Friday, November 04, 2005

Another two visits to banks yesterday and two more today. So a few more surreal experiences, witness the following short conversations. As ever, everything was very jovial and first-name-personal, as if we’d known each other all our lives. Of course, since so few Spaniards move away from their place of birth, this is usually the case:-

Bank no. 1
Me: Hola, Manuel. Have you got the temperature/humidity gauge the bank is giving away to its customers this month?
Manuel: Well, no. Maybe at the end of the month. You see, demand was much higher than expected. We’ve had at least 20 people come in.
Me: And how many gauges did you get to give out?
Manuel: Well, just 1, actually. But it’s the same all over the country.

Bank no. 2
Me: Javier, before we talk about my deposits, I’d like to ask why the bank made this unauthorised payment to an insurance company.
Javier: Well, they knew your account number so you must have signed a direct debit form
Me: No, I haven’t.
Javier: Do you want us to get the money back?
Me: No. I’d like to know how this could happen
Javier: Would you like us to get the money back?
Me: ……….

Me: Anyway, Javier. I’m very disappointed at the return on this 3 year deposit.
Javier: Why? It’s 4.5%.
Me: No, it isn’t. It’s under 3
Javier: Oh, yes. But still better than today’s rate of 1.6.
Me: Maybe but inflation is 3.5%.
Javier: No, that’s just the government’s figure. The real rate is much higher.
Me: ………

In both cases, the distinguishing features [as ever] were:- 1. an absence of any sort of apology or expression of regret, and 2. an un-stated suggestion that one must expect these things to happen and just be happy they can be corrected via a trip to the bank and a friendly chat. No need to get all Anglo-Saxon about things.

As it happened, today I got a letter from my UK bank in response to a complaint about an error around a transfer. The apologies were profuse and they added a 30 quid token of regret. I was also given the name of the writer’s boss, in case I wasn’t happy with the response. It’s a different universe. Hence my insistence Banco Santander and Telefonica are in for a culture shock after their purchases of Abbey National and O2, respectively.

Interesting messages from Fonso and Portorosa after my mention of Galician yesterday. I hadn’t realised there was such a gap between spoken and formal, written Gallego. Although I did know that even spoken Gallego differs between places within Galicia. Of course, problems [and stupidities] always arise when some appointed body tried to regulate a living language. And the situation is even worse when the process is politicised. The French do this for defensive purposes [against the encroachment of English], whereas the Catalans, the Basques and even the Galician Xunta do it in pursuance of nationalist goals. Anglo Saxons probably don’t realise how lucky they are not to have one or more language academies. But at least, when there’s no dictatorship, the rules can be ignored with total impunity.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi colin, it´s funny to read about galicia by someone from abroad, it opens one´s mind a bit.

i just wanted to comment on how you use "nationalism". well actually, spain is also nationalist, as England, France, Germany or any other country in the world have been since the 19th century. actually, the states of today are nothing more than sucessful nationalisms. there´s a great book by Benedict Anderson called "Imagined Communities" where he explains how the modern states embraced nationalism to create a common identity and how resourceful they were in imagining them (they used from language to (selected bits of) history, etc).

it´s funny to think for example that Sir Francis Drake is referred to as "the pirate Drake" in Spain. or that, according to the Spanish official history, Nelson only won the battle against Spain because there was a bad storm that day...

take care, i will keep reading your posts, some of them are really good fun!