Sunday, June 28, 2009

Regular readers will know I do like to point out that the Spanish don’t display much of a duty of care to strangers. Meaning they can be remarkably inconsiderate of the interests of others. On the other hand, I do stress they have a very high duty of care towards family and friends. And that, most importantly, it doesn’t take much to become a friend. Once you do, then the Spanish can be not only very affable but also remarkably gracious and kind. This is quite a contrast and, since the Spanish see themselves only in the latter light, they tend to get pretty annoyed at the regular foreigner’s comment that they’re a rude people. To stay positive, here are three recent examples of the sort of thing that more than compensates for the stuff of which I complain:-

1. In the café where I take my morning coffee, I asked the young waitress if she’d take a minute to listen to a video of a comedienne telling a joke in Asturian and then tell me whether it was fully comprehensible to a speaker of Gallego. She willingly did so and then talked a bit about Spanish languages and ended up saying she’d bring me in a book on them. This is the first time we’ve spoken, other than for me to order my café con leche.

2. When I polled up at the petrol station at the nearby shopping centre at 2.40 yesterday, the young lady told me they’d closed at 2.30. But, seeing the crestfallen look on my face, she immediately ignored her own comment, came out and filled my tank.

3. This evening, I was waiting in my car at the side of the road for some people who are renting my house in the hills. A car drew behind me and the driver came to my door, offered his hand, and asked me if I was Juan Pablo Garcia. When I said I wasn’t there was much smiling and well-wishing and off he went. Only to return a couple of seconds later to ask whether I was parked because of problems with the car.

As I say, it doesn’t take much to become a friend and then to be entitled to such generous treatment. In fact, thinking about it, all it seems to require is that you cease to be a stranger by exchanging a few words. Perhaps this is why the Spanish talk so much. Which some would say is rich, coming from me. But, then, perhaps that’s why I fit in. As I’ve written before, it doesn’t pay to be a shrinking violet in Spain. You’ll be a perpetual stranger and come to hate the place.

If you’re coming to Pontevedra this summer, be aware that the place is full of public works that are proceeding at a pace which would shame a lame snail. Six week from our annual huge fiesta, the alameda where much of it takes place is an almighty mess and there are already warnings this won’t be cleared up by mid-August. Of course, even if it isn’t, the show will still go on and you’ll have a great time. If not necessarily in the place where you should be having it.


Portorosa said...

Hi, Colin!

I think you're completely right about both aspects (rudeness, or even blindness, if they don't know you, and kindness if the do). But, obviously, speaking only in a superficial and social way (both, too).


Colin said...

Hola, P. Cuanto tiempo!

Thanks for this. Yes, I agree that it's all very superficial and social but I have no problem at all with that. Better thin affability and graciousness than deep disdain.

Plus, at least half of me is very superficial! I don't find it difficult to play by the rules of the game.

I must get up to Ferrol this summer. It's on my list!


Midnight Golfer said...

I think you may have figured out a way to put it into words.

The lack of incensed nor retaliatory comments makes me think you've pulled it off right.

Colin said...

Well. I don't always manage it!