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The passport has certain priviliges

There are a lot of Britons in Spain especially along the Mediterranean coast and on the islands. There are plenty too in the big cities like Barcelona and Madrid but they tend to be a different sort of Briton - hired for their particualr expertise, filling some time after or before college etc. whilst the resident Britons along the Med tend to be people like me, early retirees or in some way well enough off to get by with or without a regular income. It's an enormous generalisation and I can think of tens of exceptions even amongst the people I know. But stick with me, for the sake of this blog entry.

Now because we are not famed as linguists we tend to get by with mispronounced words, lots of gesturing and broad smiles. It works alright but, as you can imagine, in a town like Pinoso where Britons may be 10% of the population we no longer have novelty value, we're not free spending tourists and so it's more than likely that from time to time some Spaniard having a bad day treats us in an offhand way. There's a friction at times. It's not common, it's not persistent but simply by the law of averages it's going to happen a fair bit all along the coast and the immediate hinterland.

There are lots of us Britons in Cartagena too but the majority live on the outskirts of the city and usually come in for a day out and stay near the port and the town centre or use the various big stores and shopping centres. As we wander around our neighbourhood we haven't yet come across any other Britons.

It being my birthday yesterday and my tastes simple and inexpensive we went for lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Now Chinese restaurants are beloved of Britons. In the coastal areas of Alicante the places heave with us. Maggie and I always reckon the Chinese must love us because we eat early and Spaniards eat much later. Two sittings for their always open restaurants.

We'd been in this restaurant before, in fact we'd been there only last Saturday and we had a splendid meal - without doubt the best Chinese food I've eaten in more than 30 years. That first time we rather expected to bump into some other Brits but the place was actually busy with Spaniards and that's quite strange as the majority of Spaniards that I've ever talked to about Chinese food are absolutely convinced that they are likely to end up eating dog! The second time, for my birthday lunch, we were alone - not another customer in the place and the Chinese owner recognised us and was very welcoming. In fact we had a long conversation with her in dodgy Spanish on both sides.

Afterwards we went to a little bar just up the road, it was the third time we'd been in there and the owner asked if I wanted my usual. That was pleasant too. Maggie and I talked about how nice it was to be recognisable (as foreigners) but welcomed. She reminded me that when we'd been to the pictures on Wednesday the chap who sells the tickets had also beamed at us and asked what we were going to see this week. Later, for a final nightcap, we were in another bar about 200 metres from our flat. The barman there too recognised me (second time in this week) and made us feel welcome.

It gave me a warm feeling though that could have been the brandy.


  1. Thanks for this post, Chris. It provided perfect examples of some topics discussed in the book "Spain is Different" by Helen Wattley-Ames.

    In some earlier posts in one or more of your blogs, you talked about your efforts to find a Spanish class. How's that been going?


  2. I gave up on trying to find a Spanish class, I couldn't even buy one from the several academies there are in town. We'll ring you back. They didn't.
    So I now have a circle of intercambios which works OK though it has a tendency to become Spanglish without a bit of self discipline. Also I'm in the process of joining one of those readers circle things organised by Cartagena Town Hall, through the Bolsa de Idiomas.


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