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Tumbit's take on Spain : Mr Grumpy

Mr Grumpy has lived and worked in Spain for 6 Years. He is self-employed and has a 3 year old Daughter that speaks better Spanish than he does. Despite the occasional moan about 'Spanish Bureaucracy' he enjoys the Spanish lifestyle and the warmth and friendliness of the Spanish people.

How To Classify Road Users In Spain
27 September 2010

If there is one thing in life guaranteed to make me laugh more than watching a fat woman chasing a parasol down a beach on a windy day – it's driving on Spanish roads. Or, more to the point, watching how other road users conduct themselves on Spanish roads.

It seems that there are seemingly endless categories and sub-categories of misdemeanors that rile me more and more every day, and here are just a few of the widely recognised genus, classifications and orders that these people fall into :

Parking : This genus can be split into 2 seperate and distinct sub-categories :

1.)The “Park Anywhere” Parker - This road user holds a firm belief that double parking on a Dual Carriageway is part of the Spanish Constitution. Equally so, zebra crossings are considered as “Emergency Parking Zones”.

2.)The Touch Parker - This road user is able to park accurrately with the use of his front and rear parking sensors (Also known outside Spain as “ Bumpers “), and see's nothing wrong in shunting cars backwards and forwards to make his own parking space a little more roomy.

Stop-Starting : Many Spaniards believe that it is actually written into their Highway code that they are legally able to stop their vehicle in the middle of the street and at any time without the need for any hazard lights so that they can strike up a conversation with any pedestrian of their choosing. There is not a time limit on this, and anybody in a vehicle behind them peeping to get past is simply deemed to be rude and impatient.

The Cyclist : Whilst not actually paying any insurance or road tax in Spain, or even being required to take a Safety (or sanity) test, cyclists are bound by the law to cycle at least 4 abreast in order to hold up any road traffic behind them. Contrary to what drivers of other road vehicles may think , they DO “Actually own the road“ and pulling forward infront of cars attempting to turn left at a T-Junction is perfectly acceptable. Points can be issued against other road users who mock a cyclist attempting to walk in their footwear (which I can only describe as clogs), or questioning their sexuality by always wearing lumious lycra clothing.

The Farmer : Not so much of an annoyance to other road users, as of course the Farmer is entitled to make any living he can in a rural community. However, he may have some consideration for the frail and elderly wife that he has thrown into the back of the trailer towed by what I can only term as a “Lawn Mower“, and is rattling around the back with half a dozen podenco's , numerous sharp tools and a couple of buckets of Almonds.

The Pedestrian : What is it about people over and above a certain age that makes them want to walk in the middle of the road when a perfectly good pavement is less than 5 feet on either side of them ? Maybe it's a permit that is awarded along with the pension that other road users are not yet aware of ?

The Multi-Tasker : Whilst I am still struggling a little with the exact translation, I believe that the highway code states that the Spanish Driver must have no more than one hand on the wheel at any time. His other free hand must be used for either searching for, lighting or smoking a cigarette ; using the mobile phone ( regardless of whether a hands free kit is fitted – this can only be used when the vehicle is parked ) or gesticulating wildly with his kids on the backseat. In some cases he is entitled to do all 3, which is a sign of status, wealth and masculinity.

The New Driver : Drivers who have successfully passed their test and purchased their first car must first undergo a regulation haircut (Short and spiky on top, long at back - the kind of style that would have graced a 9 Year old in 1982) and make numerous modifications to their Seat Ibiza (The exact nature of the modifications are to the drivers choosing, with the exception of the Stereo – this needs to be of sufficient wattage and ampage to temporarily deafen any pedestrian passing by too closely).

The Hire Car Driver - Very rarely Spanish – more often than not English or French, they can easily be recognised (apart from the obvious sticker in the back window) by driving too slowly, almost in the middle of the road, and by turning corners too widely. Roundabouts also have to be driven around a minimum of three times and it requires at least 2 people to park the car. It was only 2 years ago that it was decided to stop the process of having a pedestian walking slowly infront of the Hire Car waving a red flag as a warning to other road users was repealled, but there are rumours that this could be re-introduced in the very near future.

