Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm off to the UK in a few days' time, to attend a family funeral. This will take place two weeks after the death and it's been hard trying to explain this to Spanish friends. Here, the Requiem Mass and the internment – very occasionally a cremation – take place on the following day. I assume this is a custom reflecting the heat of Spanish summers but, as with so many things, the standard belief here is that things are done around the world exactly as they are in Spain. And there is deep disbelief when you explain they aren't.

One of these differences that I mention from time to time is that, whereas notaries and registrars are all-powerful here in Spain, they simply don't exist in Anglo-Saxon societies. In the latter lawyers have the sort of status accorded to notaries in Spain. Whereas here they don't have anything like the status and the power they have in the UK and the USA. For better or worse.

Talking of Spanish customs . . . One of these is to use the word guapa – meaning pretty, good-looking or attractive – with a frequency which is at odds with reality. This morning, for example, I heard it being used between members of a group of 70 year old ladies as they met for coffee. But, then, I did say the other day that hyperbole and flattery are very much a feature of Spanish society.

On a wider 'cultural' theme, courtesy of Lenox, here's the blog of a Brit who doesn't just dislike Spain but actively hates it. His post is, to some extent balanced by another contributor and there are Comments on both sides of the line. I, of course, am on the side of the angels - those who find that, on balance, Spain offers a better quality life than the UK. But there are some very basic rules, which I suspect our disenchanted friend hasn't mastered. For example: Learn the language. And get rid of your British inability to make eye contact and smile. It does wonders for customer service. And learn to manage your expectations and get comfortable with uncertainty and spontaneity. Oh, and talk a lot. End of lecturette.

I see the Pope has accused God of sleeping on the job. Personally, I wonder what the hell He was doing for the tens of billions of years of earth's existence before He decided to initiate life on it. If, indeed, He did.

I posted a video of Córdoba the other night. Here, from the same source, my Ferrol friend Richard, is another one, featuring the city's Roman heritage.

Phony, fraudulent foodstuffs: Now it's fish. Which should, by now, be no surprise to anyone.

Finally . . . Feeling off colour last night, I was hoping for a good night's sleep. But 7.30 brought an indication that bawling Toni was back from the sea. Either that or the voice of his 16 year old son has quite definitely broken.

Publisher's Note: This blog has a daily readership of around 250. Fewer at weekends and occasionally quite a lot more. But, at 426, yesterday broke all records by quite some distance. I have no idea why but wonder whether the blog was cited by someone else. So, if you are a new reader who arrived this way yesterday, I'd really appreciate confirmation of this, either in the Comments below or to this email address. Many thanks.


Anonymous said...

Hi Colin,

Most people have been at "odds with reality" during some moments in their life time (Brits included). Can you imagine a group of elderly ladies describing each other by what they really see and feel? Remember that "guapa" can also mean "looking well and happy."

Good advice to your fellow countryman reminding him that looking at the eyes of the person you're talking to is a sign of good manners and good for the soul.

"El muerto al hoyo y que viva el pollo."


SF Bay Area

Colin said...

Thanks, Jorge. I think 'guapa' is one of those words with a wide variety of (positive) meanings, across Hispanic cultures. British women would say 'Dear', at least in the North. Possibly 'Darling' in the South. Cheers.

James Atkinson said...

My grannie being from Durham would say "Pet". On Coronation Street, Hilda Ogden alway's said "Chuck", here in South Wales they say "Bach" and further North Cariad, meaning darling, or sweetheart, so I am told.
Doesn't sound very friendly does it "Chuck", wonder what it could mean?

Colin said...

Well, 'Duck' is another favourite in parts of the North, along with 'Love', which I prefer.

Chuck and Duck may be related.

Bill said...

If you want to know who is visiting your site, you could do worse than sign-up to
- it is free and pretty easy to install. I have used it for several years on a number of my websites and blogs. It is sometimes surprising how people get to one's site; I've tried quite a number of free stat trackers over the years and find this to be pretty good and very reliable.

As for the eye-contact thing, I must admit I was not aware that Europeans, in general (including the British and Spanish) were reluctant to look one in the eye. In Far Eastern societies there is sometimes a reluctance/hesitation to do so, for fear of offending, by people performing services. So much so that in the company I worked for (a bank), one of the counter staff training modules for staff in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and a few other countries in that area (but not all, because it wasn't necessary) had the specific aim of encouraging eye contact and a friendly smile and greeting; funnily enough this particular course was developed in Hong Kong in collaboration with a well-known American fast-food chain, specially for our branches and their outlets in parts of HK where western customers were common; it did not matter, indeed it would have been counter-productive in areas that had few/no western visitors, because clients there would have found such 'aggression' (that's how they view it) uncomfortable.

Colin said...

Thanks for that, Bill. I'll take a look at .

As for the eye contact thing - The Brits are appalling at it and, as you say, tend to see it as agression.

The Spanish are among the best in the world at it and, naturally, see the failure to make and keep contact as shiftiness.

I don't know about other European countries but suspect the Irish are as bad as the British and the Greeks are even 'better' than the Spanish.

I have certainly had to learn to get better at it.

The Chinese, of course, have a reputation for not smiling and this is certainly true of the nearest Chinese Bazaar to me. Though occasionally, as a regular customer I do get a Buenos Dias.