Saturday, January 14, 2006

Familiarity growing objective contempt ?

I previously wrote of the term "Galician Brute", often used in parts of South America when speaking in pejorative tones about their European cousins. Originally referring to the uncouth Spanish settlers of a bygone era, this is an expression that I naturally considered to be outdated and irrelevant for the present day. Indeed I even assumed that the surprising survival of this phrase was simply due to an inherited anger and perhaps understandable envy of their former colonial rulers. However on my recent return from the well mannered South America, I quickly realised that there was certainly a lot more behind the term´s continued existence than I had previously thought.

Admittedly, immersion in Spanish society makes it quite difficult to make a proper judgement as regards the courtesy of the people. Afterall, I generally find the Spanish to be charming, warm and very enjoyable to interact with on a daily basis. It is therefore only when I travel out of Spain, be it home, Argentina, or otherwise, that I am beginning of late to recognise an unpolished side to the Iberian folk. Thankfully this is of a kind that is not so evident in either the Argentine or Irish personality, and for this reason has only revealed itself to me on recent trips home to Eire. I can now see that while to their credit the Spaniards do not resort to Irish drunken brawls or possess that unbearable Argentine arrogance, they are somewhat lacking in what you might refer to as, voluntary public politeness.

Case in point is the metro journey to Madrid Airport when you invariably spot the Dublin baggage tags of others who are headed for the very same 7pm northbound flight. Not long after, you begin to hear that distinctly Irish banter at gate B-28 and before you know it, you have subconsciously changed the sim card in your head, and although still in Spain, you now behave and objectively observe in "Irish Mode". Strangely it is from this moment forth that I suddenly begin to notice the blatant absence of a simple smile, "thank you", or even "excuse me", that are rapidly and repeatedly fired from the surrounding Irish lips. I am struck by the behavioural contrast of two groups, one Irish, the other Spanish, who suffer the same queues, delays and squeezes. The former stows his bags and diplomatically negotiates for leg room while the latter concentrates on the double task of blowing bubble gum and impatiently charging their way through.

So if you ask me whether I enjoy being among the Spanish people, my answer would be an emphatic yes......with the obvious exception of those moments in airports and aeroplanes when other nationalities make for too strong a contrast. But then again, back in my adopted Madrid barrio and drinking cañas with my Madrileño friends, I quickly forget my complaints and criticisms and perhaps act no different. That is of course until my next trip home when I silently nod to myself in full agreement with South America.

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