When you think of the Spanish you think of warm, good natured, open, approachable people. This is not untrue. In fact, if you have children in Spain you can pretty much relax as everyone will look out for them. In fact even when you are not in Spain and there are Spanish people around your children will be cared for.
We recently visited Disney Land Paris which was heaving with Spanish on holiday. It was raining and slippery and one of our five year old twins slipped over and within seconds there were concerned Spanish ladies running to her attention. The Spanish love children and will love yours too. In fact, if you want to make contact with the Spanish then forget about taking your dog for a walk. Instead, take your child or grandchild for a walk and if you don’t have either, then get pregnant fast as it is a sure way to make acquaintances.
When I last visited the UK I got chatting to a lady on the bus who was telling me about her plans to move to Spain. She was so enthusiastic that I didn’t burst her bubble when she said “When I get there I am going to learn Spanish and make friends with all the locals”. Now, it depends on what her definition of a friend is but in the traditional British sense this was not going to happen for her anytime soon.
For a start, she hadn’t even started to learn Spanish and surely to have a friendship with someone you need to be able to converse. With beginners level of Spanish you can only get as far as finding out people’s names, their ages, their likes and dislikes, if you are lucky. When you consider the range of subjects that are discussed by “new” friends in English you can appreciate how making friends with the Spanish could be quite a challenge.
Although, the English person has everything to gain such as getting to know the culture and improving their Spanish, there’s not much in it for the respective Spanish person apart from getting frustrated taking 20 minutes to get something across that would normally take 2 minutes!
Just like you do in the back home, the Spanish lead busy lives and have their own daily business to get on with. The majority of the Spanish that you come across will not be on the look out for new friends since the likelihood is they will have everyone that they need nearby. Their most important friends are their families and again, I really noticed this in Disney Land. The Spanish don’t holiday with just their immediate family or with friends as we do. Whole families go away together including grandparents in big parties of ten plus.
If you are dedicated enough and you manage to get your Spanish to a decent level, you can make what we, British, would consider to be acquaintances. Your Spanish neighbours would be your first port of call for this type of conversation. Women with children of school age might ask one of the mothers outside the school a related question and from this the relationship would evolve into one when they acknowledge each other on the street and at the park. However, it is very rare to see British/Spanish friends going shopping together or going out for girly spa days and lunches unless they are relatively young, integrated into Spanish culture and possibly with a Spanish partner.
So, although they are warm and laid back, you can rarely get close as they have their families for what we have friendships for. To avoid disappointment, the best advice is to be open to friendships with people from all nationalities in Spain and don’t be snobby about having British friends. In fact, your fellow expats can be a very useful support network. Don’t expect the Spanish to be falling over themselves to invite you back for a coffee as they have their own lives and agendas.