Refreshments: The British drink tea, the Spanish prefer coffee and when they do drink tea, they either add hot milk or none at all.
Alcohol: For British drinkers, alcohol can be an end in itself, without a tapa or nibble in sight. For the Spanish it precedes, accompanies or follows meals (but not breakfast).
Food: The British like Spanish food but don’t get its basic frugality and can’t cope with the flatulence created by pulses. The Spanish don’t notice.
Breakfast: Loads of us still go for the Full English, the Spanish grab a cup of coffee and Pan con Tomate. Elevenses and Almuerzo: Coffee (not tea) and a biscuit for the British. Anything from yesterday’s leftovers to a foot-long roll with chorizo for the Spanish. Construction and manual workers accompany this with wine or beer.
Lunch: Light for the British, heavy for the Spanish who believe you should lunch like a king.
Dinner: The British dine like kings and the Spanish dine like paupers (or claim to). Climate: The British venerate the weather and its vagaries as a topic for conversation. The Spanish take theirs for granted.
Sex: The British are not generally recognised as the world’s best lovers. The Spanish are. Enough said.
Romance: The British are not generally recognised as being romantic but are. The Spanish are not but think they are.
Family: The British love their families but don’t always say so. The Spanish love theirs and say so, long and loud.
Children: Britain has a birthrate of 1.7 children per woman, the Spanish 1.3 per woman. They would like more but can’t afford it.
National sport: The British are football-crazy and the Spanish are supposed to like bullfighting. Not true: bullrings are deserted and the Spanish are football-fanatics.
Literature: The British have Shakespeare, the Spanish Cervantes. Both died on April 23, 1616. Go figure.
Animals: The British are sentimental about all animals, but the Spanish are not except where their own pets are concerned.
Nature: The British are in harmony with nature but the Spanish are wary of it unless they were born in the countryside, which they leave as soon as possible.
Religion: British churches are frequently empty. The Spanish are anti-clerical and churches are frequently empty but overflow for christenings, weddings, first communions and funerals.
Schools:The British know all about Eton, Winchester and Harrow but the names of elite Spanish schools are a mystery to the non-elite.
Art: The British have Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable, Turner, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. The Spanish have Murillo, Ribera, El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Fortuny, Sorolla, Picasso, Juan Gris, Miro, Dali, Antonio Lopez and… we’ll leave it there. Language: The British would like to speak Spanish but do not try hard enough to communicate. The Spanish want to speak English and try very, very hard and manage to communicate. One huge similarity THESE are light-hearted differences for difficult times for two nations whose past relations were toxically hostile. Look no further than the Spanish Armada, which the Spanish still call the Armada Invencible. Centuries later can two peoples whose societies, religions, habits and mindsets are so different find common ground when they most need to? Of course they can. Think back to when the British – referred to as the English then – helped the Spanish oust Napoleon’s invaders from the Peninsula in the 19th century. After that,things were never quite so bad between both countries because there is nothing like a common enemy to unite former foes.
Now we are facing a common enemy again in the Covid-19 coronavirus that respects no frontiers and has invaded every one of the world’s continents apart from Antarctica. The English-speaking community came to Spain and remained in Spain because they love this country. It’s easy to say the British and the Spanish are like chalk and cheese when it would be more apt to say Cheddar and Manchego. Both are strong, both are heavy with their own flavour, and a character that evokes each culture. We are here because we love Spain and that’s enough for all of us to unite once more to defeat a deadly invader.
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