Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In a country where there is a lack of urgency – and, outside the Basque country, Catalunia and perhaps Madrid, Spain still fits this bill – things tend to move slowly as a matter of course. But there is a self-reinforcing aspect to this situation which means that the slowness actually feeds on itself. For, where there in no imperative to ‘make things simple as time is money’, processes are always more complex, laborious and people-intensive than they need to be. And all this breeds human error, with the subsequent need to repeat things. And incur more errors, etc., etc. A perfect example of this was my experience last night in trying to get a list of doctors for my daughter in Madrid. The web site of my medical insurance company naturally asks you to input data to get this information and the form includes the post code. Knowing that this is as unique in Spain as it is elsewhere, I didn’t bother with Province, City and Locality but just entered the postcode. No doing. Every one of these bits of information had to be added before the site would divulge the list. Problems arose when I failed to realise that by Locality was actually meant Madrid [same as the other 2 boxes!] and not the district in which she lives. So a process which should have taken seconds took many minutes and caused a good deal of frustration. A common occurrence with Spanish web sites.

But …… the slower pace of life is one of the many things that make Spain a superior place to live, at least for those of us who don’t have to deal with this challenge on a daily basis in the workplace. So I feel rather bad about banging on about it. On the other hand, if you’re thinking of working – or even just living – here, it’s something you need to know about and accept. If you’re already here, you will surely already be more than aware of it!

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