I lost my ADSL line late Sunday, possibly as a result of the storms which hit the Galician coast this weekend. So, here is the blog I couldn’t post on Monday night:-
Monday 23 Oct. 2006
In common with much of continental Europe, Spain doesn’t make it easy or quick to set up and run your own business. It’s certainly not possible to be up an running as a sole trader or even with a limited company in 24 hours, as you can be in the UK. And, once you’ve started, you’re hit with requirements such as an obligation to pay 2-300 euros a month social security payments even if you’re not selling a bean. And to make tax returns quarterly instead of annually. This, at least, is the law but in Spain things are never this simple. Pragmatism rules and most would-be entrepreneurs naturally chose to operate in a grey world, where they don’t formally establish themselves and so don’t comply with these requirements. Or not until they’re making money, at least. But the really Spanish aspect of all this is that the authorities are well aware of this – as they are with the main tax dodges involved in buying a house – but turn a blind eye. In fact, when my daughter inquired at the local tax office about setting up in business, she was effectively advised to start out like this and come back when she was in profit. This pragmatic way of doing things is not, of course, unique to the laws around business taxes. I suppose the Spanish might be prepared to call it taking the Nelsonian approach if he hadn’t destroyed their entire fleet at Trafalgar.
A shop called Rocio in Pontevedra advertises its wares as ‘Underwear and Babies’. Perfect for Madonna, then.
And here is yesterday’s post . . .
Tuesday, 24 October 2006
When you’ve been in a culture long enough, things finally start to come together. And apparent contradictions suddenly seem compatible. Like Giles Tremlett [‘Ghosts of Spain’], I’ve often wondered how spoilt, self-centred children can turn into such admirably unaggressive adolescents. And how adults who appear, at times to be so ‘independent’ [i. e. selfish] can, at other times, be among the most polite people imaginable. My latest theory is that the spoilt kids certainly acquire manners [possibly by osmosis] but never recover from the fact they’re never taught to actually think of others before themselves. What adults end up with is what I call ‘passive politeness’. In effect, if they’re not aware of your existence [and they naturally don’t have good antennae], they can come across as very rude. But, if you do register on their radar screen, they immediately transmogrify into exceptionally polite people. And because they can do this, they’re very affronted by the suggestion they’re ill-mannered [mal educado]. In fact, this seems to be one of the stronger insults in Spain. Though not as bad as being called a billy goat. Anyway, this – as I say – is my current theory and you’re welcome to pull it apart. Politely, I hope. Right or wrong, I do know the best way to ensure you’re treated civilly in Spain is to force your way into someone’s consciousness. Telling them they are obstructing your view, or standing on your foot, for example. No people on earth apologises more profusely than the Spanish once their innate politeness is activated. Not a country for shrinking violets, then.
It never rains but it pours. The coast of Galicia has been hit by severe storms this week and several places are now under inches of the mud that has flowed down from the mountains, unimpeded by the trees that served this purpose before they were destroyed by August’s dreadful fires. An autumn best forgotten, then. Mind you, not everything is down to cruel Nature. Illegal house- building is said to have provided the water with new escape routes to the sea.
There are said to be between 15 and 18,000 illegal immigrants here. But this represents only 2.5% of the population, against 8.5% for Spain as a whole and 16% in the Balearic Islands.
Following the introduction of an anti-smoking law last January, sales have generally fallen throughout Spain this year. This reflects a cessation of smoking in workplaces far more than any reduction in bars, cafés or restaurants. Here in Galicia, though, sales have risen by more than 4%. But this is attributed to border-hopping Portuguese, taking advantage of the fact it’s cheaper to kill yourself here than back home.
With 6 days still to go, it’s already the wettest, most miserable October in 30 years.
I am still without my ADSL connection. And will have to wait at least 20 minutes on a premium line to talk to anyone about this, followed by 5 minutes proving that I am who I say I am.
What more do you need to know??