Tag Archives: Costa Blanca

‘Dirty, apologetic, drunken, tattooed dog-mad hooligans’

25 Apr


Jose Monllor Perez is small, dark, law-abiding and enjoys nothing more than relaxing with his pals, a cerveza and a cigarette. A stereotypical Spaniard, you might say.

We all have our own views on what exactly constitutes an archetypal native of this particular Iberian nation. But how do the Spanish see the thousands, nay millions, of British holidaymakers who swarm around their country seeking the sunshine that invariably shuns our own grid-locked island?

For the past dozen years Perez, 43, has been teaching Spanish to students of all nationalities (me included) at the Berlingua School of Languages in Quesada in the Costa Blanca – the majority of them English.

Teaching runs in Jose’s family and after seeing 4,000 pupils pass through Berlingua’s doors, he’s a pretty good judge of character. The Alicante-born profesora is also a dab hand at another trait that runs in the family – art. And he paints a hilarious tongue-in-cheek assessment of the stereotypical Brit.

Spainly speaking, it seems we are an apologetic, dog-crazy, dirty, unfit, drunken bunch of tattooed hooligans. And those are our good points!
The bad guys apparently all wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas.

Here’s the lowdown on how Spaniards see us – as interpreted by Perez.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 1: ‘‘They are always saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Sometimes I think that if you stamped on an Englishman he would apologise. And they say ‘thank you’ so much that the Spanish believe you thank cash machines after withdrawing money.’’

Next comes the obligatory condemnation of our drinking excesses. No, not getting sozzled every day and spending most nights, in the words of Billy Connolly, ‘‘talking to Hughey down the big white telephone’’. Something gentler and more refined than that – tea.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 2: ‘‘They drink tea at all hours – and with COLD milk. Uggh! I thought it was meant to be a hot drink!’’

The fun stops when we move on to the UK’s much-maligned drink culture, which arguably represents the most vivid stereotypical image of an Englishman in the eyes of 21st-century Europe.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 3: ‘‘The English drink far too much beer and wine and they all seem to spend all day in a state of drunkenness. ”

Of course, when we’re on the beach or by the swimming pool, all that booze makes us forget that our white skins are being roasted by el sol.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 5: ‘‘They just can’t take the sun. Their white skin never goes brown – it’s always bright red.’’

And then there is our perceived obsession with queueing.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 6: ‘‘They love to stand in a line waiting. Sometimes I think they make queues when there is nothing to queue for!’’

The British attitude to pets is another peculiarity that amuses Perez.

Jose Monllor Perez: ‘Every person is an individual'

BRIT STEREOTYPE 7: ‘‘They really love your dogs. We think they sleep with them, eat with them, take them on the bus, go into bars and get drunk with them – and then take each other home. They spend a fortune on their animals, but as for having a RABBIT as a pet, now that we cannot understand!’’

Perez confesses that the Channel 4 programme How Clean Is Your House? has sparked a suspicion among Spaniards that the entire nation is DIRTY. ‘‘That TV show is incredible,’’ he says. ‘‘The gardens are clean and tidy, but inside the houses it’s completely the opposite. If I go into an English bar after seeing that programme, I always examine the cups and spoons!’’ Then, of course, there is our physical shape.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 8: ‘‘Their fitness levels are bad with lots of people overweight – and the guys all have tattoos and look like hooligans.’’

According to Perez, the Spanish also see us as bashful when it comes to discussing sexual matters and hmmm, let’s say anything involving personal excretions. But when it comes to using the F word, then there’s no holding us back…

Away from the wisecracking, Jose insists that only ignorant people actually BELIEVE these characteristics are representative of the nation. ‘‘Each person is an individual,’’ he insists. ‘‘There are Englishmen who do not drink tea, Spanish who don’t like flamenco, Germans who not have a moustache, Italian pizza haters, non-romantic Frenchmen and Russians who don’t belong to the Mafia.

‘‘Our brain wants to save energy and work quickly, so it creates stereotypes. It’s easier to believe than that each person is uniquely different.’’

The UK or Spain? Work holds the key to a sunshine future

8 Feb

In the misery of a cold, wet Manchester day, my daughter Lisa left a depressing message on Facebook this week.

”What are we doing in this bloody miserable country?” she asked despairingly. ”Can someone give me reasons not to move abroad, please.”

Family, friends and making a living were the most popular responses she received – and when you have three children of school age, that is a BIG, BIG consideration.

Over the weekend, my local community here in Spain said a tearful farewell to an English family as they headed back to the UK after seven happy years on the Costa Blanca.

The main reason they have returned to their roots is that their 15-year-old daughter pines for an English education and has understandably found it difficult to build a social life in the ageing expat community.

Lisa and boyfriend Rob - seeking the great escape?

