in which case I’d love to hear what experiences other people have had in different cities around Spain.

1) Sales assistants are not there to help you (as if!)

If you have the temerity to walk into a shop and interrupt the dependiente (shop assistant)’s in-depth conversation with her colleague about the new boots/haircut/boyfriend she’s got her eye on, don’t expect a welcoming smile. At best: a scathing glare. At worst: you’ll be ignored. Similarly, if you’re bold enough to ask them for assistance – availability of item in different size/colour – you’ll be met with a bald “No!” – As in, “No, I don’t know if we have it”, “No, I’m not going to look”, and “No, I don’t care if I’m being unhelpful. You interrupted Carmen telling me about her hot date last night. Now get out of my face, guiri.” One well-known department store (the clue is in the photo) is especially notorious for the baaad-assed attitude of its sales ladies.

What not to say: “So, what did you really want to be? Before you became a sales assistant?”

2) Read it and weep (and then call to complain)

Scour your bank transactions (they send you a little slip for each individual one here, rather than a monthly statement like in the UK – an environmental crime by any standards) for strange, inexplicable transactions or fees. Banks often trying to slip charges in unnoticed, relying on people not reading those little stashes of paper carefully. If you query such a fee, it will often be refunded immediately and without argument. The same goes for phone bills – you can be unwittingly signed up, and charged, for premium services which add tens of euros to your monthly bill. Call and they’ll cancel them, no problem. However with traffic fines, it’s a different story – they can be taken out of your bank account without your permission or even knowledge (embargar la cuenta), and it is virtually impossible to get them refunded. In short: watch all bills like a hawk, and if in doubt, call and query.

What not to say: “You’re doing this on purpose because I’m foreign and therefore rich, stupid and fair game, aren’t you?”

3) Thank you kindly

Social etiquette is very different here – don’t expect notes of thanks for presents or parties, or even replies to invitations. I’ve hosted barbeques where I’ve been expecting anything from 10 to 25 people –  an interesting catering challenge. And when I invited 25 school friends to my son’s fifth birthday, with an RSVP and phone number underlined, how many mothers do you think replied? One – and she’s German. If I do get a note/email/phone call to thank afterwards, I am overwhelmed with delight. (My own efficiency in sending thank yous to family back in the UK has become correspondingly sloppy.)

What not to say: “Oh, sorry, you didn’t reply, so I assumed you weren’t coming.”

Credit: Alan Cleaver under Creative Commons licence

Credit: Alan Cleaver/Flickr under Creative Commons licence

4) Be fashionably late

Don’t turn up on time when meeting people socially – you’ll be standing around for at least half an hour. The Andalucian idea of time is, to put it politely, elastic. And once you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know that if you’re meeting your girlfriends for tapas at 9pm, don’t even think about arriving until after 9.30pm, or you’ll be nursing a glass of wine on your tod and trying to avoid eye contact with the opposite sex (or not, depending). In case your friends are even later than anticipated, a book or smartphone will keep you from looking conspicuously stood-up (or just sad and desperate).

What not to say: “But we said 9pm! You’re half an hour late!”

5) Run that by me again

Don’t be surprised if people sneer at you with a contemptuous expression when you try to communicate in their language (“¿QUE?”) – such rudeness is, sadly, normal. I still haven’t got used to it. Now I’m not saying my Spanish is perfect, and my accent is not great either, but their inability to comprehend me is more down to their lack of effort in trying to do so, than in my poor command of the local language.

What not to say: “I’m sorry my Spanish is so bad, it must be terrible for you trying to understand me.”

6) Mama rules in la cocina. End of story

Don’t be shocked if, when eating in a family home, the mother doesn’t sit down at the table and eat her meal with you. She will make sure everyone else has their food, before eating herself. Extraordinary but true. The first time I ate at my suegra’s house, I got up after I’d finished, to take my plate into the kitchen. She looked at me and said, “I’ll do that,” in such a way that I realised I’d crossed a boundary, and so I didn’t make the same mistake again. And you certainly don’t offer to help with the cooking, which is taken as an insult about her abilities in the kitchen. And never, ever imply, even in jest, that a Spanish woman’s culinary skills are anything other than exemplary. Every Spanish man says his mother’s gazpacho is the best ever – don’t even bother arguing, it’s not worth it – it’s his sacred place.

What not to say: “Is it me, or is this a bit overdone?”

(Unfortunately us non-Spanish don’t get anything as snazzy as the electronic DNI – just a scruffy piece of paper.)

7) Copy copy copy, check check check

If you’re going to any government office – Social Security, Registry, Hacienda (tax office) – triple-check you have all essential documents before leaving, such as ID (DNI, passport, birth certificate), Certificado de Empadronamiento (recent). Similarly, whenever applying for any job/school/nursery/course/benefit take at least five photocopies of all essential documents (the originals will be signed in blue, so you know which they are). And a book. And a bottle of water. You’ll be waiting in the queue for a while. Also, when collecting an official document, read it carefully before you sign it, to make sure the essential information is correct. A friend had her baby’s birth certificate filled out with her husband’s two surnames, rather than his first one, then her own. So her baby’s name is legally wrong. This short film about someone visiting the Seguridad Social office to register as autonoma (freelance) is very funny. An exagguration of all the paperwork needed, perhaps, but you get the point. (Thanks to Ben for giving me the link, as I couldn’t find it.)

What not to say: “Oops, I forgot to bring a copy. Why don’t you take the original?”

Credit: Black Country Museum/Flickr under Creative Commons licence

Credit: Black Country Museums/Flickr under Creative Commons licence

During the eight years I’ve lived here in Spain, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been jaw-droppingly astonished at the unfathomably strange behaviour of people here in various everyday situations.

8) Pull on your red… boots, baby

In Spain, as soon as November arrives, there’s a little-known piece of legislation which dictates that all Spanish women must discard their shoes and put on boots. Long, short, flat, high-heeled – every female will have her legs encased in leather for the next four months. Even if it’s sunny and 20 degrees. No, it’s winter, therefore it’s “cold” (er, no it’s not), and therefore I wear my boots. That is all.

What not to say: “Don’t your feet get a bit sweaty in this heat?”

9) Don’t be a litter lout – even if they are

Dropping litter is a national sport in Spain. Watch any person – child, middle-aged or elderly – eating in the street, and I’ll bet you my local rubbish container they drop the wrapper on the ground. Not sneakily or with any shame, just straight-out. No bad conscience, because such behaviour is not ill-thought-of here – they’re used to dropping pistachio shells and those teeny weeny napkins on the floor of tapas bars. Litter bins are just for decoration.

What not to say: (Pointing to rubbish bin) “Ever seen one of those? Know what it’s for?”

