Hopeless Integrators

Published on 27/08/2007 in Holidays in Spain

Mr BeanWhen 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?

Written by: Susan Pedalino

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Women In Spain

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Icaru said:
02 September 2007 @ 11:01

Susan, the Brits coming here to this small coastal village on the Med coast of Turkey do exactly the same thing: arrive and strip down, then walk around this traditional Muslim town half-naked.

It's disrespectful and somewhat offensive, as well as distasteful we think.

Do people have no awareness or concern for the culture and people around them?

dpj said:
28 August 2007 @ 13:43

I totally agree with your comments on integration. You can spot a brit a mile off! That said, it is quite easy to be mistaken for Spanish. You need to master the nicities of the day in Spanish, make sure you use an appropriate sunscreen ( the lobster look is a major givaway!) and keep your clothes on. I am lucky in the fact that I can speak basic spanish thanks to night classes at my local school, and although we are both as british as they come, my husband has the black hair, brown eyes and tans at the drop of a hat.
We only spend 3 wks a year in Spain, but we use the opportunity to live the way we will when we retire there. We were in Caseres in April and were mistaken for Spanish by other holidaymakers, but not by locals.

isaflat said:
28 August 2007 @ 13:30

well...I do actually enjoy my Spanish friends and at the bottom of it there´s the fact that they´ve helped me out integrate ! Which is the key to it I do think. Unless you make the effort to make connection with the locals you are bound to misinterpret and they´re bound to misinterpret you too !
I think nothing of our poor English fellow-prawns but that they´re here for a week and in SUCH a hurry to get tanned they burnt themselves in the process. On the other hand, you can get the sight of many a bikini any time anywhere if you holiday in an Spanish resort, camps, etc. It´s only the city/village/church/supermarket it´s NOT a holiday resort to them, but some of our fellow citizens are not clever or kind enough to realize it...

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