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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


When your car goes bump in Spain...
13 November 2015

I used to be among tens of thousands of expat motorists who feared that coping with a road accident in Spain would represent the ultimate of ordeals.


OK, we would all have a problem if the other party involved was as physically aggressive as some of the lunatic speeders I see on Spanish roads, which are happily a lot less congested than their UK counterparts.


I’m talking about the stress, not only of having a bump, but the red tape that inevitably follows a collision. You know, things like accident report forms, dealing with insurance companies, organising repairs and the general inconvenience of it all.


Well, now I know – thanks to a blind young idiot who drove out of a service station near Alicante Airport straight onto the main road - and into my little Kia Picanto. In a Smart hire car of all things.


And I can now reveal that getting it sorted ain’t anywhere near as bad as you might fear.


My Kia got the worst of it and while it remained driveable, the front offside ended up looking rather mangled. But I was lucky on several points. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, I had a passenger who speaks fluent Spanish – and the young man who hit me so Smartly was working for a major car rental firm.


In fact, he had been filling hire cars with fuel all day, which came in useful as an excuse. ‘‘Lo siento. Estoy muy cansado y no vi su coche,’’ he told my female friend as we filled in the obligatory accident report form.  In other words, he  was very tired and simply did not see my car.


Until that moment, I had no idea that such a report form existed. But what a good concept it is (not that the UK would ever adopt anything thought up by foreigners, of course).


The idea is that both parties in any accident fill in their respective versions of what happened - and also draw a diagram of the collision.


There were a couple of these forms in my glove compartment, where I had deposited all the documents relating to the car soon after I bought the vehicle five years earlier. Just as well I remembered they were there!


Fortunately there was no dispute about the circumstances of the accident so filling in the details was a formality, complete with a mutually-agreed illustration of the point of impact. Even if my contribution did look like the weavings of a spider across a Technicolor web.


Since the Smart car was insured on Europa’s all-embracing Axa policy, I already knew the scenario would not cost me financially. And from the professional and helpful way my insurers, Linea Directa, subsequently dealt with my side of the argument, I have absolutely no doubt they would have got me home muy pronto even had the Kia been undriveable.


And  what's more, there's no need to worry if your Spanish is not up to it - because their staff speak perfect English.


As it was, I was able to limp back to my house in Guardamar - some 25 miles away -  with only the car showing any bruises. Even though it was a Sunday I was able to make contact with Linea Directa – and within 24 hours all the relevant details, including the accident report form, were in their hands via phone and email.


Since there was no dispute over blame, all that was left was for me to arrange a repairer. And I doubt I could have found a better or more helpful, convenient and efficient company than the British-owned Elite Chapa Y Pintura, who were recommended to me by a friend.


The only inconvenience during the entire episode was having to leave the car at Elite’s repair centre in Los Montesinos – ten minutes from where I live – for the Linea Directa assessor to sanction the repairs. OK, I was without the vehicle for half a day, but since Elite provided me with a lift home and returned my vehicle after the assessor’s visit, I have no complaints.


As for as the actual repairs, they were completely painless since I was by then away in England. Elite collected the car from outside my home just hours after I headed to Manchester for a family visit. And two days later it was back, gleaming as new, to await the inspection of its returning owner.


My ordeal was behind me, my Kia looked as good as new, and I still had my full no-claims bonus. My fears about coping had been banished.


So if you’re an expat motorist worrying that it might happen to you, don’t.  Apart from the initial shock of the accident, I’d go through it all again. Any time.


Providing it's only a little bump, of course.


Like 0        Published at 20:05   Comments (0)

What the Spanish REALLY think of the British invasion...
06 November 2015

Jose Monllor Perez is small, dark, law-abiding and enjoys nothing more than relaxing with his pals, a cerveza and a cigarette. A stereotypical Spaniard, you might say.


We all have our own views on what constitutes an archetypal native of this particular Iberian nation. But how do the Spanish see the thousands, nay millions, of British holidaymakers who swarm around their country seeking the sunshine that invariably shuns our own grid-locked island?


For the past 16 years Perez (pictured above) has been teaching Spanish to students of all nationalities (me included) at the Berlingua School of Languages in Quesada on the Costa Blanca – the majority of them English.

Teaching runs in Jose's family and after seeing 5,000 pupils pass through Berlingua’s doors, he’s a pretty good judge of character. The Alicante-born profesora is also a dab hand at another trait that runs in the family - art. And he paints a hilarious tongue-in-cheek assessment of the stereotypical Brit.


Spainly speaking, it seems we are an apologetic, dog-crazy, dirty, unfit, drunken bunch of tattooed hooligans. And those are our good points!
The bad guys apparently all wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas.


Here’s the lowdown on how Spaniards see us – as interpreted by Perez.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 1: ‘‘They are always saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Sometimes I think that if you stamped on an Englishman he would apologise. And they say ‘thank you’ so much that the Spanish believe you thank cash machines after withdrawing money.’’


Next comes the obligatory condemnation of our drinking excesses. No, not getting sozzled every day and spending most nights, in the words of Billy Connolly, ‘‘talking to Hughey down the big white telephone’’. Something gentler and more refined than that - tea.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 2: ‘‘They drink tea at all hours – and with COLD milk. Uggh! I thought it was meant to be a hot drink!’’


The fun stops when we move on to the UK’s much-maligned drink culture, which arguably represents the most vivid stereotypical image of an Englishman in the eyes of 21st-century Europe.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 3: ‘‘The English drink far too much beer and wine and they all seem to spend all day in a state of drunkenness. ''


Of course, when we’re on the beach or by the swimming pool, all that booze makes us forget that our white skins are being roasted by el sol.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 4: ‘‘They just can’t take the sun. Their white skin never goes brown – it’s always bright red.’’


And then there is our perceived obsession with queueing.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 5: ‘‘They love to stand in a line waiting. Sometimes I think they make queues when there is nothing to queue for.''


The British attitude to pets is another peculiarity that amuses Perez.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 6: ‘‘They really love their dogs. We think they sleep with them, eat with them, take them on the bus, go into bars and get drunk with them – and then take each other home. They spend a fortune on their animals, but as for having a RABBIT as a pet, now that we cannot understand.’'

Perez confesses that the Channel 4 programme How Clean Is Your House?  sparked a suspicion among Spaniards that the entire nation is DIRTY.


‘‘That TV show is incredible,’’ he says. ‘‘The gardens are clean and tidy, but inside the houses it’s completely the opposite. If I go into an English bar after seeing that programme, I always examine the cups and spoons!’' Then, of course, there is our physical shape.


BRIT STEREOTYPE 7: ‘‘Their fitness levels are bad with lots of people overweight – and the guys all have tattoos and look like hooligans.’’


According to Perez, the Spanish also see us as bashful when it comes to discussing sexual matters and hmmm, let’s say anything involving personal excretions. But when it comes to using the F word, then there’s no holding us back...


Away from the wisecracking, Jose insists that only ignorant people actually BELIEVE these characteristics are representative of the nation. ‘‘Each person is an individual,’’ he insists.


‘‘There are Englishmen who do not drink tea, Spanish who don’t like flamenco, Germans who not have a moustache, Italian pizza haters, non-romantic Frenchmen and Russians who don’t belong to the Mafia.


‘‘Our brain wants to save energy and work quickly, so it creates stereotypes. It's easier to believe than that each person is uniquely different.’’

Like 3        Published at 13:31   Comments (19)

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