Are there any aspects of Spanish customs which you find particularly strange, annoying or hard to understand? Tell me!

106 thoughts on “Nine things I’ve learned while living in Spain

  1. Reg of The Spain Scoop

    I hear you on the ‘no response’ rule. I’ve had lots of parties and dinners and it’s hard to know who is coming, and harder not to take it personally! Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. My partner is Spanish and he HATES being late. I’m the late one.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Reg, the classic for me was my son’s last birthday party, when I invited his entire class (26 kids), as everyone else does, wrote RSVP on the invitation with my phone number, and got one call – from a German mum!

  2. matxil

    I live in Barcelona, and I recognize a lot of these points. Two comments however. The lack of client service, at least in Barcelona, is not only true for shop assistents, but in general for any job where clients are involved. Waiters of restaurants are almost always rude, let you wait for half an hour at least, don’t bring what you ordered and the bill is never right (and you can guess in whose advantage). (I summarised a few of my experiences here: dinzo.wordpress.com/guidetohell/) However, in Andalucia, this might be a bit better.
    Secondly, the language thing, I am sorry to say, is true for the Spanish, but just as much for the Dutch or the English. Spanish people in Holland have complained about Dutch people apparantly not wanting to understand them and also English people can seem that way. The way of reacting might be different, Spanish are more direct, Dutch people are even more blunt, English might express it more politely (“excuse me, could you repeat that please?” instead of ¿que?), but I think it really comes down to the fact that a word slightly pronounced differently might sound very different for native ears. (Compare Spanish people asking the way to the “bitch”).

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Hi Matxil, funinily enough, service in restaurants here is usually excellent, providing you know where to go – quick and efficient, if not warm and friendly. It’s one of the things I love about eating out in Seville: I know my food will (almost always) arrive quickly. Re pronunciation, yes, you’re right – change the vowel length a teeny bit and it’s a whole different word. But I still feel my hackles rising, even after eight years, when they say that and look so murderous with it. As does everyone else I know here, even those who’ve been here for 20 years!

  3. Frank Burns

    ….having both lived in Spain and visited the country many, many times, I recognise everything you describe, and I even learned to ‘play the game’ as the locals did. There used to be the accepted habit of clicking your fingers, or even hissing, to attract the waiter’s attention across the (usually) very noisy dining room. For an English person, it feels very rude………but it is very effective!
    Adjusting your mentality to accept these cultural differences makes life so much easier……..I found myself not only adjusting, but actually celebrating these differences (and that is a very un-English thing to say!).

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Frank, I remember my Dad saying “Garcon!” in restaurants in France when I was a child, and I found that bad enough. You’re right about adjusting – I’m fine with being late, it’s the rudeness and laziness I can’t stand, and the slipping hidden charges into bills.

  4. lucy

    I’m always tempted with the litter dropping to run after them and give it back and say innocently “here, you dropped this”. Agree with eci assisstants with one exception; when you’re just looking they won’t leave you alone.

  5. azahar

    Hi Fiona,

    Although I recognise some of your points here, I always cringe a bit at articles written about “look how different THEY are from US”. I mean, you have chosen to live in Spain and of course there will be differences. But, having lived in Spain now for almost 20 years, I’ll go through your points to give you my experience with them.

    1. I don’t find sales assistants any less helpful here than anywhere else I’ve lived. Depends on the store, of course.

    2. I’ve had serious problems with my telephone contract, but never thought it was because I was considered “foreign and rich”.

    3. Canadians don’t usuallly send thank you notes either, so no problem there.

    4. I learned long ago that arriving 15 minutes after the agreed upon time was still considered “on time” here. Generally speaking. Most people I know actually arrive on time.

    5. I had more trouble with people in Bristol pretending they couldn’t understand me – my experience here is that if I make an effort then usually people bend over backwards to communicate with me.

    6. If you ever come to eat at my place – and I hope you will sometime! – you will not go into my kitchen, carry plates or any such nonsense. As for offering to help me with the cooking… ni hablar!

    7. Government offices everywhere are hellish blackholes where time is lost forever… can probably agree with you that Spanish paper-work reaches new levels of Hellish frustration.

    8. This is the great thing about not being Spanish in Spain. I can wear sandals whenever I want! 🙂

    9. My father – in Canada – used to embarrass me to no end by being a litter lout. And I was only 12 at the time. On occasion here I’ve gone “Oye, pick that up!” and they have done so…

    Just to say that you don’t want to come across all Peter Mayle and looking down your nose at how “The Quaint Locals” behave… which you haven’t quite done here. But it’s a slippery slope…

    I think people who live in a different country but still hold on to the idea that their birth country is “home” are more prey to this sort of reflection. Spain became my home as soon as I arrived here, and I never looked back. So I guess I just see things differently. And maybe feel a bit protective/defensive about that whole “them & us” thing. Because for me it’s just US. And that includes you.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Wow, this post got quite a reaction! But then, that’s the whole point of blogs – someone expresses their opinion, and other people make comments.

      The issue of what is “home” is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone can, or should, be told where home is for them; we all feel it in our own hearts. I feeled pulled in both directions – when I go back to my parents’ house where I grew up, it’s very hard to feel that it’s just another house. I’m lucky enough to go back to the UK regularly, and I feel very strongly that my children should have plenty of contact with both their English family (especially elderly grandparents), and English culture, so that when they’re older, they will feel equally comfortable living in either country (the language part seems to be less problematic so far, thankfully).

      So while Azahar, Frank and Family in Spain are all absolutely right that “them and “us” is dangerous, I can’t avoid it. Like Azahar and FIS, I live across the two cultures – reading in both languages, about both countries, and trying to provide my kids with a background in my “home” culture especially, since they can’t get that here. While I do feel this is my home physically – my house is here – emotionally, it’s a different matter. I am torn – perhaps I’m not entirely settled here. Who knows?

      I am, however, horrified that Azahar thinks I look down my nose at anyone. Having met me several times, do you really think this is the case? I would be mortified if any Spanish person thought I treated them that way.

      In terms of the sales assistants, they are definitely way ruder here than anywhere else in the world I have ever been – so unwilling to do their job and help you find what you need – not all, but the bad ones are truly horrendous; and the copies thing is also truer in Spain – I once saw a hilarious (Spanish) spoof video of a girl at the SS office, who provides every single copy she is asked for, to the utter astonishment and annoyance of all the staff. I wanted to use it in the post, but I couldn’t find it. It’s priceless.

      As Family in Spain notes, this was intended to be a light-hearted article, and certainly not meant to offend anyone. At least you still want to have me round for a meal 😉

    2. Daniel Henderson

      I must say I agree with all the points, having lived here in Seville for almost two years. I have endeavoured to understand and re-adjust to the different ways, but sadly to no avail. I have met people in south east Asia who I can identify more with than the people here, such is the culture bubble that exists here.

