Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brussels has told Spain to stop being nasty to non-resident foreigners who have a taxable income here. This includes those taxed on the notional rental value of their holiday home. In contrast to Spanish residents, these pay a [much higher] flat 25% but this turns out to be illegal under EU rules against differential treatment of EU citizens. I’m sure the Spanish government will desist from penalising foreigners in this way but probably around the same time the country shifts wholesale to European working and eating hours. All tax authorities love such soft touches as ‘rich’ people who are not in a position to take effective action against inequity.

An interesting confrontation is developing in the Basque country. Like the IRA, the ETA terrorist group has a political arm, Batasuna. The difference is the latter is illegal in Spain, whereas Sinn Fein is not in the UK. Nonetheless, Batasuna is planning to hold a conference this coming Saturday and the president, Mr Zapatero, has said he regards this as permissible under some right to meet. Others, though, take a different view and have taken the matter to the National Court. Yesterday, this decided that the meeting would be illegal and instructed the Basque government to prevent it. We wait to see if and how this will be done. Meanwhile, one positive aspect of all this is that it’s removed the Catalan constitution negotiations from the front pages.

Sad to relate, it’s a regular topic of conversation among foreigners here that the Spanish are not well-mannered. The most frequent complaint is they lack any sense of personal space and so use both the pavement and road as if no one else was on them. My own view is that it’s simplistic to say the Spanish are bad mannered. My experience is they can be as well-mannered as anyone else, but with the crucial proviso they are aware of your existence. The truth appears to be the Spanish are not brought up to be terribly sensitive to others and so do not instinctively take your needs [e. g. for personal space] into consideration. For this reason, it’s true you won’t see here some of the little ‘courtesies’ that occur in other cultures. In contrast, though, once the Spanish become aware of your existence, they can be far more friendly and considerate than elsewhere. It’s a paradox and, at times, it can irritate but, basically, the challenge is to force yourself into the mental orbit of others. Nice in theory but I admit it’s hard to walk along the street shouting ‘Boo!’ in the face of everyone who looks set to walk straight into you.

1 comment:

trevor@k'alebeul said...

The trick on the street is not to look at them as collision becomes imminent. Then they will get out of the way. If you look at them and also have the misfortune to believe in equal rights to pavement space, then you'll either get in a fight or have to wait a long time for them to give way. Being large and/or carrying an axe is helpful in both cases.