Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Don't mind him, he's English...

MP3 player set firmly on shuffle, I'm currently being rather weirded out by a Skeletal Family version of Stand By Me. I'm not sure what to think, and that really sets the tone for yet another entry into the world that surrounds me.

To be here is to be odd. In general anything English is considered slightly eccentric, a jarring note in the general smooth running of a very chaotic society. All of my weirdness is excused under the moniker of 'Don't mind him, he's English'. In fact, in the first few weeks of living here, and still in full flung weirdy beardy, I often heard the set phrase of 'No, he isn't a druggie / rapist / murderer / leper, he's English' to which there was a standard reply of a deep and understanding 'Ahhh'.

People here are fascinated by everything that comes from outside, as Spain hasn't, at least in recent history, been a place of mass migrations, they aren't really used to having anyone from outside living and integrated here. There is a running myth that everything that is from outside has to be much better (thanks to very many years as a very poor country living under a dictator) and they are very intensely interested in everything that you do, and how you do it. The funny thing is that there is almost a sort of expectation of being slightly weird, and people almost seem let down if it isn't there. I am supposed to drink copious amounts of tea, and the fact that I prefer coffee is often greeted with surprise and almost disappointment by some. They are really shocked when I say that there are things here I really love, and they love the fact that someone can be so overtly happy with the thought of something they really wouldn't pay any attention to. Compliments are often met with strange looks, there really does seem to be incomprehension at why you would want to learn Gallego, why would you want to go and sit in a bar full of old people and have a chat? Why would you get excited about a plate of lentejas? First it is surprise, and then delight that someone is appreciating the things that are here, when the people who are here often criticise them and don't think they are worth anything at all.

So people, I invite you all to come and appreciate a country where no one sleeps, where people still touch each other, where no one flinches about overt smooching in the street, where you can still put your arm around someone and fool around and the pressure is all off, where an arm around you, a hug, two kisses is the rule and not the exception.

If no one else sings your glory, then let me sing it for you, even though it's sad that it had to come from 'el g├╝iri'.