      By ‘here’ I mean Seville, not Spain. I don’t by any means think you can describe an entire city of people in a certain way, I can only say in my personal experience I have found the people to be very insular, unwilling to help and generally pretty rude. ‘Rude’ is of course a relative concept and can only be defined by comparison to pre-conceived ideas and learned behaviors from childhood. However, I feel like the concept of putting others before yourself is a fairly fundamental part of basic manners, and something I almost never experience here.

    3. Kris

      I could not agree with Azahar more!
      As a North American, I do not understand the incessant whining of the majority of the British expat community. It seems they would love life in Spain if only the Spanish weren’t so Spanish. Perhaps it is a profound lack of adaptability? Having lived in Spain for 7 years I can wholeheartedly disagree with every point made in the original blog except for the government agency one. But I’ve also experienced the same in every other country/state that I have lived. The Spanish aren’t unique in this way.
      Perhaps the author could write a blog explaining the scores of Brits living in Spain for decades that can’t even be bothered to learn the basics of the language?

      1. fionafloreswatson Post author

        Hi Kris, thanks for your comment. It’s always great to get feedback, so I appreciate you taking the effort. I think how my post is perceived depends as much on your own point of view as your attitude toward the Spanish – there are also cultural differences between Americans and Brits, in terms of humour. Ours tends to be dry and fun-poking, which can sometimes be misunderstood – as Rafael says below, it’s about “taking things with a pinch of salt”. I couldn’t agree more about the English who never learn Spanish (although I also know plenty of Americans whose Spanish is negligible) – I refer you to this blog post.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      How funny, Cat, that is a great story! One way to stand out from the crowd for sure… Yes, El Corte has a bit of a monopoly on greetings cards, although Carrefour has a few too. For some reason, they all seem to be Garfield.

  6. Family Life In Spain (@FamilyInSpain)

    Although I enjoyed reading the article, I’m afraid I too was left with the “Them & Us” feeling … As @azahar says, if you have chosen Spain as your home then why refer to another country as home … after over 20 years in Spain my hubby still annoyingly refers to the UK as “home” with a wishful glint in his eye as he dreams of the ideal UK that it no longer is. I break his reverie by saying we can move back to the UK if he likes … not surprisingly he is not keen on that idea 😉
    So if you want to dream of your ideal past “home” country then read this amusing article light heartedly and it will make you smile …
    We love Spain .. warts & all 🙂

  7. Lauren of Spanish Sabores

    After living in Seville and Cadiz for the past few years (although currently in Madrid) I can definitely see where you’re coming from on some of these points. Yet others I’d argue are a bit culturally insensitive, and probably why you’ve gotten a few semi defensive responses. I often think that as an American I expect too much familiarity from Spain. As different as we expats know Spain is, on the surface it looks and feels like any other Western nation. I’d never have the same expectations for life and culture in Japan for example, but since Spain is really so similar to the US I sometimes forget it’s a completely different culture with different social norms.

    I’d agree that compared to the customer service I’ve received in the US it was definitely worse in Seville in general. Although I also think Spain has a lot of small local businesses with shopkeepers that will go above and beyond to help you if you only ask. I love shopping locally here!

    I also can see your point on littering… I once cried on a beach in Cadiz because I was appalled at how the Spanish vacationers had destroyed it! The water was filled with plastic bags and empty bags of chips. And I too have laughed when in 80 degree November heat Sevillanos are dressed to the nines in the latest winter fashions.

    But I have to say that my suegra loves my help in the kitchen and even often asks for it! And here in Madrid many Spanish women I’ve met rarely cook which is an interesting comparison. The time factor is just something we all adjust to as a big cultural difference between the US (and UK too I assume?) and Spain, but when I treat it as a fact of life here it doesn’t bother me. For me 9:00 means 9:30 for social gatherings and that’s that! As for the thank you notes, I remember being so offended many years ago after our family hosted an Italian exchange student and she never sent us any thank you note after returning home. Many years later I realize that there was no reason to have been offended and although I often maintain my own culture by sending them anyway (which can be beneficial like Cat talks about above) I must admit I was relieved not to have to send any after my Spanish wedding! (Talk about a cultural difference working in my favor for once!)

    The last point I’ll comment on (sorry for such a long response) is the loud, obnoxious “Qué?!” After working in schools here, I realize this is not a guiri only “Qué?!” Adults say it with the same tone among each other, kids to their teachers, parents, etc. Like Matxil points out, we often interpret tone of voice a certain way depending on our native language.

    Overall, I see your points but I definitely think some of them are huge generalizations. I also think that once I stopped trying to “fit in” to Spanish culture I liked everything a lot more! It may be November here, but if it’s 80 degrees you better bet I’m not wearing a scarf :). Thanks for an interesting post and stimulating discussion!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Hi Lauren, thanks for your reply. I like what you say about how Spain looks the same on the surface, but underneath it isn’t – I remember once reading in a book written by an American expat living in Ecuador, “they look like us, they sound like us, but they don’t think like us” (oops, more “them” and “us”) – sounds terribly obvious, but it is very, very true.
      Good point about the small shops – it’s in the “stores”, ie clothes shops/department stores, where the assistants (99% women) are dreadful; but if it’s the owner serving you, and it’s in their interest to make sure you find what you want, and they know what they have, then generally they’re very helpful and smiley. Also interesting re women in Madrid – my suegra is from a small town, where a 50/60-something woman’s life revolves around a) cooking and b) children/grandchildren. With the ¿QUE? thing – it’s the facial expression which gets me more than the tone – it’s like you’re being REALLY pesada. Which points did you think were culturally insensitive – that one? the suegra one? The huge generalisations all had some grain of truth in them – exaggurating is just a way of getting the point across in a humorous fashion – although not everyone has seen it that way. Another thing about life here – everyone exaggurates!

  8. rachellynwebb

    Ah that video – superb.

    I remember going into the Catastral office needing to update it. The old huge-moustached guy looked at me, did that (which I know so well Fiona) scowl of uh oh what is she saying.

    After deigning to understand me, he said “Madam, here in Spain the man needs to come and do the paperwork”!?!? WT… I returned another day with a piece of paper signed by hubby to give me the right to do this “papeleo”, even though the paperwork was in BOTH our names. I got to see a lady this time, showed her the papers (not the permission) and without a problem she set the process in order.

    Old school government officials are the pits. With no understanding of, having to speak or learn a foreign language, they are so rude and unforgiving. (Often with bouffant hair and bright red lipstick or huge, stupid (and revolting) Mexican-style moustaches.

