Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Departing Brits; Spain is Different; & Yet more large scale corruption.

I get the occasional cold call here in Pontevedra but my mother back in England is plagued with them. She must, I guess, be on some Suckers List. Being of her generation, she used to speak to them before politely ending the call. Now, she just just puts the phone down as I do. I'm sure the technology exists to allow the phone companies to identify the companies and to warn you via a 'Cold Call' alert on your phone screen. But, then, I doubt it's in their financial interests to do so. And so it won't happen.

One of the things I listened to while driving to Plymouth and from Santander was a CD of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original English. As I did so, the image struck me of Shakespeare sitting in class and moaning to the teacher he didn't think Chaucer should be taught to kids.

The total number of Brits living in Spain is unknown but may be near a million, many of them unregistered with the town hall. What is known is that more than 20% of identified Brits quit Spain to go back to the UK last year. It's supposed that the reasons are economic.

But, anyway, here are a few more ways in which Spain is Different:-
  1. Customer orientation is a little less well developed in Spain than elsewhere.
  2. Ditto, inevitably, levels of customer service. You may have to fight for aisle space with a supermarket employee wielding a pallet. Though Mercadona is an exception.
  3. Kisses and hugging is practised more widely in Spain than in less tactile countries, even between men.
  4. Spain's TV advertising in greatly more adept in intrusive advertising than in other (less tolerant) countries. The latest example is transparent ads that scroll across the screen, usually as the audience is being panned.
  5. Shouting when you're talking is compulsory in Spain. And the more your interlocutors shout at you, the more you are legally bound to shout back. But noise is not a problem in Spain. Everyone accepts it as the norm. Except foreigner. In a bar yesterday, a friend and I were confronted by the worst possible scenario - six screeching grandmothers sitting at the next table. Their deafness didn't help.
  6. In related vein, it's compulsory for every café and bar in Spain to have at least 2 or 3 TVs on the wall, very possibly showing different programs. Plus maybe a radio channel. Again, the locals merely regard this as the norm and neither watch nor listen to any of them. The owners presumably fear a flight of customers if they didn't provide this aural wallpaper. Though, in some metropolitan cases, they would quickly be replaced by foreigners desperate for some peace and quiet. And the ability to hear each other talk.
  7. The Spanish demand bread with every meal and get antsy if it isn't on the table. However, this doesn't mean they'll eat any of it.
  8. The Catholic church remains powerful in Spain, even though 80% of the population don't go to church and support abortion and gay marriage. The Church is particularly involved in education, despite a decades-old intention to change this.
  9. The Catholic Church gets a percentage of our tax money, even though it was decided in the 70s that this would stop and that the church would be self-financing.
  10. It's virtually impossible to enter or leave any sizeable Spanish town without seeing at least one brothel, usually wreathed in garish pink neon lights and possibly a picture of the female form. And featuring a helpful name such as Nimfas or Working Girls.
  11. Corruption among businessmen and Spain's (disproportionate number of) politicians is endemic and considerably higher than in all other European countries, with the possible exception of Greece and Italy. That said, private individuals are very unlikely to see any corruption during their lives.
  12. Terrorist groups operate (in favour of secession) not only in the Basque Country but also in Galicia. Those in the former (ETA) may well have stopped bombing and killing but those in Galicia still occasionally blow up an ATM or a rubbish bin. Not a lot of people know this. 

Finally . . . Talking of corruption, the latest case name we have to try and remember is Operación Edu, under which police in Andalucia (a veritable byword for corruption) are investigating what may be Spain's biggest ever fraud, involving up to €2bn euros of EU funds that 'went missing' once it got into the hands of 'local officials' - regional governors, trades union leaders and employers' associations. The usual subjects, in other words. What's astounding is they thought they could get away with it. And, truth to tell, to the extent that the money will never be recovered, they have. What's a couple of years in jail for a pension pot of several millions? More here. Especially in a country in which moral turpitude is a weak concept. Don't forget it's your taxes which are lost to folk suffering from 'desert disease' - sticky palms.


Perry said...


The need to be sustained by mindless cacophony is symptomatic of displacement behaviour. The poor buggers have had to cope with the recent imposition of democracy on top of endemic corruption. As such, there are dozens more opportunities for minor officials to have their palms greased for the benefit of their stashes of cash under their mattresses. Seems like there is a job opportunity for a snakesman to liberate said stashes.

I suspect the noise is driven by the suppressed rage of those who cannot bear to ponder the unfairness of a system in which they are left out of the self-aggrandisement culture. Quietly confident is a mind set, conspicuous by its absence in Spain. As a conversation stopper, quote this: "You learn by listening, not talking". Then, you can use the moment of peace to berate the other person with a list of their shortcomings.

What I would say, is that matters can be become physical from then on, but six years experience of Israeli combat fighting, tends to overcome all opposition.

A knee in the fork is a "OFF" button. It's all fun over here.


Perry said...

An "OFF" button

Anthea said...

Attitudes to bread? An Italian friend of mine reports getting embarrassed in restaurants in Italy whe her English husband insists on having bread to mop up the delicious pasta sauce that he doesn't want to waste. So, what does she do? Looks around and explains to everyone that he is English, of course!

Anonymous said...

didn't get the bread thing yet uh? In Spain, Portugal, France and Italy it is the same: you eat bread with your meal (it tastes better, the same as with wine). Now, if you finished your meal but there is some bread left, you don't eat it. The meal is finished. over. Leave the bread alone for godshakes

sp said...

Here are four things that don't exist/happen in Britain:


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