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SUR in English asks foreign residents: Besides loved ones, what do you miss the most from the country you’re originally from?
20.02.12 - 11:55 -
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Expats 'miss customer service most'
Life in Spain. expats are generally happy but miss certain things about their home countries. Josele-Lanza
Good customer service is what foreign residents who live on the Costa del Sol most miss about their own countries, according to a poll conducted by SUR in English this week.
With the aim of discovering what they long for, besides family and friends, this newspaper asked a selection of expatriates to share their views.
More than half said they missed high levels of client care. One of those was Argentinean-born Elizabeth Gingele, who now lives and works in Mijas Costa. She comments: “I once spent nearly an hour waiting for the waiter to come to my table in a restaurant. When I asked if he could be kind enough to take my order because I’ve been waiting for an hour, he replied, “You can leave if you want!” I could not believe what I heard, so I got up and left. Quite often customer satisfaction isn’t priority number one.”
It is a view shared by Tim Stroombergen from Haarlem, Holland, who has lived in Torremolinos for six years. “What I miss most is the politeness. People in The Netherlands who serve or help you seem friendlier and appear to enjoy the work they are doing. They usually wish you a good day, smile, ask if they can do anything else to help and so forth. Every time we’re back in Holland we’re continually surprised about the friendliness of the people. I never realised that I was in such a friendly country until I moved to Andalucía.”
American, Helen Cole, adds: “Admittedly, I come from a country where customer service is paramount, but it seems that over here they just don’t care about it in many establishments on the Coast.
“When my friends and family from the States come and stay with me, I often find myself half-apologising on behalf of waiters, bar tenders and shop workers. I feel compelled to say something because most of them are genuinely shocked about the sloppy attitudes.
“With so many people currently out of work, you’d think that those who do have a job would be going the extra mile to ensure that their customers are kept happy. Nowhere is customer care better than California, I guess.”
Also missed...
Besides customer service, which was mentioned by six out of 10 of all those who responded, others claimed to miss their own country’s business opening hours.
British-born Nerja resident, Sue Peacock says: “I miss shops being open on a Sunday. In the UK, many out-of-town supermarkets, high-street stores and shopping centres are open seven days a week which is great as sometimes it’s not convenient to go Monday to Saturday. Their being open every day gives you more options.”
Ben Sullivan from Lancashire, England, opines that banks should stay open for business for longer. “Even after having lived here for years, I still find it frustrating that the banks close at 2 o’clock. I miss that you can’t call into your local branch in the afternoon and it seems ridiculous that banks don’t have the same timetable as those in most other European countries.”
It was efficient bureaucratic systems that many participants said they craved. “Things like paying taxes, booking appointments with authorities, and registering complaints are all much easier in Denmark. Most things can be done online and it’s all much quicker and you don’t need to deal with so much paperwork.
“For example, it would be unheard of to have to take a morning off work to go and queue for hours at ‘Tráfico’ to sort an issue with your car, or at the police station to get your ID renewed,” explains Line Thomsen.
For some, the things they missed were more to do with geography and climate.
“I really love the weather in Estepona but I do miss the very noticeable changing of the seasons that you have in Paris,” says Gabri Cournier. “Autumn is probably my favourite time when the leaves in the parks start to turn, it’s very beautiful.
“I also miss Christmas in France as it just seems more ‘Christmassy’, more festive, probably because it’s normally colder.”
The dramatic countryside and impressive wildlife of South Africa are what Mark Stroud misses. “It’s a vast, stunning country. When I go back I remember just how big and beautiful everything is – the plains, the mountains, the trees, the animals, the birds. Going out on a safari in South Africa and seeing the big cats, elephants and rhino, for example, is unbeatable in my opinion. I miss having that on my doorstep,” he affirms.
Living in Spain
Despite the foreign residents who spoke to SUR in English missing areas of life in their own countries, almost all said they were happy with their lives on the Costa del Sol.
“Like most expats, I miss certain things, in my case it’s the dry Canadian sense of humour and the cleanliness of the towns and cities,” says Andrew Seubert. “But, overall, I feel I’m probably happier living here. The high quality of life is what keeps me, and countless others, in Malaga. It kind of seduces you. When you live away from your country of birth, it’s all too easy to view it through ‘rose-tinted glasses’.”
What do you think?
If you have an opinion about this or any other topic in SUR in English, we want to hear from you. We may publish your comments, and you could even win a prize for them!

Email: surinenglish.su@diariosur.es

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