    My advice – always go to the younger generation (under 40s) who will have done a smattering of English at school and are (generally) far more understanding.

    As to service generally – it is bad, but then I think the UK has gone the same way. Service as I gave, and remember seems to be a thing of the past.

    Spanish time-keeping is generally appalling. I asked one of my mature students about it. He also turned up for his conversation lesson dead on time. When asked about his time-keeping, he agreed that for anything to do with paying or work, he was on time. If meeting friends at, say, 9pm it´d probably be more like 9.30/9.40!?

    I´m usually late these days when meeting those who I know will be late! You can´t beat it ´cos if you say 9.30 they won´t say until after 10. Hey hoy.

    The rubbish issue I just don´t get, the women are so tidy and house proud yet rubbish is chucked out of car windows and on the streets. I won´t be joining in that custom.

    I agree Fiona with the about the facial expression used with the “Qué?!” It makes me feel like I´ve said something very stupid or wrong. It may be true and due to my pronunciation but when young kids say it with the same intonation that makes me mad. My kids would never have been allowed to talk to me like that! Different now they´re bigger than me!

    Thanks all for an interesting discussion, sorry my reply has gone on. After 16 years in Jaén those things that rankle will always do so, but they don´t usually matter. Well maybe on a bad day they do!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Hi Rachel, thanks for your comment. Which doc were you updating – your land registry? The old guy must still have had the Franco-era rules in mind – permiso marital! I don’t mind about them not understanding or speaking English – I’d never expect that – it’s them not making an effort to understand my really-not-that-bad Spanish that I object to. Glad you’re enjoying the discussion!

  9. Chica Andaluza

    Oh Fiona – I was chuckling at this as I agree with so much of it. As some say, service isn´t bad everywhere (but a lot of places). As for the entertaining – it drove me mad at first as I liked ot set the table nicely and was freaked out when 10 more or less turned up. Now I go with the flow a bit more (hiding the stress or just drinking more wine). I guess it works both ways as Big Man always used to respond with a curt “yes” or “no” and now he always says “yes please” and “no thank you” and won´t throw litter on the floor in bars…!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Hi CA – I haven’t graduated to dinner parties yet, only informal bbqs (easier with kids), but I still get irked by the inability to respond. Re please and thank you, husband still needs prompting, but now HE tells kids to say “please” and “thank you”!!

  10. Mo

    I enjoyed the post since it really sums up my own cultural biases! I still regard Spain in terms of a country that has to “catch up” with other civilizations. That´s maybe not fair but if we regard civic virtues as necessary in a modern country then Spain is often lacking. Maybe we´re all too globalized and should appreciate different rhythms of life but my personal preference is for civilized form and function rather than ” hago lo que me sale de los cojones.”

    1. JG

      I’m sorry but that was such a nazy comment. How do you define “civilized”? If you think that civilized is saying “thank you” or “sorry” when you dont really feel neither thankfull nor sorry… then maybe that’s the real problem. What I see here is a total unwillingness to understand a different culture with different standards and behaviour basis. In spanish culture, people generally are more straight forward and less pretentious, They’d rather say what they feel than what others would like to hear from them, and that expand and have consequences in a lot of differents fields and life situations. All that is neither positive nor negative, is just DIFFERENT to other cultural customs.

  11. Vida London

    Great post. I think, after living somewhere, you’re perfectly entitled to write about those little annoyances you encounter, especially if you’re affectionate about it… All of these points ring true. On the litter point: people eating pipas and discarding the shells in a little pile at their feet at the bus stop used to drive me mad! Without generalising too much (oh, all right, I will) there are two key sides of the Spanish character you often encounter as a foreigner: the laidback (arrive half an hour late) side, and mind-numbing bureaucratic side.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      I don’t mind the pipa shells so much, VL, at least they’re organic waste – it’s the plastic wrappers I object to. Re the lateness, interestingly some people have commented here that in their experience, people in Spain aren’t late – I think professionals are on time, but workmen etc are less so – not unknown in the UK and elsewhere, but I think it’s the vagueness here that can be so annoying – “I’ll there in half an hour” could mean 30, 60, 90, 180 or more minutes.

  12. Lucy

    I’m not getting into whether anything was “them” and “us” as I don’t think that’s how this blogpost was conceived at all. But, it is absolutely the case that Spain is waaaaaaay behind other countries on customer service. My husband is Spanish and even he says that “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply here. I have never ever had such appalling service in shops or from utilities companies as I have here. I have been, quite frankly, FLABBERGASTED by the awful service here over the 11 or so years I’ve been here. It’s as if I should feel privileged that they allow me to do business with them, it really is. It is no wonder that Spain is in a recession, because the way the vast majority of companies here do business is just unbelievable.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Lucy, it’s phone companies I hate most – having to call a premium rate number to report a fault is the biggest con ever, it makes my blood boil. Especially as they ask you to do lots of tests, which take ages – why should the customer have to pay for that call? We had about 15 problems on our line over a two-month period, and calling the phone people from the mobile each time cost an absolute fortune. The attitude of the call centre people is also (mostly) dreadful.

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  14. LifeinSicily

    I read Fiona’s post with some amusement. It is frank, honest, funny and contains useful advice. Some of the points rang true from the Spain I remember when I lived there 20 years ago. I now live in Sicily and some of what she says could apply equally well to here regarding bureaucracy, punctuality, telephone companies and banks. But sales staff are very attentive and I have found locals very welcoming and encouraging when it comes to me speaking Italian. I do have a moan about bureaucracy, for instance, with friends, but not just expats – to imagine that locals aren’t equally cheesed off with inefficiency is wrong. Many of the things I may not like or approve of here are the very same things that Sicilian friends complain about.

    As an expat, where I regard as ‘home’ is not clear-cut. The UK is my homeland, the house where I grew up and my dad still lives is ‘home’, and Sicily is my adopted home. If I go to London I say to friends in Sicily that I’m going ‘home’, even though I will be returning to stay with my family, not in the flat I owned that I myself once called ‘home’. However, when I’ve travelled to the US, other parts of Europe or even Italy itself, and have been going back to Sicily then I’m going ‘home’. For me a sense of home is more complex than saying, “I now live in another country, so where I spent decades, grew up, studied, worked is no longer ‘home’.” This is perhaps subtle, but that’s how I feel.

    Also, Fiona’s sense of frustration: “You’re doing this on purpose because I’m foreign and therefore rich, stupid and fair game, aren’t you?” Well, I have felt that way once in five years here, when I was angry and frustrated at bad and expensive advice from an optician. He would probably have been as equally useless to a local client from what I’ve since learned. However, when you’re angry, you don’t always feel logical, and you can also feel vulnerable when you know someone is trying to rip you off.

