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A Foot in Two Campos

Thoughts from a brand new home-owner in the Axarquía region of Málaga. I hope there might be some information and experiences of use to other new purchasers, plus the occasional line to provoke thought or discussion.

11 - Meeting the Brits
22 August 2012 @ 13:26

 OK I admit it.  I’m judgemental.  I try not to be, but I am.   And sometimes at British airports in the queues for the Spanish Costas, I judge.  There are hen parties / stag parties heading for Benidorm,  There are screeching families heading for Torremolinos.  There are football fans heading for Barcelona.  And there are overly-tanned ex-pats with rather too much bling, loudly and pointedly announcing how they had enjoyed their visit to the UK but were relieved to be getting back to their villa, pool, and Little England community in the sun.


So it was with a degree of trepidation that I set out to meet two different sets of Brits in the Colmenar area.

Firstly, the English-run bar in town – Bar CO2 run by John & Karen, on the square outside the Ayuntamiento, the town hall.  Now for all I know they are typical of the Brits around Colmenar.  I can’t say yet.  But I do know that they are not typical of the image I had unfairly brought with me.  My image was of the “We don’t need to learn Spanish – everyone here speaks English” type, who shop only in English shops, drink only in English bars, and eat only at establishments such as “Fryer Tuck’s Fish’n’Chips” (and yes, I’m afraid it does exist).  No, John & Karen have bucked that image completely.   I was careful not to describe Bar CO2 as an English bar.  It is English-run, but serves as many Spanish as English clients, along with a good smattering of Dutch, German, Canadian and several other nationalities.  They speak Spanish to Spanish customers, and English to all the rest.  And when I have gone there asking for advice, they know and recommend local Spanish tradespeople.

Secondly, with even greater trepidation, I set off to the Wednesday gathering of the Colmenar Social Club,   To be honest, I was more tempted by the venue than the people, that first time.  They meet at the Hotel Restaurant Arco del Sol, and many people had recommended the ceramics and furniture in the large showroom downstairs from the bar.  So I had a good chat with Antonio, the owner, bought a rocking chair and a couple of small pots, and then nervously approached the English-speaking group out on the patio.  Again, my assumptions were unfounded.  I had expected an inward-looking group, sharing tips on English plumbers and pool-cleaners, complaining about Spanish bureaucracy, healthcare, and – well – everything really.  Instead I found a lively, intelligent and friendly bunch, a mixture of pensioners, early retired, some working in Spain and others travelling regularly between Spain and the UK.  They were open and welcoming, and generous with advice about internet providers and the care of lemon trees. 

In Colmenar there are very few English people living right in the town itself – less than ten, probably, plus a few Dutch and Canadian.  Most prefer to live outside in the campo in order to have a bit of land and a pool.  These are not people living on English-speaking urbanisations with their own supermarkets and bars.  Quite a few had spent much of their adult life living and working in a variety of other countries, so were British by birth and nationality but not so much by residence.  Most of the Colmenar Social Club members live scattered across the campo, as many around Riogordo and Comares as in the immediate surroundings of Colmenar.  Perhaps that very scatteredness is what makes this loose but supportive group so important to each other once a week.  Someone to talk to who has a similar problem with the town hall or the electric company.  Someone to lend a bit of scaffolding or a pressure washer when you need it.  Someone to put the word out if you need a second-hand fridge, camera or bicycle.

So, time for me to rethink my stereotypes.  I know the Brits of my assumptions are out there, because I’ve seen them on the coast outside Fryer Tuck’s Fish’n’Chips and waiting for the Allday Big Breakfast to eat during the Man United football match on the Sky big screen.  But there are other types of ex-pats too.  And they’re not all reinforcing the unfortunate common image of “Brits Abroad”.



© Tamara Essex 2012

Like 0


Gerald said:
22 August 2012 @ 12:25

Tamara what a terrific blog. I have to say the two main concerns I had were the British "yobbo's" and "flies".
The flies are still a minor concern but you have allayed my fear of the Brits in Spain and maybe my perception too has been altered.
Thank you Tamara, for refreshing my belief in British Expats.
The lesson though is keep away from the holiday resorts.

Patricia said:
22 August 2012 @ 14:48

So enjoying your blog, Tamara, and today's made me chuckle.

Perhaps this fact lies at the heart of the matter:

"Quite a few had spent much of their adult life living and working in a variety of other countries, so were British by birth and nationality but not so much by residence".

There are indeed other types of ex-pats. Over the many years I have lived and worked in Spain I have met charming, broad-minded, good-humored, non-bling and non-chav British people. Some became friends with whom I am still in touch.

In actual fact my home in Spain is in one of those holiday resorts. The blingy bunch and the so-called "in venues" can be avoided, and there is a real world within such resorts inhabited by the locals, both Spanish and ex-pat. Two different worlds in the same place, in fact.

The airport queues sure are an education, Tamara. LOL.


Tamara said:
23 August 2012 @ 12:16

Gerald - I certainly wanted to keep a little bit inland from those overly-Anglicised coastal communities. I also don't like what I read on the forums about these formal Communities with Presidents, AGMs, and rows about rules! However Patricia says she DOES live in one of the popular coastal resorts, and she's living proof that nice people live there too :-) I gather you are considering the Nerja area, Gerald - have you thought about a little bit inland from there?

Patricia said:
23 August 2012 @ 12:42

Aw, thank you for that Tamara. You are kind.

There are perfectly ordinary people (Spanish and non-nationals) living and working in the resort areas. Not all live in gated developments, but in buildings along streets, or in a detached house on a site of their own.

I can assure you that not all developments and residents' associations are like the ones sometimes mentioned. Many are well-managed and well-kept. However, it is true that many developments are populated mainly by ex-pats, though not necessarily all British. Usually a mix of nationalities.

Enjoying your blog, Tamara.

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