As I mention from time to time, I’ve lived in six cultures and become reasonably fluent in the language of each of them. Except that of North America, of course. But I was reminded yesterday it isn’t always the absence of language which leads to misunderstandings. Or the inability to grasp nuances of a new language. Often it’s simply because you and the person you’re dealing with are operating on the basis of different assumptions born of respective experience and cultural norms. The case in point centred on my asking Carrefour for details of a credit card charge of last July. The initial response was they couldn’t do it, especially as I’d left it rather late. Instead of adopting my usual strategy at this point – losing my temper, storming out and achieving nothing – I calmly asked why not. After a few more exchanges, it transpired that my ‘antagonist’ had assumed I wanted it immediately, whereas it never would have occurred to me to expect the immediate supply of data. So all ended well. I left them my details and they actually called me today with the information. Now, if I can just erase all the carefully accumulated assumptions upon which I normally work . . . I’d surely be a happier camper.
Reader Moscow has cited an article which suggests Spain is, in fact, quite a ‘clean’ place. And, if all goes well down at the cyber café, you can read it here. It’s certainly true that, if you take the construction factor out of the equation, the Spanish picture improves substantially. But, in truth, this is a little hard to do in practice. For, only this week, we’ve had the ex-mayoress of Marbella suddenly putting her hands on a million euros in cash to stop her house of similar value being auctioned. And the president of the Castellón province being accused of large-scale embezzlement. Plus the statistic from El País that 140 Spanish mayors are facing corruption charges. Not to mention the arrest of five Customs officers for abuse of their position. It’s really no great wonder that the perception of widespread corruption exists. Both domestically and abroad. The last point on this is that a Spanish columnist this week wrote that the real problem here is not so much that money disappears into the pockets of individuals but that it simply evaporates through extravagance and wastefulness [despilfarro]. Possibly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were commissions payable on its evaporation.
All that said, the truth is that Spain is a great country, full of wonderful people. One thing it isn’t, though, is a terribly efficient/productive place. In fact, of the ten or eleven major EU economies surveyed by the European central bank, Spain only ranked higher than Portugal against this parameter. Which rather takes me back to President Z’s possibly-rash boasts in New York this week that Spain’s per capita income – having already overtaken Italy’s – will be passing that of both France and Germany within the next few years. I know there’s no direct correlation between these but it does make one wonder whether major structural deficiencies are being tackled. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure Spain still ranks number one for the ability to have fun, either because you have a job or are living with/off your parents. Which just about covers everyone, I believe.
Interesting to see that the celebrity judge, Sr Garzon, is now calling for the names of not just Republican victims of the Civil War but also for those of Nationalists killed by the Republicans in Madrid. Perhaps this is a sop to the Catholic Church to persuade it to cough up the information it has on the former.
Talking of extravagance and wastefulness, there’s a City of Culture on a hill outside Santiago which is generally regarded as a white elephant. And a monument to the long-ruling gauleiter of Galicia, Manuel Fraga, still active in his late 80s in the Senate. Taking a view on the status of the city, a UNESCO body has just upset its burghers by stating baldly that it isn’t really a good idea to be planning a cable car between the city and Fragatown. The rest of us possibly couldn’t agree more.
The football team of our coastal town, Villagarcia, is called O Ingleses, The English. This reflects the long connection the place has with the British navy. And, doubtless, the money spent in the town’s various establishments. Which practice has just been restored, after a three year lay-off. As it were.
Well, still no internet. And this after 25 minutes on the phone with Ya.com today, ending when the technician said “Oops, our net has just gone down. Call back in twenty minutes.” Impressive, eh? Is it genuine or is it just a ruse to make you to spend even more time on a premium-rate call? One does get a little cynical and my guess is it’s the standard ploy for when you’ve gone through all the easy possibilities and can’t think of what else to tell the client. Much more consumer sensitive than just putting the phone down.
Finally – Super Bark Stop update: A quiet night suggests that placing the machine a couple of metres from the dog’s nose [and ears] is effective. But a sample of one is useless. So, on with the show!