    Whatever frustrations I may find at living here, I can also balance out with positives that may not exist in the UK. Indeed, when I go back to the UK, although I may be thrilled at the thought of a Cornish pasty, equally I miss Sicilian ice cream. I look at my homeland with different eyes; there are some things I appreciate far more than when I lived there and other things I feel they could learn from the Sicilian way of doing things. Rather than ‘them’ and ‘us’ I feel something of a hybrid. I will never be one of ‘them’ – for example I will never understand cultural references to popular TV shows of the 1960s, in the way I can understand a joke about sticky-back plastic and Val Singleton (Blue Peter). Does that make me feel excluded? No. Is it nice to know some expats in Sicily who can understand a Blue Peter reference? Yes. But do I feel one of ‘them’ when anyone from another country or northern Italy chooses to criticise Sicilians? Yes. Rather I feel that being able to see the world from another point of view has enriched my life. I think Fiona’s post does a good job of pointing out that living abroad is not all sun, sand and sangria. Brava.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks for your comment, Carol. It’s great to hear the point of view of an expat living in another European country. Clearly some of the irritations I talked about are not peculiar to Spain, and it was also interesting to hear your take on what you consider to be “home” – a deeply subjective, and divisive, topic.

  15. lesley

    This is spot on……….EVERY SINGLE point rings true.
    20 years here and the littering, lack of handwashing, rudeness and dreadful time-keeping still surprise me. But remember, it’s sunny here nearly ALL THE TIME.

    1. Mo

      It amazes me that girls don´t wash their hands after using the loo! Maybe they have a method of peeing in which they manage not to touch anything in the toilet, since so many are so dirty. What do you think?

    2. Fiona Flores Watson

      Well there’s a ringing endorsement, Lesley, thank you! Don’t think I mentioned manual hygiene in the post, but now you mention it, the joy at finding a soap dispenser that isn’t empty in a public loo here is considerable. They don’t generally seem to bother with it.

  16. alexbramwell

    Rude litter-dwelling Spaniards eh!

    I have to say I have never found them rude, or any messier than the average Brit!

    It did take a few more years for the “scoop your poop” movement to catch up in Spain! I used to stick little Canarian flags in toothpicks on dos messes in Las Palmas.

    One thing that I have noticed is that the British concept of the dinner party doesn’t exist in Spain. You meet Spanish people out, but very rarely in their homes, which are reserved for family. Some Brits interpret it as rudeness but it isn’t: Just a cultural difference.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Do you mean litter-dropping, Alex? On the whole I would agree, most Spanish aren’t ruder than Brits, but a few – the small minority by far – are WAY ruder. I think that was my point: extremes. I absolutely love your idea of the little flags in the dog messes – class! Yes, I’ve only ever been invited round to dinner at English people’s houses (or rather, English/Spanish couples’ houses). It’s usually lunch, barbeque or picnic with the Spanish.

  17. Mo

    I´ve always missed the dinner party custom terribly. I have tried to have some in my house but people just won´t leave their kids at home with a babysitter and have an evening just for adults. I have serious problems with this because since the kids have absolute priority over everybody it´s impossible to have a bit of a deep or satisfying discussion about anything. I´d go so far as to say this is the reason everybody talks over every body – the kids set chaos as the norm and the parents follow!

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    1. Paddy Waller

      Interesting post. And some interesting replies! You’re right, in any country there are things that are annoying(including our own countries) but normally in Spain they are small insignificant things. I also never write thank you letters and it mortifes my family in the UK, which makes me laugh. Bank rip offs and litter louts are bad here but not that different from other countries. I find people have always been patient with my Spanish. I like the way the Spanish are even though sometimes those cultural differences are difficult to comprehend (boots in 20ºC!!). As for dinner parties…that’s what restaurants are for!! Dinner parties are what we English do…it’s a concept (invitations, formalities etc) which the Spanish don’t comprehend, and now I have lived here for so long I don’t either(I must being going native!).

      1. Fiona Flores Watson

        Hi Paddy, thanks for your comment. I think that what the post shows is that everyone’s view of Spain and its customs, including my own, is very subjective. We all have different experiences, and opinions about those experiences. But it’s obviously a sensitive and emotive subject, as what was intended as a humorous post generated some interesting replies.

  19. robinnis

    Fiona, I am bound to say there is only one I cannot relate too – mi suegra always eats with us, maybe it’s because she is 86 – I don’t know. She was amazed when I offered to cook a British Sunday roast 7she was staying with us) but what really confused her was when I put the plates into the oven to warm them up – el guiri es muy loco!

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  22. Belinda Beckett

    I’ve only just seen this Fiona but it’s a great post, and so true! From the boots to the litter to the bad sense of timing ….Last time I had a dental appointment the dentist didn’t arrive for over an hour and made no apology or any reference to his lateness. When I decided to push it and asked him “Problemas?” he looked at me as if I was crazy and replied: “No, why do you ask?”

  23. Julie Sheridan

    I live in Barcelona and am wincing in recognition at the description of sulky shop assistants (the Corte Inglés ones are the absolute worst) and the women kitted out in boots for months. I like to wear sandals in January (it is 18 degrees C outside) just to annoy them. Puerile but satisfying.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      I like your style, Julie – you’re a woman after my own heart. My daughter insists on wearing totally uncoordinating clothes – spotty leggings, stripey socks, patterned jumper, loose hair (shock horror – no cola or clips! that’s another whole blog post), and often inappropriate for the season – summer dresses over leggings and tights etc. You should see some of the looks we get in the street!

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  25. Molly Sears-Piccavey

    I live in Granada, Andalusia and can relate to most of this post Fiona. It’s well written otherwise it wouldn’t have caused such a stir ; )
    Customer service generally doesn’t exist in retail in Spain in my opinion.

    Even being integrated into Spanish life it’s still easy to get frustrated every once in a while

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks, Molly. Not everyone agrees with everything I wrote, as posts (and views) like these are very subjective, but most people can see some truth in some of it. In my experience, customer service offered by small, owner-run shops (which are still opening even now in Seville, especially artsy-craftsy ones) is nearly always in a different class from chains and department stores. They don’t give a damn about helping you, whereas the proprietor knows what s/he has, and what s/he can get you, and is happy to make suggestions and give advice – after all, it’s in his/her interests that you buy something. That’s stating the obvious, I know, but it shows that the Spanish can provide really excellent customer service when they want to – and when it’s in their own interests to.

