To be or not to be a Guiri, that is the question

LAST UPDATED: 2 Feb, 2013 @ 23:43
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To be or not to be a Guiri, that is the question

MY name is Mary and I am a Guiri. There, I´ve said it now, it´s out there in the open, but it´s something I´ve been fighting for the last two and half years, exactly the time that I´ve been living in Seville.

I suppose the reason it jars is because I´ve never been so instantly identifiable as something in the past. In London it doesn´t really matter where you´re from, no one really pays that much attention because everyone is from everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time. But here in Seville, a city where diversity is a foreign concept and Spanish stereotypes like bullfighting and flamenco permeate its very core, Anglo Saxon features mark you out as differerent, in other words a Guiri.

Over the years, I´ve been led to believe the word Guiri is used as a term of endearment like ‘Ah, bless the Guiris with their strange desire to eat before 10pm and to wear shorts with sandals at a scandalously chilly 23 C’. But it’s got to be said, more often than not it feels like an outright insult, which is no surprise as its lexical orgins according to my best friend Wikipedia, stem back to a term used by the 19th Century Basques to describe their enemies.

At worst, in certain more unscrupulous establishments this perceived difference is acted out in Guiri prices, where pink faced, badly dressed foreigners are charged well above the going rate for badly cooked, underwhelming fare. On a less overtly discriminatory note, you may find yourself waiting a bit longer for your drink in a busy bar, as northern European politeness is usurped by Andalucian imperatives. And don´t even get me started on the startling effect a gaggle of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Guiri girls has on the loose tongues and libidos of the local males of the species.

But seeing as I’m living here in Seville rather than passing through, I’ve decided to embrace the Guiri within and make it my own. So what does this mean exactly? Well I have to admit that there has been a certain amount of adaption going on to local customs. I will most certainly not be going tightless until after the ´Feria de Abril´, and long gone are my days of sitting down to my evening meal at 6.30pm in front of the telly. I guess I just don’t feel so much on the defensive as I did at first, there’s really no point. I just acknowledge that I’m different, not just in the way that I look, but in the way I see the things, which allows me to float between two worlds, while remaining slightly detached from them both. So I can take Sevillanas classes, don a Flamenca dress, somehow manage to fudge my way through the steps and be seen as positively endearing. And that’s the way I like it.

So this is my blog, Andalucia through my eyes, ‘The Guiri Eye View’. Enjoy.

12 COMMENTS

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  1. Nice article. The Spanish tend to be more unconsciously racist or ‘insensitive’, but it is part of life here here. A Spanish friend was a Dominican mother hears his mum referred to as ‘la negrita’. A hunchback gets his back stroked (for good luck), a friend is a ‘hijo de puta’: No pasa na…
    Spain is a great country to get to know and join.
    Meanwhile, a good guiri is one thing, a bad one is ‘un guiri de mierda’.

  2. Yes nice article and agree w lenox it’s not a phrase that should necessarily grate… It is often a sort of term of endearment… As in ‘I had a great night out w my guiri mates on Friday… When you hear the phrase ‘ puta guiris’ that is when you need to worry. My next door neighbor has one arm and one leg and at 75 still walks 4 hours a day… His local name? ‘the cripple’ cruel, but v Spanish.

  3. To be honest I know when I´ve most taken umbrage, and it´s been when people assume that I´m on holiday and have no idea how to speak Spanish, which is more my problem than theirs. I find the Spanish unguardedness in their political incorrectness mostly amusing, although occasionally disturbing.

  4. I am a Spaniard and in my experience, guiris are generaly misunderstood and seen by the Spaniards as just weird people. It’s not hate, it’s just the fact that normally British/German expats live in their bubble and the common Spaniard doesn’t know anything about their customs/way of doing the things and the fact that many “guiris” have a bad command of Spanish doesn’t help.

    I understand what is moving to a place where people speak in a different language and behave in a different way (I live in Wales), and a good command of Spanish would be the first thing to attain if you want to stop being a “guiri”. Don’t go to classes, though. They are boring and innefective. Spaniards SUCK at teaching languages. Read some articles from “www.antimoon.com” and apply their advice to learning Spanish.

    BTW, in my opinion “guiris” are always white English/Dutch/German speaking people from North Europe. A Polish or Russian person for example would not be a guiri. A black British person would not be a guiri either. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make the rules :)

  5. I’ve never been called a Guiri, at least not to my limited knowledge of the language.
    What galls most is the almost instantaneous feeling of rejection as a ‘foreigner’ as soon as I (we) enter a restaurant, cafe, bar, despite a cheery ‘Hola’ in the hope of being made to feel like and be treated like, a normal human being. Obviously this may not apply to a venue frequently visited.
    Being called a ‘Guiri’ would at least indicate acceptance at a certain level!!

  6. @antonio2

    Perhaps I live in the wrong part of Spain but I have never experienced rejection in a restaurant quite the opposite. I had my son and his family out here for a holiday, we went for a trip out which involved a long walk alongside a river. On the way home the kids got very hungry, it was that time of day when the kitchens would normally be closed around 4.30 in the afternoon, however we chanced our arm at the first place we got to and the owner said no problem and promptly cooked for the seven of us, no over charging and all done with a smile. Of course I don’t live in a big city or in the Costa ghettos.

  7. Well done, Mary. I suspect Jon is spot on about its street usage. Beware of word they put in front of guiri ; )

    The roots of this word are arabic, not Spanish. Guiri – Gaori – Galver! It means outsider in Spanish, Arabic and Turkish. It is widely used today in Morocco, North Africa, and places like Turkey, Pakastan and India. I suspect the Spanish hijacked this word over time … Just one of 2,000+ arabic-derrived spanish words … from their Arab cousins more than 1,000 years ago.

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