When in Rome…


OR should we do as the Romans do? There’s not much in Spain that irritates. Most of us agree that the good bits outweigh the not so good bits and we’re happy in our suntanned skins. Off the top of my head I can think only of Spanish bureaucracy. This is a job creation exercise that uses money borrowed from banks to pay three people to do the work of one private sector worker.

In Spain it appears to be a 5/1 ratio.



I have learned to drive on the right and not go around roundabouts the wrong way. I don’t like drivers on my right turning left at roundabouts but it is the way they are taught to do it. We have our peculiarities too. Not so difficult to learn is the afternoon nap. I was introduced to that at nursery and the habit stayed with me.

What does irritate are the self-righteous attitudes of Brits who go native; the plastic Spaniards. They will never be the real thing but they criticise those of us who prefer to use our own language and ways; like better the company of our own kind?

It is natural for dissimilar peoples to gravitate towards those with whom they have much in common. They want to share experiences they relate to. If you were to eavesdrop on a tête-à-tête between Estonians, Swedes, Germans or Italians you discover they’re discussing shared experiences. Nothing could be more natural.

When the Polish economy bounced back the government welcomed those who returned. Young people who seek their fortunes abroad tend to be ambitious; the brain drain is a loss to any country. As a bonus the returning Poles would be fluent in English.

These hopes were unfulfilled. A report reveals: “It was found that in many cases, the expectation that they will return with an excellent command of English turns out to be unfounded, because Poles living abroad tend to socialise with their compatriots and rarely have time for language courses.”

It is unfair to accuse the British of blinkeredness whilst praising others for behaving in exactly the same way. When those of other nationalities stick together praise is heaped upon them for valuing and keeping their culture alive. Tourists visiting Liverpool are reminded that it has the oldest Chinese community in Europe. They mean ghetto but we will let that pass.

The West Indians, Somalis, Ukrainians and Hungarians have their culture centres; watch their telly, dance their dances and happily chat through shared experiences. I knew a Latvian who had lived in England for 20 years and knew no English. They even dine with fellow nationals.

I have never been able to figure out the logic that preference for one’s own kind suggests hatred of others. I have met many world travellers and not a racist among them; on the contrary they value cultural and ethnic difference. For them it makes an amazing fascinating world.

So please, if you have gone native and wish to become the Spanish counterpart to David Bellamy or Del Boy, fine.

Should you wish to learn the lingo and know tapas from tortillas good for you but you are not somehow superior because you can speak pidgin-Spanish.

You never know; those you look down upon may speak better English than you or have earned achievements you can only dream about.



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