  26. Joanna Styles (@Jostyleswriter)

    Hi Fiona,

    A fun and interesting post, and you’re very right on many things. Customer service is as yet an alien concept in many places in Spain, although in the branch of the ‘well-known department store’ in Puerto Banús, they fall over backwards to serve. This may have something to do with being on commission only…
    And as for the boots, not noticed this one, but will keep an eye out although it might be too late in the year now. Here in Marbella the winter is a wonderful contrast of scantily-clad tourists and well-wrapped up locals!
    Buen finde 🙂

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks, Joanna. I guess that most people in Puerto Banus have money burning a hole in their pockets, as opposed to other places! The boots thing is hilarious – countered with putting kids into short trousers as soon as the sun shines – I saw two boys (brothers) wearing matching pairs of powder-blue shorts in the park at the weekend.

  27. Mark

    I am afraid you just took this to the very extreme of the situation.

    Just another point: Spain is not Andalusia, unlike the tourist general opinion.

  28. Miguel

    Hola a todos! Es interesante conocer el punto de vista desde la óptica de un visitante ajeno a la cultura local, a mí en el Corte Inglés me pasa al contrario, me agobian las dependientas queriendo que me pruebe perfumes etc, prefiero las tiendas donde puedo probarme ropa a mis anchas como Zara, la percepción de un extranjero siempre es muy subjetiva sobre todo si compara siempre con la cultura propia,, de todas formas evidentemente gente estúpida y con poca vocación de servicio en España la hay, pero bueno en todas partes la hay, mis padres se sintieron despreciados cuando fueron a UK como turistas, pero es obvio que todos los británicos no son iguales y las diferencias culturales dan lugar a malentendidos.

    Saludos

  29. Josh

    Great stuff, and I’ve only just read it! Must admit you had me chuckling and nodding the whole way through – I can certainly relate to points 5 and 7!

    Seems the comments have turned it into another issue all together but I think we all know that posts like this are not meant to offend, rather put out to make me people laugh a little (unless of course a diligent Spanish sales assistant happens to find their way onto here). Sure, a few of the points are exaggerated but if they weren’t then we wouldn’t all be here contributing to this wonderful post! Top blogging!

    p.s. LOVED the video

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  31. catandtonicnz

    Great post! I have only just discovered your blog and already know it will be an extremely useful resource for my upcoming move to Seville to be an auxiliar! Thank you 🙂

    Anna

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    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks Allie, it’s all so very subjective, isn’t it? Love your post, very balanced. The same commenter gave me similar stick (as I fully expected they would) for a recent post about things Spanish people say, and what they really mean. Different perspectives; it’s good to hear, and debate, all of them.

  34. Laura

    I’m Argentinian and a Castillian speaker but I share all the points discussed here. It’s still shocking that some Spanish people don’t make the effort of trying to understand me in Valencia when I speak using Argentinian-Spanish terms (which are included in the Spanish dictionary but which they don’t know). As regards service in shops and cafés, most Spanish assistants (of course there are a few exceptions) are rude. I enjoyed your blog, it looks as if Argentinians are more similar to English people than to Spaniards!!

    1. Emilio

      Laura, it’s unbelievable how some people don’t make the slightest effort to adjust their ears to a new accent. You must have come across somed pretty narrow eared people. I’m Andalusian and I have never had the slightest trouble understanding Argentinean, Chilean, Peruvian, Cuban or Mexican Spanish. Of course you may use words I wouldn’t use but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand you. In fact, everytime I speak to Latin Americans I think how your accent sounds so much nicer than Spanish from Spain! ;-P

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  36. flyhere

    Hello, very interesting article, although I only came across it today, searching for info on Seville. I’m trying to learn to play the Flamenco guitar, so here’s hoping I’ll have a chance to go and stay for a while in Andalucía.

    Don’t know if you have been to the Far East, but I would dispute your account of the Spanish shop-assistant being the rudest or most-unhelpful in the world, that belongs to the ones in Hong Kong for sure.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Hello flyhere, glad you found the blog. I’ve been to the Far East, but not HK. Do the shop assistants talk on the phone while they’re serving you like they do here? Good luck with your guitar lessons.

  37. Emilio

    Well, here’s a comment from an Andalusian. It’s always interesting to know what other people think about us and how something which seems normal to us is perceoved as rude by others. I must agree that generally shop assostants are not very friendly, especially in el corte ingles. It’s like they just don’t give a damn about customers. I can sort of imagine they’re not very motivated since el corte ingles is notorious for paying really low wages, but that’s not the customer’s fault. The QUE issue is a controversial one for anyone who’s first language isn’t Spanish. We tend to say que when we don’t understand something but it’s not intended to sound rude. That’s more a cultural/language difference. English is very ornamented as far as speech is “I was wondering if you could help….”, “it would be nice if you could…” whilst Spanish is very straightforward and que just means “I didn’t get that”, “I didn’t hear you, can you say that again?, but if you translate if directly into an English WHAT then I guess it can sound extremely rude, LOL! I guess it also depends on the face the other person gives you!
    Littering…. Jesus Christ! That’s one of the things I hate the most about my contry. I just can’ stand it and I can’t get over it. Driving around the city or the country and seeing cans, tetra bricks, and all sorts of things everywhere drives me nuts. I am always tempted to make anyone I see litttering out blush by saying something but I know I would get a really negative response.

    1. Moose

      Wow, your English is fantastic, especially (and I mean this affectionately!) for an Andalusian! I’m English and thought this post was obviously intended to be not 100% serious, but I have also always understood that the ‘QUE!?’ is not meant rudely. It’s like when I am explaining something to my Spanish students and they often cut me off by saying ‘OK, OK, OK!’ – it sounds rude to my English ears, as if they’re telling me to shut up, but I just have to remind myself that to them they’re doing the Spanish ‘Vale, vale, vale’ which is a completely different thing!

      Service in restaurants is fine here – different from in England, but I never feel that they are deliberately rude or unfriendly, although sometimes they take half an hour to ask you what you want and you won’t get an English-style ‘sorry for the wait!’. But I like Spanish waiters and their air of super-efficiency. 😀

      Shop assistants, though. OH MY GOD. You just have to laugh, otherwise you would make a fool of yourself by complaining to every manager in sight. They are *unbelievable*, bless ’em. Spain is wonderful and beats England in a hundred ways, but god, Spanish shop assistants are *not* one of them!

  38. Emilio

    In general, I think Spain and especially southern Spain is very different from Europe/North America in many aspects but deep down we’re all the same. There are many things I love about my country, culture, language etc, but there are many things we could learn from the British, Germans, etc.
    As far as timing is concerned, I livec in the UK for a year and there I met a Scottish guy who became a good friend of mine. Everytime we met, he would show up an hour later! He even confessed he was late for work everyday but he was such a good worker that his boss no longer cared! Here in Spain, I’ve got friends who are normally 30-60 minutes late everytime we meet, so yes, Spanish timing is dreadful. When the painter, plumber, telefonica technician, etc tells you he’ll stop by your place in the morning, for them it means sometime between 8 am and 3 pm, and we could go on and on and on and on…if it drives me mad and I’m a Spaniard I’ not surprised expats living here are at least a bit startled by certain aspects of everyday life here.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Great to get your input Emilio, thanks! As Moose says, your English is amazing! Interesting to hear your take on things. Very happy to have an Andalucian reader on the blog. Bienvenidos, if belatedly – losing my English punctuality!

