Sunday, October 14, 2007

In his/her recent list of unattractive British practices, a Spanish reader included something to the effect that both the British and their houses are filthy. Truth to tell, this does seem to be a widespread perception amongst modern Spaniards and this image can only have been furthered by frontpage headlines in Spain on the Clostridium-related deaths in British hospitals. Dining with an Anglo-Spanish couple recently, I was jocularly asked by the husband whether all British women were like his ‘untidy’ British wife. I said I couldn’t speak for all British women; all I knew was that no Spanish woman could possibly give lessons in cleanliness to either my mother, my sisters or either of my ex wives. In return, I asked him whether all Spanish women were as fanatical about cleanliness and hygiene as I'd heard claimed by both Spanish and British men. He said indeed they were and we then mused on the possibility this was one of the factors behind the Spanish aversion to home entertaining. Given the tendency, he said, for Spanish women to gossip and backbite, no wife wanted to run the risk of having her picture frames checked for dust. So, on this subject at least, there you have the modern stereotypes. British women are carelessly dirty and Spanish women neurotically clean. A bit of a clash, then, with the older picture of anally-retentive Brits on one side and happy-go-lucky Spaniards on the other. “Truth? What is truth?” said Pilate, and departed smiling.

The Times reference to Spain yesterday was on the likelihood of a bank crash there. “Lending in Spain’s financial and corporate sectors” it claimed “ is grinding to near-standstill, amid a climate of suspicion about which bank could be the ‘Spanish Northern Rock' . . There is a climate of total mistrust’. Since Spanish banks didn't lend heavily to sub-prime mortage customers, the allegation is that this fear is connected to the less-than-gentle collapse in the overheated housing market. But vamos a ver.

As for Northern Rock itself, it seems the odds are on Virgin taking this over. Which would mean it wouldn't end up in the hands of the consortium of Spanish businessmen reported to be looking at it. Perhaps no local banks could/would lend them the finance.

Returning to the issue of modern Spain, here’s a quote from a Spanish newspaper - “Aesthetic medicine is now being included in the calculation of the IPC retail price index in Spain. A new study has shown that on average every Spaniard spends 2,000 euros a year on such treatments, making it part of the regular family budget”. I’m not sure I find this credible. Can it really be true that Spanish families are spending upwards of 4,000 euros a year on whatever ‘aesthetic medicine’ is? Opinions welcome.


moskvitch said...

Sorry to bombard with so many comments lately. Just one more observation. The widespread believe that British homes are somewhat less than spotless is not a recent feature. And then again, the British also are (or are perceived to be) less tidy than the Germans, the French, and the Italians - and, as far as I know, all the other Europeans put together (with the notable - or notorious - exception of Russians). Sometimes you make, it is my believe, a mistake when you refer to the Spanish in opposition to what you call "Northern Europeans" (ie the British plus the rest of Northern Europe). Sometimes this is absolutely correct, often this is slightly misleading, and sometimes it's just wrong, as in so many aspects, (tidyness is just one of these aspects), the British are truly unique in their ways. What's interesting is that the Spanish are clean at home, but outside the home,...well they are not, aren't they? Why? One more last and very general observation. A British journalist once claimed that there is generally speaking a lag of 20 years in the perception that people have of other societies. With this I mean, not people like you, who live abroad, speak foreign languages, and try to understand the cultures they live in or travel to, but the broad mass, who rarely moves around except on holidays or short business trips. Thus, what present day Britons perceive to be Spain like, is the Spain of twenty years ago, and viceversa. As an example, I am sure, nowadays, modern day Britons have much better teeth than the current and widespread perception Americans have about British teeth. Moskva

Anonymous said...

from Mike the trike - well in 1962 a friend of mine went on holiday to Spain for two weeks. One day he returned to the hotel from the beach just wearing his swimming trunks. A policeman attracted his attention by blowing a whistle and approached my friend and produced a set of cards in different languages. My friend took the English card and it stated that it was the custom in Spain to dress properly before leaving the beach. His reaction on returning to England was one of "what a stupid place!" I asked him if he would do the same in England and he replied no. Just because he was in a foreign country he had a different attitude. I wonder if that same policeman is still walking near the beach blowing his whistle today?

MM said...

I am really bored with the statement about British women and their houses being filthy. I am yet to hear it from anyone who has lived in the UK long enough to actually visit the home of a Briton, and more often than not they have not even been there at all.

I think Moskvich is right in her appreciation that Spaniards are cleaner indoors than outdoors and the British are the other way around. Also when she says that people are still thinking of Spanish ways as they were many, many years ago.

I believe that there's some truth about the gossip and backbiting but I am no so sure it has anything to do with home entertaining. It is traditional for Spaniards to show you round the house, and that includes all the rooms, not only reception rooms like in England, but for entertainment, they like to go out, although nowadays, for financial reasons more and more people are entertaining at home.

Anonymous said...

España es un País Moderno, que cierta prensa inglesa, francesa y portuguesa pretende hacer pasar por un Estado Cuasi- Medieval, con Militares, Toreros y Tonadilleras paseando en alpargatas por las calles o montados en burros.......

Anonymous said...

To those who've written their comments in Spanish:

Folks, I understand you disagree with Colin on many issues, often vehemently. We want to know your side of the story, your arguments and counter-arguments. By responding in Spanish, you give us no choice but to listen to Colin and his fans; thus you automatically lose the argument in the eyes of the world. That's boring.

P.S. Just don't tell us:"This is a Spain-related blog so shut up." The service is provided by a company in California and has been made open to anyone in the world.

Colin Davies said...


1. No need to apologise for sending comments. All serious comments are much appreciated. Though I'm a bit tired of the stupid vindictive ones which make no other point than I am an idiot. But it takes all sorts.

2. I'm not aware that I contrast Spain with northern European cultures en bloque, as I try to confine my comments to cultures I know something about from personal experience. And I know virtually nothing about Scandinavian, German or even French cultures. If I do do this, I shouldn't and will have to be on my guard about it.

3.I will say something about more about cleanliness in today's blog but I find that - although bar floors can be quite littered - generally speaking the streets of Spain are very clean. Much cleaner than those of the UK, for example.

4. Yes, I agree with the 20 year lag rule. Though, in the case of the USA and the UK and thanks to Hollywood, it's nearer 200 years. Or at least 50. Americans still think London is shrouded with smog on most days, for example.

5. As for Spain and the UK, most Brits think Spain is Andalucia. Or drug raves in Ibiza. I would guess that 99% of Brits are unaware that there is a green Spain. Not that this is a cultural aspect, though.

6. I had to smile when you used the word 'bombard'. For some reason, each of your messages is currently arriving 8 times. I wonder whether I am receiving all those meant for the various departments of the successor to the KGB. Can't remember what it's called. Perhaps you could call them and ask . . . .


Colin Davies said...


Yes, I agree with you. As I will say ask in today's blog - How do these people know about the inside of British homes?

Not sure I agree with you about the British being cleaner outside than in. Whatever the truth is about the inside of most British homes - and nothing could be cleaner than that of my 82 year old mother's which I'm currently visiting - I find Britain's streets to be less clean than those of Spain. I will venture a guess at the reason for this in today's blog.


moskvitch2 said...

Sorry about the repeated comments. The problem is me not the Russians. I agree nowadays the city centres in Spain are cleaner than in the UK. But no so the country side, in particular the bit that marks the end of town and the start of the country side - this is often a blurred line that stretches for a mile or two. Construction material is often dumped on fields near roads. And Spain has probably the dirtiest road sides in Western Europe.