Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So, only Italian companies are more involved in bribery overseas than those from Spain. Which is no huge surprise, I guess. Though it has to be said that Spanish companies have a bias towards Latin America and South America, where things may be different from, say, North America. Especially as Canadian companies are among the least involved in this game.

Talking of malpractice – Brussels is said to be concerned that national EU governments are using aid to strengthen their domestic banks at the expense of those from partner countries. Astonishing. But you can understand Spanish disaffection, as banks here – being sounder than any others in the world - are not getting the sort of goodies being dished out elsewhere. Especially north of the Pyrenees, it seems. Where, of course, this is a long-standing tradition. Usually disguised as something else. But no need for subterfuge right now.

And still with malpractice – A major but troubled Spanish construction company is reported to have arbitrarily hiked up the value of its assets by as much as 19,000 per cent, so as to be able to turn in good results for 2007. This appears to have had the blessing of the accountancy firm, Ernst & Young. Who must have some appetising accounting norms for property developers. Or perhaps they’d lost their calculator and had forgotten how to do mental arithmetic.

In the book I’ve already cited, Jane Fox confirms what we all know – that the English are widely admired for their courtesy, reserve and restraint but also renowned for their oafishness, crudeness and violence. These opposites, she asserts, are two sides of the same coin. Or, more precisely, they are both symptoms of the fundamental English social awkwardness. Or ‘dis-ease’, as she calls it. “We English” she explains “suffer from a congenital sociability-disorder, a set of deeply ingrained inhibitions that make it difficult for us to express emotions and engage in the kind of casual, friendly social interaction that seems to come naturally to most other nations. . . The symptoms of English social dis-ease involve opposite extremes: when we feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in social situations (that is, most of the time), then we become over-polite or courteous, buttoned-up and awkwardly restrained, or loud, loutish, aggressive, violent and generally insufferable. . . Both extremes are regularly exhibited by English people of all social classes, with or without the assistance of the demon drink.” Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is that it’s an English cultural belief that – contrary to all the evidence from other cultures – alcohol is a disinhibitor, giving them licence to go from one extreme to the other. So much so that, if you give them non-alcoholic drinks which they think are alcoholic, they will do this simply because they believe that’s what alcohol is for. Or something like that. You’ll have to get the book, if you really want to understand them. Us.

We have 11 or 12 local newspapers here in Galicia and I regularly admit I can’t understand how they all make money, though older Spanish hands suggest it has something to do with political subscriptions and advertising linked to the editorial line taken. Be that as it may, there is now to be another kid on the block – the Xornal de Galicia. Or possibly Galiza. I wish it well. Especially as it will be largely in Gallego. Which might just entitle it to some subsidies.

There are reported to be more than 400 Gallegos who’ve been the victim of el mobbing this year so far. Which is pressure from workmates or, more usually, bosses aimed at forcing employees to leave. Someone has commented that, where you can’t easily fire people, this is inevitable. So I guess the concept of constructive dismissal has yet to gain ground here.

The other interesting statistic of the week is that there are 156 kids in Galicia suffering from Emperor Syndrome and making their parents’ lives a misery. From the amount of crying, whingeing and screaming coming through my shared wall, I’d say about 2% of these are next door. Of course, things are much better when Tony is back from the sea; I can’t hear the kids for his bawling.

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