WHEN I first moved here late last year someone said that I’d be okay if I could cope with the two L’s .
‘Loud and Late’ is apparently what they were referring to.
‘Loud’ I can handle, dogs barking or music playing doesn’t cause me too many problems and it seems to me the local police have a pretty good handle on it.
No building work during festivals and holidays, lots of notice if there’s going to be something going on into the night and if you can’t beat them just join them.
Free parties… oh yes I’m always up for that! Yes, Spaniards do talk to each other extremely loudly, so much so that it seems like they are perpetually arguing, but you get used to that.
No, it’s the other one – ‘Late’ – that can definitely take a bit of getting used to. This seems to be a cultural thing.
I never realised how pernickety us Brits were until I started living somewhere else, i.e.here.
We all know the dreaded word Mañana which even to the most uninformed expat should mean tomorrow, and to the slightly more informed ‘morning’. But it actually seems to mean ‘whenever’.
I had an interesting discussion with a Scot who’s lived here a lot longer than me, and who has grown exasperated by this vague concept, having spent many a lonely hour waiting for a tradesman to appear as he thought he had arranged.
He’d tried to pin it down with a friendly Spaniard who explained that it’s a much more general term than an actual day – it really means ‘not today’. Great, but surely that opens up the question, ‘what if you want to arrange something actually for tomorrow?’
Well that, I’m reliably informed, is ‘La Mañana’. Okay then, but what if you want it to be tomorrow and in the morning? Then it’s ‘La Mañana en la mañana’. So glad we’ve managed to clear that up then.
As a Brit, one thing I know how to do is queue. Yes, it’s encased in our DNA and therefore it came as a bit of a shock when I realised nobody actually ever queues here.
Even in somewhere like a bank or post office, where surely queuing is compulsory, people were just milling about, how could this possibly work?
I might miss my turn, or worse someone just might get in front of me, why wasn’t everyone else breaking into a cold sweat like I was?
Someone new would come in and mumble a quiet question then go read a poster or play with their phone, it just didn’t seem right, why was everyone so calm?
It wasn’t until my Spanish language teacher explained that the question being asked by every new entrant was ‘Quien es el ultimo?’ basically – who’s last?
How absolutely brilliant, it doesn’t matter about anyone else except the person who’s immediately before you! What a fantastic concept and how completely liberating, why on earth haven’t we ever done this back in England?! No standing in some sad unfriendly line, you can relax, sit down, walk about, whatever suits you. Genius.
While I mention banks I must also say that my experience of them here has been very good, although I’ve yet to ask them to lend me anything so that opinion may well change. My little bank is tucked away in a back street.
You speak initially to the receptionist who is a rounded granny type lady that looks like she should be crocheting a shawl or making jam and she speaks no English at all.
Once you say you have an account, she goes away and gets someone smart and English speaking who takes you to a private office. No shouting private business through screens, no watching the other queues move faster, no seeing the window close just as you get to it.
Yes it’s a completely satisfying and pleasant experience. The trick is finding when they open as there’s no opening hours on the door and they seem to be closed a lot.
I asked a guy using the cashpoint outside if he knew when it reopened and he shrugged and answered ‘Mañana?’