The Micro-Car Micro-Cars are the ones that are seemingly entitled to drive down Motorways – Half on the Hard Shoulder and Half in the slow lane. During urban use they are often seen parked on the pavement, when not being overtaken by Motability Scooters. They are only ever used by Drivers who can not afford a proper pair of roller skates.

 

Please feel free to jot your comments below if you feel that I have left anybody out !



Like 0        Published at 23:45   Comments (1)


Spanish Regional Languages : Valenciano
17 September 2010

In writing my recent blog "Spanish Regional Languages – For or Against ?" I realised that I was completely ignorant of most of the languages of Spain, and like most of the English I simply stuck my head in the sand whenever it came to even attempting to understand anything other than very basic Castellano. This is getting more and more difficult today as my daughter attends a typically Valencian nursery in the village and is slowly learning more and more Valenciano every day and is starting to look like that before long Valenciano will be her first language, followed by Castellano - and finally, English.

All of her school meetings and parents evenings are likely to be held in Valenciano aswell and so whilst I have been succesful in ignoring the language so far, I realise that I am just delaying the inevitable by continuing to find excuses in learning some.

With this in mind, I have dug a little deeper on the some of the major Spanish Regional Languages to investigate both their origins and a few useful phrases that you might like to be aware of – nothing will get you acceptance into your local community faster than a few key phrases in the local language !

A recent study by the Regional Government found that most Citizens do not normally speak Valenciano. Apparently, out of the 6'600 people Interviewed 39.5% used the language at home, 33% used the language with friends and 18% used the language in larger department stores.These averages fell to single digits when the demographic was based just on residents of the major cities – Alicante and Valencia.

There is also some debate as to whether it is actually a language in it's own right – many academics argue the case that it is in fact a dialect of Catalan. Equally puzzling is the fact that Valencian is agreed to have 5 distinct “ Sub-Dialects” that have their own subtle differences !

 

Here are a few useful key words and phrases that it may be useful for you to know :

English Castellano (Spanish) Valenciano
Good Morning Buenas Dias Bon Dia
Goodbye Adios Adeu/Au
Please Por Favor Per Favor
Thankyou Gracias Gracies
Yes Si Si
No No No
Bread Pan Pa
Holidays / Parties Fiestas Festes
Happy Christmas Feliz Navidad Bon Nadal
Coffee Cafe Cafe
Water Agua Aigua
Petrol Gas Benzina
Beer Cerveza Cervesa
Wine Vin Vi

 

You will find that many of the words are exactly the same in Valenciano as they are in Spanish, and the ones that are different seem to be a hybrid of Spanish and French ( As does Catalan ).



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Spanish Regional Languages : For or Against ?
11 September 2010

Speaking as little Castellano as I do, it should probably come as no surprise to anybody that regional languages frustrate me. It seems to me to sometimes be a conspiracy between the native Spanish to raise the bar to ensure that to be fully accepted into the community you need to learn both Castellano and the regional language (Which you will be lucky to learn via a book or CD, or even to find a Dictionary and Phrase Book).

Spain is fiercely proud of its regional diversity and this is demonstrated in it’s attachment to the various regional languages that can often seem bewildering to the outsider. The languages are broken down into several different classifications: The Official Language (Spanish / Castellano) ; The Co-Official Languages (Catalan, Valenciano, Basque / Euskadi, Galician and Aranese ) ; The Recognised Languages (Leonese, Asturian) ; The Un-Official ( Aragonese, Asur-Leonese, Eonavian, Fala , Tarafit and also the Gomeran language that is made up entirely of distinctive whistling patterns ).

Add the fact that there are many immigrants from other nationalities living in Spain (Romanian, English, French, German, Dutch, Russian, and Moroccan being the main ones) and you can begin to see that there is a vast diversity of understanding – and misunderstanding!

Similar to the “Dead” British languages - like Cornish, these languages probably flourished centuries ago when people rarely travelled outside their local area and had no need to communicate on a national platform – and so just needed to make themselves understood in their own social group. With the coming of easier and popular transport such as the train, and increasing levels of literacy and wealth, it meant that in the UK everybody sought to communicate at a much wider level.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that this would be the case in Spain to a certain extent aswell. What did happen for certain, is that during the Franco years, that all regional languages were outlawed as an attempt to unify the country.

