Recently, I came across the sarcastic article of Chris Haslam “How to be Spanish”, which I suggest you take two minutes to read before continuing (below you find the link to it or simply Google the names of the author and article together).
It got a lot of bad press and criticism from Spaniards and some foreigners living for long time in this country. Points that mainly grabbed my attention about what you need to become Spanish (or at least living as an integrated citizen) and my comments about them:
- Learning the language: everywhere it is recommended to speak like the locals to the extent you are able to. Spain is no exception to it. However, I have observed that many people live here with a satisfying life without speaking it much/at all. Not that I encourage it but we are in a free and open country after all.
- Getting tan: at least in most of Western societies, who does not like to get a bit of colour? Depending on the area, however, you can go unnoticed without it, especially the more North and West you go (i.e. moving away from the Mediterranean Sea) and the closer you are to the winter.
Personally, my tan “acquiring capabilities” were lost many years ago, although I still have some capacity to gain some darkness that make me look not too pallid all year round.
- Ordering Tapas, Pinchos (and well, Cerveza and Vino): similar consideration to the previous point: who does not like a bit (or a lot) of them?
- Disdain for punctuality: right about it if you do not go over 15 minutes delay. The 30 minutes Mr. Haslam mentions is way too much.
- Politeness: the author hit a point on this one, at least for a good part of our society. Nope, you need not (and should not expect it when you are addressed either) words such as “por favor” (please) or “gracias” (thanks) when being at the bar or other places with a high turnover/volume of transactions.
- Carry a fan: luckily, many places have air conditioning and people instinctively know when to get out in the street and where to go in the hot summer months. Then again, it also depends on the location since a similar rule applies in geographic terms to what I commented in the “getting tan” paragraph, taking also into consideration that the heat is more intense (in day time) in continental Spain.
Nevertheless, if the (hand-held) fan (“abanico”) is stylish, do not be shy, show it off, and make the people (or animals!) close to you happy by getting some fresh air from your effort.
- TV: buffff, loads of rubbish programs. However, we live in the ‘on demand’ economy so you can skip traditional open air broadcasters.
Although the article is provocative and very exaggerated, I must say that I laughed with some of its observations. Besides trying to gain attention/traffic, as articles from ‘El Pais’ and ‘ABC’ (two of the main Spanish newspapers) show, I must also add that many people in Spain were not making any attempt to digest this gentleman’s humour, as he also explained in an article in the latter journal.
It is clear that our inhabitants are not good at taking these kinds of exaggerations easily (particularly in these days in which everyone can quickly express their frustrations and outrages), but then again, in which part of the world is it not like that? This is also a sign that Spaniards feel proud of their culture and want to defend it.
Perhaps the writer knows that his audience (British people) welcomes these kinds of descriptions about the Spanish culture that position their country above ours?
In future posts I will go through other articles and books that deal with aspects of Spain in a critical manner so we have a different perspective of “este país” (this country).
Did you read Chris Haslam’s article? Which points do you agree with? Did you find it funny? Any other negative aspect you have observed about being Spanish? Any solution you would propose for them?
Links of Interest:
ABC, “Es una pena que no me inviten a volver” (It is a pity I am not invited to come back) by Chris Haslam
El País, Why ‘The Sunday Times’ guide to ‘How to be Spanish’ missed the mark
The Times, How to be Spanish
Twitter, Chris Haslam
Photos: Picture from Chris Haslam’s article about “How to be Spanish” from The Times. Tapas from Mallorca. Bull sculpture in Rueda, Málaga.