When you look around yourself at other foreigners in Spain they all seem to blend in more naturally. The Swedish, the Dutch and even the Germans are very good at getting by in Spanish and never embarrass themselves by speaking in their own language but louder.
Our first faux pas is that despite our so called English reserve, we still manage to draw attention to ourselves. The most obvious way is by lying out in the midday sun with minimum sun protection. With so much information and skin cancer awareness, it is impossible to believe that people are still exposing their raw skin desperate to get the so called healthy, brown look. However, part of the route to the tan is a few days spent in agony walking about looking like a giant prawn!
Short of writing on one’s forehead “I’m a guiri” another favoured way of standing out is by walking around topless. This is mainly the men but especially the big ones who can’t wait to get to Spain to show off their treasure chest. It doesn’t even need to be that hot for the guys to start tearing off their t-shirts. On the contrary, it is not unusual to see men walking topless along the N340 in December! The ladies, on the other hand, consider it perfectly reasonable to walk into the supermarket or down the street in a bikini. If you look around you will notice that you will never see a local over the age of twelve wearing a bikini anywhere but the beach so take note.
And what is it with the Brits not being able to leave the country without a case full of summer clothes no matter where they are flying to or what time of year it is. Oh you can always spot those in their holiday togs. It is true the skies are generally brighter in Spain, all year round but it does get chilly especially in your shorts and vests. It is not unusual to hear the squelch of flip flops in the rain. We don’t do it in our own country so why do we let the Spanish think that we are complete lunatics who after years of rain training still don’t know how to keep dry.
Our timetable also gives us away. We have a sandwich for lunch at midday then we eat our main meal at six pm which is usually the time that the Spanish have a snack to keep them going until dinner at 9 or 10. During the hottest part of the day, you won’t catch a Spaniard outdoors but us crazy Brits are walking around at three o clock getting sunstroke. Mind you, I have to admit that this is a good time to have the supermarket all to yourself! And if there is an event going on, you can expect the Brits to be there first at the actual time printed on the poster whereas the average Spaniard won’t make it until at least an hour later when it will actually start.
We still maintain our queuing culture until one too many old ladies push in front of us and we learn to stick our elbows out and get assertive. We also say please, thank you and sorry even when we do nothing wrong. However, what we are not very good at is the Spanish habit of greeting people in the street or once we have mastered this little custom we go overboard greeting every man, woman and beast and feeling stupid when we get ignored.
The truth is most of us do have good intentions and want to integrate like the rest of the Europeans do so effortlessly. But this is the thing we are so British that changing our ways does require a lot of effort and we aren’t that bad anyway, are we?