Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2009

Are you the last one?

One of the nicer traits of Spanish (or is it just Catalan, don't really know...) society is .... politenesss. And a certain kind of civil behavior. Now, I am writing this from a German point of view, and while I would say that there are many things that are nice about my country and the people, one thing definitely isn't: They don't know how to queue. Even worse, many (even the younger, well-travelled and well-educated ones) will take pride in how they queue-jump. Worst of all examples is the classic case of a new checkout opening in the supermarket. Certainly people will come running from behind, ramming their carts into your heels, making a total fool of themselves and even turning around with a grin on their face:"Ah, so you weren't fast enough then?" It really makes me want to hit them with their frozen fish fingers.

In Barcelona once a new checkout opens, the cashier will usually shout with a firm voice:"Proceden en orden.": "Come to the checkout according to your position" (really don't know how to translate that better...) So people from the different queues line up for the new queue, first the ones that were first in line, then the ones that were more behind and so on...Of course, there will be the occasional queue-jumper, but in general it works in an educated and respectful way, nothing of the frantic scramble you would experience in other places. I really like that, it just reminds of what I like about this place, there is some inherent sense of "fair play" and "common sense" ("sentido comun" is one of the more commonly used phrases actually...) and real friendliness.

When there is no queue, as in a pharmacy or a bakery, sometimes they will have you pick a number, if not, you just step in and ask for the last one in the "queue": ("Quien es) el último? or in Catalan: L'ultim? Usually the last one will already have waited for you to ask, and sometimes before you can even ask, will wave at you or raise a finger, so you know, ok, it will be my turn after that person. Of course, you will do the some, once another person comes in, as now you will be "El ultimo". So while waiting you can just stand anywhere, browsing around or just daydreaming, your turn will come. It's so easy and so educated, that I really don't know why it is only possible here....

Donnerstag, 2. Juli 2009

Can I have your frog, please?

Today I had an experience that really made me question (again), if on the long run I could master living in a foreign country, or rather one where they don't speak German or English, as I feel much more confident in English than in Spanish. I just hate not being able to always say what I want and of course, being unsure of HOW to say it, sometimes even in the most common situations. But in general I come by quite well and in general, Spaniards are welcoming and friendly in a way that they will try to understand what you say (hey, it's not as it was TOO difficult understanding me anyway! :) and generally are very helpful, even in most offices. But today I had to go to an office to pick up a letter, that a lawyer had written for me on the deplorable state of my apartment. (Though that's a different story.)

When I came into the office I approached the girl at the recption desk telling her I wanted to pick up a letter ("Querria buscar una carta.") Maybe she thought I had mistaken her office for the post office or maybe I looked momentarily like Mickey Mouse, but she looked at me as if I had asked her "Could I borrow your frog, please?" And she asked: "Una carta...?????" as in "MY frog...????" Complete and utter awe, with hints of repulsion, I am serious!

The look on her face was so extremly dumb and inappropriate that I decided it would do no good to insit, I was trying to pick up a letter, so I immeditatley approached the lady who is responsible of the case, she handed me the letter and out I was.

I just thought how absolutley idiotic do you have to be to show such a reaction. Receptionist, public adminsitration, housing problems, lawyers dealing with it. How strange is it, that people come to YOU (the receptionist) and ask about letters, that lawyers that work in YOUR office write for (after all...) YOUR clients? Unbelievable....
The thing is I am sure that her absolutley fine-tuned "guiridar" sensed immediatley: "FOREIGNER, NO GOOD SPEAK SPANISH, ASKING TO BORROW FROG WHEN NO FROG HERE" so she just couldn't cope with the fact that in the end I was asking her an absolutley normal question in normal spanish...So sad...I just hope I didn't scare her too much, and she will stop wondering, why on earth that alien was asking for a frog....