surinenglish

Thick-skinned locals

It's fine to advise locals to put a smile on their faces for the tourists, as long as we don't go over the top and they interpret our cheerful friendliness as an indication that all we do is go out and party. It's not a cliché - there really are people out there who think that the smile on our faces means that we don't do any work.

This Easter, for example, I experienced this attitude with a group of foreign visitors I was advising about what to do during their stay in Malaga. They laughed, saying that here we like having a good fiesta more than going to work. And so, doesn't everyone? I ought to clarify that this was said by people swanning around on holiday to me, who had just left work and offered to give up vital hours of sleep to show them around.

Here, we're generally very friendly. That and thick-skinned enough not to be rude when someone makes that sort of comment.

I remember a little experiment we did at SUR some years ago to see which tourist attractions were recommended most by the locals. A journalist turned up at the railway station as if she were a newly arrived tourist and let the locals guide her. An elderly pensioner overheard her questions and offered to be her guide for the rest of the morning.

There's a little village in Cuenca, Santa Cruz de Moya, whose population swells from 300 to 2,500 during the holidays. Recently it has spoken out on behalf of all the small Spanish towns that tourists flood to. The visitors are very welcome, but the towns call for respect for the rural environment and understanding of the difficulties in offering certain services.

In a glorious announcement, the mayor reminds visitors of the rules of coexistence adapted to the characteristics of a small village and to avoid comments such as “in Valencia this is much cheaper” or “how can they be so slow in bars or shops”.

“A self-employed worker pays the same in the Diagonal of Barcelona as in the village store, and so don't underestimate how difficult it is for the bars and restaurants to keep open and imagine what would happen if they were closed when you come back next year,” reads the statement from the mayor.

And then there's the warning for visitors who see themselves as VIPs: “Avoid comments about how great it is to be without a mobile signal, because if you want to switch off you can activate flight mode anytime; there's no need to use the underdevelopment of one Spain to the delight of another.”

It's a bit like saying you come, you invade our village, we do all we can to welcome you, we make allowances for the population to multiply by ten and you just annoy us with your big city comments. We might be a village but we do have feelings, just like anyone from the Big Apple, or more.

I would vote for that mayor too.