But even though Mum and Dad struggled to make a living while they were here, they loved the Spanish lifestyle so much that I reckon they’ll be back once junior has passed her A-levels – and leave her to her own devices at university.

When it comes down to choosing theoretically between living in Britain or Spain, I reckon most Brits would choose the sunshine option. Until they consider the thorny question of employment, that is.

To me, Spain wins on virtually every front – but unless you have your own means or a decent pension, then my advice is to tread very carefully because there’s precious little work available in these crisis-wrecked times. Even for Spanish people.

As for missing family and friends, no problem there. They can always come out to visit. After all, it probably takes longer to drive from north London to Birmingham as to fly from Gatwick to Alicante or Malaga.

I personally reckon the best thing about modern-day Britain is that it’s 1,500 miles away. But that comes from someone who is fortunate enough to have sufficient savings to keep going without fulltime work.

So where does Spain have the edge on Britain as a place to live – and vice versa? There are, of course, two sides to every story, or in some cases any number of sides – as I discovered when I asked other exiles for their thoughts via the ExpatForum.com website.

To my surprise, the UK won ‘Britain is best’ votes in areas like the job market, midsummer weather (in other words, Spain is too hot in July and August), home healthcare, keeping homes warm in winter, tap-water quality, utility company choice and service, natural scenery, faster legal processes, broadband speed, TV, Sunday opening – and of course shopping.

Britain also scored for reliability, particularly when it comes to things like power cuts, which are part of Spanish life. I’m still cursing the electricity company for costing me a freezer-load of food back in 2008, when my kitchen was flooded following a power cut whilst I was away.

Not to mention the time they cut me off without warning because my bank was not holding sufficient funds to pay my direct debit to them. But that’s another story (which you will find elsewhere on this blog if you dig deep enough!)

I can also confirm from personal experience that the service in UK banks and stores is vastly superior to the couldn’t-care-less attitude of many clerks and shop assistants out here.

As one ExpatForum member put it: ”I hate waiting in a queue for an hour at a bank because the cashier is chatting to every Pablo, Pedro and Jose about their *abuelos/hermanos/gato/perro etc. Then it gets to your turn and. . . SIESTA TIME. Cashier is now shut!”

Whereas British business outlets invariably put the customer first, prepare for a long wait in Spain if the clerk or shop assistant’s mobile rings while you’re being served. Because the chances of the caller being told curtly ”I’ll ring you back” is virtually nil.

My local vet Julien is a lovely young man who is unusually good at multi-tasking but suffers from acute ‘mobile attached to the ear’ syndrome. When I took one of my two cats to his surgery for a checkover recently, his phone rang just as he called me into the treatment room.

”Un momento,” he said, taking the call from a pal. During the next 15 minutes, chatting throughout to his mate, he checked the cat, treated her, put her back into the cat box, ushered me out into the reception area and then signed some papers for a delivery man who walked in as I waited to discuss the bill. Ultimately, seeing my face growing increasingly crimson, he mouthed the words ”14 euros”, took my 20 euro note, rang it up on the till, gave me change and whispered a swift ”hasta luego”.

As I closed the door of the surgery behind me, Julien was ushering in the next patient and its owner…still talking on the mobile that may one day need removing surgically from his ear. Because not everyone is going to be as patient as I was.

Having said that, I have walked out of a Spanish shop more than once because a staff member has put a phone call or private chat of serving me. Unbelievably, it is often the boss who snubs you – the person with most to gain or lose. Such economic suicide is rare in the UK but so typical of the ‘mañana mañana’ Spanish mentality.

Having said all that – and factored in the menace of the myriad mosquitoes of midsummer – Spain scores highly on so many fronts that it really is no contest which country has the most going for it. Particularly if you are looking to retire out here and able to live off your pension and savings.

Obviously the sunshine and healthy air tops the lot. But then there are other aspects like the quality of life, cheap eating out (if you avoid the tourist rip-off joints), inexpensive housing, the third lowest crime rate in Europe (though you could fool me with all the handbag snatching and pickpocketing that goes on in the Costas), the fiestas, the family-orientated culture, the gentler pace of life and the golden beaches.

Oh, and I almost forgot the pharmacies, which sell prescription drugs without a prescription – something I have personally found very useful. (And no, I am not a junkie!)

Spain also got the thumbs-up for superior public transport and less-congested roads. But sadly there was no mention whatsoever of motorbikes.

Why motorbikes? Well, my Lisa’s fella Rob is a motorcycle training instructor and if they ever did come out here with the kids (I wish!) he’d be looking to open a training centre wherever they decided to settle.

And much as I would love to see them on my doorstep, I haven’t the faintest idea how he’d do that. Come to think of it, I don’t even know the Spanish word for motorcycle.