surinenglish

'How to be Spanish'... really

The now infamous article published in The Times, 'How to be Spanish' has provoked a level of indignation that its author did not anticipate. Disregarding such comments as, “Forget Anglo-Saxon notions of politeness, discretion and decorum”, “being Spanish requires utter disdain for punctuality”, or “arriving anywhere 30 minutes late is actually considered quite early and quite rude”, we can concentrate on Chris Haslam's ideas about how the Spanish behave around food and drink.

He writes, “Being Spanish involves walking into a bar, kissing and hugging complete strangers, shouting 'Oiga' at the waiter and chucking anything you can't eat or drink on the floor [...] you can drop the please and thank yous; they're so unnecessary [...] swear like a trooper, drink cold red wine, and eat everything you order: countries that have suffered from hunger are funny about things like that.”

Haslam now maintains the article was not meant to offend anyone, but an attack on the proud Spaniard's way of life is inevitably insulting. Although doubt exists about whether he ever visited Spain, to write a similar article from the other end of the telescope it is indeed necessary to visit Britain.

Visitors complain about the BO redolent in the tube on warm days, but this is surely just imagination, as is the absence of bidets in bathrooms or the intolerance of children in bars and restaurants, or the routine boredom of provincial pubs frequented by aged couples that spend hours staring at a beer without exchanging a word, or the total lack of any sort of gastronomic culture (whereas in Spain everyone knows what each village is famous for in gastronomic terms, be it olive oil, a type of sausage, honey, or whatever). Or the office sandwich half-hour chained to a desk, the equivalent in Spain being sufficient time to enjoy a freshly-cooked lunch with work colleagues, or identical high streets in every town with the same chain stores and franchises and not a tapas bar in sight.

Surely, given the choice, any sensible person would choose to be a Spaniard, provided it be an authentic one.