Somedays I step out of my flat and I may as well be wearing a Union Jack trench coat complete with matching bowler hat and Queen Elizabeth II mask, and throw in a Beatles tribute band to follow me around playing their greatest hits. When it comes to genetics – my physical appearance – I blend in. To all intents and purposes, based on my hair, skin and eye colour, I could be Spanish. That’s where it ends. Before I’ve even opened my mouth and my accent’s dropped me in the shit, my clothes are a giveaway. The Spanish are so casual about EVERYTHING (and I mean everything). Don’t get me wrong I love a good pair of jeans or Vans, but everyday it’s the same thing. I swear if you opened a Spanish wardrobe there’d be rows upon rows of the same Bershka jeans and Converse trainers. Now I can blend into the background and dress down with the best of them, but where’s the fun in that? We Brits have a pretty quirky style and I miss it! Somedays I just think fuck it, and out comes the Topshop and the vintage. With this in mind my new favourite game to play when I’m out and about is ‘spot the Brit’. Just look in the direction of the fleeting glances on the metro and you’ll sure enough see a girl in oversized glasses, maroon brogues, tiny denim shorts and a christmas-inspired jumper and in the next carriage there’s more than likely a boy in skinny jeans and a cardigan. Yes I did play it today.
Another sure-fire give away are our manners. The Spanish don’t say por favor or gracias. They’re not being rude, although it may come across that way; it just isn’t the done thing, however I still make a point of thanking the bus driver everyday. It’s just how I roll. Queuing is another thing that Spanish people don’t do, except for when it suits them. I’ve had people grin cheerily at me right before they’ve cut me up. I’m standing right here moron! Dios mío… But then the other week at the El Rastro flea market my friend went to use a cash machine for which there was no obvious queue; there were people milling about looking pretty, but no physical or apparent line. She took one step towards the machine and about six people appeared out of thin air shouting in Spanish that they were already waiting and that we needed to join the queue. WHAT QUEUE? These people make it up as they go along. Jesús.
Life in Spain is good, don’t get me wrong! Everyone’s more relaxed and the attitudes to food and drink are a hell of a lot better, and to be honest the food is better too. Shops are open super late into the evening so if you ever need buy some emergency PJs from H&M at 8pm, the high street is your oyster. There are a lot of things, however, which are different and not so great and these are things that I miss about home. Customer service being one. Have the Spanish never heard of service with a smile? Or even getting a job done? The amount of time I’ve spent stood in the mythical Spanish queue tutting and rolling my eyes (so British) is inconceivable. Thoughts like “This would never happen in England” and “You’d lose your job if you did that in the UK” have become part of a catalogue that my brain saves and automatically dishes out in such situations.
I miss British manners and efficiency. I miss walking into any supermarket and finding squash or real teabags. You can buy English teabags here if you spend a week hunting down a specialist shop and then shell out half a month’s wages for the things. So yes, I miss the availability and low-cost of squash and teabags. I miss houmous and pitta, and fish and chips. I miss curry – REAL curry – and proper naan bread. I miss living in a society that doesn’t take part in weekly transport strikes because I actually like to get to work on time (even if it is the only place I’m physically able to be on time to!) I miss being able to say exactly what I want and think in a coherent and at any given moment; somehow “For fuck’s sakeeeee!”, “Go!” and “Come on!” just don’t cut it here. Oh and I miss a postal service that I can trust and that doesn’t lose my stuff on a fortnightly basis!
I miss British people moaning constantly. I like to moan; it lets the “boohoos” out. I miss Friends! Oh Friends, how you made me laugh weekdays at 5pm. Okay so in reality, when you take the sun away from Spain, it’s cold and wet (duh!) but it’s doubly depressing considering the country’s rep. At least at home you expect the cold and the rain! For me, from mid-October until March, Spain is just a less-organised, less-polite, less-interesting Britain where nothing is open on Sundays. If you opened your shops on Sundays and stopped striking all the time, then maybe your economy would improve! Think about that…