Whilst I’m not much of a historian, from my knowledge of the pop group Frankie goes to Hollywood’s massive number 1 hit record in the early 80’s, I do know that one sure way to ensure that the popularity of something explodes out of control – is to ban it or make it illegal.

This backlash against the Franco government seems to have brought about a new enthusiasm for these languages (and regional identity and customs as a whole) that is evident when you consider the Autonomous Regions of Spain. Unfortunately this does not seem to have a positive effect on business as a whole. Many of the larger towns and cities in a region will generally speak Castellano, whilst the smaller, inland and rural towns and villages will predominantly speak that local / regional language.

Many Regions also offer a grant to the various Ayuntamiento’s to encourage their local schools to teach more of their subjects in the local language – and it seems to be the Schools in these smaller, inland and rural towns and villages that, due to a lack of trade and commerce in the town, are reliant on the grant and so need to teach much more of the regional language than the national one.

I know of quite a few school kids that have been taught the regional language to a high standard, but who’s Castilian remains a little shaky – which obviously limits their acceptance into University and even limits their acceptance into most professions. So it seems a vicious circle – where the locals are often unable to speak the National language to a high enough standard (and therefore obtain a good profession and bring revenue into the Town) and as such the Ayuntamiento becomes more reliant on the Regional Grant, and in return has to put more emphasis on teaching the regional language!

My daughter, at 2 and half, is already showing signs of speaking and understanding more Valenciano than Castellano and I am concerned that this will continue as she starts her formal education - especially as I don’t have Spanish (Or English) TV that she can learn from.

Maybe as an “Extranjero” my view is totally invalid and biased, I accept that and I willingly open up the debate to hear some other points of view that I may have overlooked .....



Like 0        Published at 15:34   Comments (0)


Who needs customer service ?
07 September 2010

I don’t expect a bowing and scraping sycophant to serve me whenever I enter a shop or some other business in order to part with my hard earned cash - nor do I expect gushing gratitude from the owner of the business, or his lackey. What I do expect is to be treated with a little bit of courtesy.

Having spent 20-odd years in the customer service industry maybe I am over critical of many establishments, but sometimes I can not help feeling that customer service is a notion that is completely alien to the Spanish.

In these times of recession it seems that business owners are pulling their hair out trying to find newer and more cost effective ways of getting the clients through their door - but they give no thought whatsoever on how best to look after their client once they are actually stood in front of them with a pocket full of cash.

 

Many Spanish businesses actually make you feel the need to apologise for interrupting their coffee and cigarette break whilst they shout at their colleagues (Spaniards rarely seem to converse at normal volume) in order to be served – that’s if you can actually find a shop that is open at a sensible hour. Like many English people I silently seethe when I find myself treated this way rather than remonstrate with them – and this is largely because being faced with a typically Mediterranean shrug of apathy and nonchalance just winds me up all the more. Instead I find myself voting with my feet and taking my business elsewhere in future – which often means patronising an English or other Northern European run business where I stand the chance of actually being treated like a spending customer !

In many ways this is a shame because I want to support to the local economy and integrate with the local community, but until the local tradesmen learn that turning up to do some work on time (even on the right day) is quite important – especially when you have taken a day off work to wait at home for them, then there will always be a place in the market for the expat tradesman.

Time and time again the local newspapers tell us to be wary of the expat tradesman because, although they are cheaper, they will almost certainly be working illegally. Whilst this does happen, there are also many legal, reliable and cost effective ex-pat companies out there who can offer a good standard of customer service – so it seems that this obstacle is something that the local Chambers of Commerce are pushing as a result of pressure from the various local businesses.

The newspapers also report that the Spanish Economy is one of the weakest in Europe and that exports to other countries are falling at a depressing rate year on year – and yet faced with this fact and a recession that is likely to last longer in Spain than many other Countries in the world, everybody seems reluctant to acknowledge the simple truth that the whole Economy stands on encouraging the consumer to put their hand in their pocket.

A little bit of courtesy, appreciation and remembering that the Customer is entitled to a bit of friendly advise and support goes a long way to achieving this.

If Zapatero needs a “Sir Alan Sugar “ to help move the economy along he can contact me via this page …



Like 0        Published at 13:18   Comments (3)


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