Reading Charles Butler’s comments about how the Spanish regard property made me realise that the ‘irrational’ attitudes and actions that I’ve met in 8 years here were not confined to Galicians. And so couldn’t be attributed – as they usually are – to the latter’s allegedly mystical connection with the land. But then I never did regard them as illogical, merely strange to my way of thinking and acting. In this, I have the advantage of having studied law and lived in both the Middle and the Far East. Just one of these experiences would have been enough to convince me there’s no such thing as absolute logic. Or, alternately, that there are dozens of logics - all of them perfectly valid, provided you don’t go and live somewhere else.
Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are some of the odd or ‘non-commercial’ things I’ve either personally experienced or had related to me by friends who’ve experienced them:-
1. You make an offer on a property below the asking price. The seller responds with a price above the latter. You are astonished and the agent is dismayed as he knows no Anglo is going to accept this insult and his commission has just disappeared.
2. You don’t bother to negotiate but agree to the asking price. The seller shakes hand on this but then spends the next 3 months putting obstacle after obstacle in your way until you eventually pull out, leaving the furious agent to sue him for breach of contract.
3. You want to rent a place which the owner normally rents out only for July and August at, say, 4,000. You offer him 4,500 for the year but he refuses. You offer him 5,000 but he still refuses. You walk away.
4. You return and say, ‘Look, I will rent it for 10 months for 1,000 and move out for July and August so that you can get your normal 4,000 during those months and make a total of 5,000 a year. He says ‘Nooo. I may want to use the place during the year.” You know that he never will but you increase your offer for 10 months first to 1,500 and eventually to 3,000 but you are still rejected. So you walk away for the last time.
5. Someone you know owns three flats in the same city, two of which are always empty. You ask if you can rent one of them at the going rate. You’re told that they don’t want the hassle but suspect that the real reason is that they know they will have little chance of recourse against you in law should you prove to be a difficult or immovable tenant.
The Spanish are famous for being an urban-centric people. This possibly explains why, if you live in a city centre you can probably enjoy the internet at its best. Whereas, if you live on the periphery or, worse, out in the countryside, you’re effectively stuffed. In a city – say Pontevedra - you should be able to get a high-speed fixed line, an even faster cable connection or a 3G card that allows you to use your laptop throughout the city. You’ll possibly pay more than anywhere else in Europe but at least you’ll have the internet. Just outside the city – say across the river in Poio – neither the cable nor the 3G card options are available but you can still get a [slowish] ADSL phone line. A few kilometres out, though, you’ll be lucky if you can get what Telefónica calls ADSL Rural. This is half the speed of what you get in the city, at twice the price. In other words, four times more expensive that the already costly city connection. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get nothing. And this from a company which boasts of being the most profitable telephone operator in the world.
I say you can get an ADSL line outside Pontevedra but yesterday my nice-but-noisy neighbour, Tony, told me that none of my neighbours have had what they’re paying Telefónica for for a year now.
And still on the internet, here’s a brief transcript of my conversation with Ya.com yesterday, on their premium-rate number:-
Minute 1: None of your advice has been effective. Can you please send a technician or cancel my subscription. OK, I’ll just get you a confirmation number. Let’s go through your details again . . And again . .
Minute 8: Hello. I’ll be right with you with the number.
Minute 15: Hello. Won’t be long now.
Minute 20: OK, here’s the number.
So, does this blatant, customer-screwing extortion happen elsewhere, I wonder.
You can possibly tell I’m a tad jaundiced on this subject but I should stress I don’t really know whether the Pontevedra situation holds true for all of Spain. Or even all of Galicia. But the Ya.com customer service strategy probably does.
Some good news – Galicia and Cataluña are the regions where there’s most compliance with the anti-smoking laws.
Some bad news – Even in Galicia, the compliance rate is only 45%. Thank God my regular café/ bar does obey the law. Now, if I could only get them to install WiFi . . .
A headline in the Voz de Galicia yesterday advised us “The Portuguese government places a higher priority on the high-speed train link between Lisbon and Madrid than on the connection with Galicia.” Well, Que sorpresa!
Still on the Portugal theme, the President of the new Galician Academy of the Portuguese Language says that Galician shouldn’t be called Gallego/Galego but “The Portuguese of Galicia”. And he also thinks Portuguese and Gallego should be brought closer together. God help us! As if we didn’t have enough language complications here already. A plague on these pipe-dreaming Lusistas[?]!
Suspicions are growing that – despite denials – Renfe is going to scrap the overnight train from Pontevedra/Vigo to Madrid and force us to go to Santiago if we want to travel comfortably to the capital. What a shame this would be. Especially for me.