  39. Hamish

    Newbie here… I agree with the punctuality(Or lack of) but I feel you just accept and get on..Oddly I have been into El Corte & bought a jacket for my girlfriend back in the UK…Though I didn’t interrupt a conversation,the assistant was curt but I wouldn’t say rude.I have a smattering of Spanish so better than nothing which maybe helped..Shame about the rubbish bit..I met with a large group who were lovely & welcoming in Bar Las Codornices & waited for a bit but not overly late..Much worse though with my Spanish profesora,.She seems to be all over the place with times & days agreed,then changes so after a while I just accepted that this is the norm for not only her but perhaps in general..The “que” ? I;ve gotten used to plus the slight change in pronunciation which produces a slightly bemused look…or blank stare..(Oh s… I just said that wrong..lol..) but hey ho..better than living in Japan where everyone just stares at you like you’ve just stepped off a spaceship :~ )………………

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Great to hear from you, newbie Hamish. You are obviously adapting well to Spanish ways if your teacher’s unreliability isn’t getting to you!! I don’t mind the bemused look, it’s the sneery bemused look that I can’t stand. Although seems to happen less lately, maybe my accent is becoming less markedly ING-LISH!

  40. Juan

    I am from San Sebastian, up in the North, and I find that most of the things you say have to do with the southern-mediterranean culture, not particularly with the Spanish one as a whole.
    Spain is (at least in my opinion) extremely different from one part to another.
    I have lived in Belgium, France and Italy and, unfortunately, I find that perhaps bad education is lately spreading everywhere: in Spain and abroad. But regarding your comments, I find, for example, the punctuality affaire has nothing to do with our culture in the North.

  41. Raul

    This post is full of stereotypes and xenophobia. Fiona, have you ever considered returning to your lovely and civilized country, instead of trying to adapt to this jungle?? bye bye!!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Raul, I am sorry that my post offended you, and I also apologise for my belated response. The post was intended as a light-hearted view of some of the more interesting (to me) quirks of Spanish people, and living in Spain. English humour is quite dry – poking fun, but not in an unpleasant way; the views weren’t expressed (or intended to be taken) with complete seriousness. I love living in Spain, as I believe comes across clearly throughout the blog – if you’ve read any of the other posts, I’m sure you’ll see this is true. This is one monkey who loves the jungle, and doesn’t want to go back to her lovely civilized country.

  42. Susie

    I honestly cannot believe what I have just read. I would def. try to move back to your country of origin if I were you.
    Have you tried living in the DACH region? I think you’d be much happier there, or maybe not, it could be that after a few months you think back & wish you had never made these comments.
    Born & bred in Australia I lived in Spain for many years & now that I live in Central Europe I cannot wait to return to Spain. Southern Europeans sure know how to enjoy every minute of life, enjoy this because those issues you’ve had happen EVERYWHERE, it’s just that the spaniards are less diplomatic, or fake, if you want to put it that way.

    Spain is awesome & I guess you’re just missing a bit of hot blood in your body 🙂

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks for your comment, Susie. I’m not familiar with Dach, where is it? And I am curious to know, whereabouts in Spain did you live? I have to say, I think you may taken a slightly literal view of my article. Although I didn’t spell it out in this particular post, I think it comes across throughout my blog how much I love living here in Spain. Even so I can still see its negative points – from my perspective, obviously – and these views weren’t expressed (or intended to be taken) with complete seriousness. I have no desire whatsoever to move back to my country of origin. Even though I am cold-blooded, as you say 😉

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  44. Laura

    hon, the whole thank you note culture is absolutely silly, fake and pretentious. The Spanish thank you for coming to their party right then and there. There is no need to send a note later when you have already been thanked. Also, no need to say you are coming or RSVP. If you invited people, then you should be able to accomodate them, otherwise do not invite them. Why do you need to know how many are coming before? usually you do not need to know. If you make too much food, then you can eat the rest later. The English are silly with their rsvps, such a waste of time!!!.

    The Spanish culture is far superior to the English hon, trust me. The Spanish are efficient, no need for thank you notes when you can thank in person……much more personal.

    As far as showing up later, the Spanish are like others. This is made up.

    Sweetie, if you have an English or American accent when you speak Spanish, they are genuinely not going to understand. You are the one who should be ashamed of yourself for not mastering a second language like most civilized and cultured people in todays world. Most Europeans speak English like natives why are you so slow???????? Let me guess trilling the r is too hard for you? well this is why you cannot be understood, sweetie.

    There is basically very little that is wrong with Spain but a lot that is wrong with where you come from and please go back there. One of the reasons that there is so much unemployment in Spain is because everyone wants to live there, unlike in England,……

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Thanks for your comment, Laura. Things like thank you notes are a matter of culture, not who is better or worse, or right or wrong. The English have a habit of thanking and the Spanish don’t – neither is superior to the other, they’re just different. Being an expat is all about adjusting to cultural differences. In terms of making myself understood in the local lingo, I have indeed mastered a second language – I am fluent in Spanish – but that doesn’t mean to say that I’ve lost my accent. Sadly, my (Anglo-Spanish) son’s mouth is unable to make the trilled “r” sound, but he manages to get by OK and has been completely bilingual since he first started speaking, as has his sister. I have no intention of going back to England – sorry to disappoint you 😉

      1. Hamish McQueen

        Flipping ouch…Can’t believe how defensive people get over some of the views raised in this blog..It’s interesting – in my opinion, Fiona’s points are opening up thoughtful discussion..Absolutely no need to go on the attack..I’ve met so many Spaniards here in the UK at language intercambios looking for work – we all have a balanced opinion of both cultures. We all speak a wonderful mixture of accented Spanish and English at all different levels and certainly my Kiwi Spanish was appreciated last time out in Cádiz… A menudo los Españoles llegan tarde pero no pasa nada eh ?

        1. Fiona Flores Watson

          Thanks for your comment, Hamish. The whole subject of cultural differences is a touchy one which inevitably arouses strong emotions. As you rightly say, it’s all about having some healthy discussion, although it’s important that feedback can be healthily analysed too 😉

  45. Rafael

    Querida Fiona, le escribo en español porque me imagino que su español debe ser tan bueno como mi inglés.
    Es interesante ver desde su visión como extranjera cómo se ve España.
    Yo soy andaluz y de Cádiz, y vivo en Reino Unido, concretamente en Bedford, aunque también he vivido en Chester, Ayr y Alton.
    Si me lo permite, me gustaría preguntale lo siguiente. ¿Ha tenido que emigrar a España por no tener trabajo en su país?
    ¿Qué motivo la ata a España? ¿ Qué la trajo a España en primer lugar?
    Perdone tanta pregunta pero viendo lo poco que le gusta donde vive me pregunto por qué sigue viviendo allí.
    Un saludo.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Querido Rafael, gracias por su commentario, me encanta que un español, y mas un andaluz, leye mi blog. Seguro que tu ingles sea mejor que mi castellano, y por eso me disculpo los errores que seguramente cometere. Aunque no se si has pillado el sentido de humor ingles – es muy seco. Cuando hablo de las differencias entre mi pais nativo, y donde vivo ahora, son simplemente observaciones de las diferencias como los percibo yo, las dos culturas. Para responder especificamente a tus preguntas, no vine aqui a España por falta de trabajo, pero por buscar un estilo de vida distinta. Me ata aqui mi marido (de Sevilla) y mis hijos (anglo-ingleses). Como lo veras si lees otros posts de este blog, sobre Jerez, Vejer, El Puerto, y tu misma Cadiz, me encanta este pais, su tiempo, su cultura, su gastronomia, sus festivales, sus playas, su gente… Supongo que hay cosas de Inglaterra y los ingleses que no te guste, verdad? O preferias no hablar de la tema 😉

      1. Rafael

        Querida Fiona,
        Su español es fantástico, no tiene por qué disculparse.
        Gracias por su sincera respuesta, o como dicen por aquí “fair enough “.
        Si que es cierto que hay cosas que me chocaban y me siguen chocando de UK, no es el país donde me he criado y claro hay alguna que otra diferencia que te llama la atención.
        Tengo que decirle que una de las cosas que más me gustan de su país es lo noble que es la gente. Usted diría “trustworthy “.
        El otro día sin más lejos, me deje olvidado en los lavabos de la empresa para la que trabajo, el vaso que utilizo para lavarme los dientes después del almuerzo.
        Cuando fui a buscarlo al día siguiente allí estaba, justo donde lo deje.
        Aunque a más de uno le duela tengo que decir que España hubiera “volado “.
        Yo soy español por los cuatro costados, pero al cesar lo que es del cesar, y es que el español es muy pillo, muy pícaro, y así somos.
        Pero también tenemos nuestras virtudes, y siempre donde se vaya hay excepciones, y claro, la gente no es así o asao dependiendo de donde sea, sería como decir que un inglés no roba nunca o que los españoles son todos unos ladrones, y ambas cosas son un ataque a nuestro libre albedrío.
        Un saludo y recuerde: “Sometimes you have to take things with a pinch of salt”. Sometimes a sachet, I would say hahahaha.

  46. Dennis Harper

    Hola,
    We are renting an apartment in the center of Seville for 6 weeks, and we have been here for one week. We lived in Mexico City for one month before we arrived. We have quickly noticed the indifference one experiences here. It is particularly noticeable after finding Mexicans to be so friendly, kind, and helpful. Yesterday while out grocery shopping I had a particularly rude encounter with a bicyclist. I was shocked. He owed me an apology, but he simply pushed through without a word while looking me in the eye.

    Do folks in Seville have any realization of how mean, rude, or indifferent they can
    be? We speak Spanish, so OK, once Seville folk are engaged in a conversation, they warm up.

    Your comments, please.

    Saludos,
    Dennis Harper

    1. fionafloreswatson Post author

      Hi Dennis, Sorry to hear about your bad experience while
      shopping here in Seville. I also found the attitudes of some Sevillanos shocking when I first arrived here 12 years ago, having come from Ecuador where people are extremely courteous. Some Sevillanos are abrupt (still haven’t got used to that!) but the grand majority aren’t. It’s a cultural thing too – we find it rude but to most of them it’s not a big deal. I hope you have many more positive than negative experiences during the rest of your stay.

      1. Dennis Harper

        Hola,
        Thank you for your quick response. Yes, some individuals in bakeries, tapas bars, and small shops are helpful and friendly. The staff at nearby SuperSol seem in a bad mood. No “hola”, “gracias”, or “de nada”. The rude encounter with a bicyclist still shocks me. Meanwhile, it is a nice crew at our favorite tapas bar, Bar Europa at one corner of Calle Siete Revueltas. One of the chefs is from Ecuador. She smiles all of the time.
        Saludos,
        Dennis Harper

        1. fionafloreswatson Post author

          Glad to hear you’ve had some better experiences, Dennis! Yes supermarket checkout people often aren’t the cheeriest souls – as you say (and as I said in this blog post), people in small shops – the owners, generally – tend to be 1000 times friendlier and more helpful – all the more reason to support local businesses!

  47. Jellybonesjess

    I found this article after doing a google search for ‘Spaniards and littering’. I recently visited the most beautiful beach in Mallorca and felt like crying as I watched 3 to 4 people over the course of the day empty/butt out their entire packets onto the sand and leave their empty rubbish were they were sitting 🙁 I walked around for 5 mins afterwards picking them up their rubbish because i felt disgusted. I filled up an entire cup of cigarette butts in under 5 mins. What’s wrong with people! They are ruining there own beautiful environment? I know it’s not just a Spaniard thing, but it does seem to be more common in some other places I’ve visited. Not cool!!

  48. Jellybonesjess

    I found this article after doing a google search for ‘Spaniards and littering’. I recently visited the most beautiful beach in Mallorca and felt like crying as I watched 3 to 4 people over the course of the day empty/butt out their entire packets onto the sand and leave their empty rubbish where they were sitting 🙁 I walked around for 5 mins afterwards picking them up their rubbish because i felt disgusted. I filled up an entire cup of cigarette butts in under 5 mins. What’s wrong with people! They are ruining there own beautiful environment! I know it’s not just a Spaniard thing, but it does seem to be more common in some other places I’ve visited. Not cool!!

  49. Jellybonesjess

    I found this article after doing a google search for ‘Spaniards and littering’. I recently visited the most beautiful beach in Mallorca and felt like crying as I watched 3 to 4 people over the course of the day empty/butt out their entire packets onto the sand and leave their empty rubbish where they were sitting 🙁 I walked around for 5 mins afterwards picking them up their rubbish because i felt disgusted. I filled up an entire cup of cigarette butts in under 5 mins. What’s wrong with people! They are ruining there own beautiful environment! I know it’s not just a Spaniard thing, but it does seem to be more common here than in some other places I’ve visited. Not cool Spain!!

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