Culture Shock

Helping out the street sellers in Spain!

I’m guessing people have been selling stuff on the streets in Spain ever since they invented the peseta. I’m not a massive fan of actually buying stuff from street sellers in Sevilla because necklaces, handbags, and scarves just ain’t my thing.

street seller in spain
Paco Vender, the first street seller in Spain. Photo by dreabjb

Saying that, I was impressed when I read this article on El Pais in English about how Barcelona street vendours are living less in fear from the police. It states that in Barcelona the City Hall seem to be helping the street sellers to gain work visas, give them training, and provide them with grants.

I think it’s great that people in charge in Barcelona are slightly more open-minded than ones down in the South of Spain. It’s good to see the government helping immigrants to make some hard earned cash while they provide a service for the public. I can never imagine that happening down in Andalucía.

I find it quite entertaining to watch the street sellers in action in Seville, especially down the Avenida Constitucíon, Sierpes or around Nervion Plaza. They often set up their products for sale over blankets on the floor, so they can snap them up and leg it when the police are close. They signal to each other by whistling, then wrap up their stock and scarper up the road; normally hiding in shop doorways or round the back-streets.

It might seem sad, but most of the time they are laughing as they play hide and seek. I guess they see it as a type of game, albeit a dangerous one. On a few occasions I’ve actually warned them that the cops are close to help them out. I’ve never seen the sellers get caught though. The police must know they are there, but are probably too lazy to do anything about it, can’t be bothered with all the paperwork involved, or fancy getting a new handbag.

You can also catch some guys selling packets of Kleenex at the traffic lights. It always baffles me how they make any money and how they survive, but I guess they earn more than they do in their own country.

The most famous street seller in Seville has to be Howard Jackson, the guy who sells packets of Kleenex by the traffic lights in front of Plaza de Armas. I used to live by that area and everyday I’d see him in a different outfit, normally of the female type, strutting his stuff, joking about and selling tissues.

A couple of times I also saw him pissed out of his head; dancing about to music and having a laugh. Good on him. The guy has had it hard, after losing his family in a war in Liberia, he battled hard to get to Spain and is now studying law.

I wonder just how many of the street sellers in Spain have a similar story.

What do you think of the street sellers where you live in Spain? Are they more integrated or constantly being hunted by the police? What do you think can be done about it?

Annoying things in Spain

The Week from Hell!

It all started on Monday morning when I nearly had a punch up with a posh banking women on the metro. Okay, it was partly my fault for penning all the commuters into a tiny space with my wife’s enormously long bike, but mine was being repaired. I’d acted like an professional sheepdog, mounting a blue push bike and barking at everyone to get back. To be fair, there was a tiny gap for people to pass by and gain access to a huge open area, but they’d somehow gathered like frightened sheep, no doubt hungover on a Monday morning.

Let's get those bikers
Let’s get those bikers!

The metro stopped at my penultimate stop, and loads of people got on.
“Can’t you move your bike?” asked a blond banker, wearing her shades with pride.
“Do I look like I can move my bike?” I said, turning round to highlight just how much space I didn’t have. My smarmy answer caused a stir.
“But no one can pass.”
“There’s plenty of room there,” I said, looking back, but as I did the driver pulled away and a different woman almost fell over my bike. The banker woman squeezed past and continued to have a go.
“I have a bike like that, and I wouldn’t dream of bringing it on the metro.”
“I don’t normally,” I said, in a softer, more apologetic tone, looking for some sympathy. “It’s just mine is broke and I have to take this one.”
“You should be more thoughtful of other people.”
“Sure, sure, just like you, you mean?” I looked ahead as my blood started to boil. Who did she think she was? What right did she have to assume I wasn’t thoughtful of others? I’d spent the whole night worrying how I’d affect the sheep on the train and had attempted to find the least offensive place, but it turned out to be the worst one.

Recently I’ve begun to hate going on the metro in the morning with my bike; tolerance levels are zero, especially from stuck up bankers. She really pissed me off. And I blame her for kicking off my worst week in a long time.

I rushed home after class, still annoyed from the woman, and barged through the door.
“Is he coming?” I said to my wife.
“He hasn’t called,” she said.
“Typical.” I said, referring to this guy we know, Mani Manitas; the local handy man who comes round and does all the stupid jobs that I can’t do, or am too scared to do. He’s fixed our oven, light switches, changed locks, and our latest project is to fix a dodgy antenna, which has been swaying back and forth this winter like a pole vaulting champion’s floppy stick.

I wasn’t surprised he hadn’t called, because he’s about as reliable as a Spanish politician, but it was probably just as well as the rain had started to pour, and the bad luck omen I had hanging over my shoulders would surely have caused a catastrophe.

Then came Tuesday, and until about 10.30pm, I was doing fine. I’d got through the day at work without too many aggravating moments and enjoyed a couple of classes, but suddenly I felt cold, strangely cold, and began to shiver on the way home. When I turned up, I was physically shivering. Luckily my wife had done some thoughtful soup, and within 30 minutes I was shivering in bed.

Wednesday morning I considered calling in sick. I’d slept terribly, had been shivering, felt dizzy, and my back was hurting. But I forced myself up so I could take my kids to school, took a mix of paracetamol and ibuprofen, and managed to edit some of my novel for a couple of hours. By then I wasn’t too bad, and managed to get through the day at work, even if the last 30 minutes were quite painful. That night I sweat it all out again by shivering and wet the bed- with sweat.

Thursday morning came and I still felt weird, but I battled on. After we dropped the kids in, we went for a coffee and waited for the local bike shop to open so I could pick up my own bike, and avoid any unwanted penning in of innocent commuters on the metro the next morning. I almost got into a ruck with the woman in the shop though.

Just to fill you in with a bit of a flashback; I met this woman before when she tried to overcharge me for a previous bike repair, only by 3 euros, but still, it was the way she looked down on me because my Spanish wasn’t perfect. Sound familiar?

So we turned up and I asked about my bike. This is how the conversation went, all in Spanish.

“Hi, I left a bike here the other day.”
“Oh yeah, it’s not ready yet; we are waiting for a few pieces.”
“Oh right, it’s just I need it for tomorrow.”
“Right, well, it probably won’t be ready. You see, a guy came the other day and brought the wrong wheel.”
“I see.”
“Yeah, and it was missing some parts, the, actually, why bother telling you the bits as you won’t understand me.”

I frowned in annoyance and was about to blurt out something when my wife stepped in.
“Sorry, but my husband has lived here for 12 years. He understands you perfectly.”
“Oh, you’re Spanish,” she said, blanking me now. “Oh, well in that case I’ll tell you.”
“But he understands you,” she said.

At this point I would have normally gone in with some harsh words, but I just didn’t have it in me. We arranged to come back on Friday at some point.

I left fuming. Why had she just completely blanked me once she knew my wife was Spanish? It was such a typical response from people here in the town. The rest of the day wasn’t too bad, but that woman’s disapproving look lingered in my thoughts.

Friday morning I was back on my wife’s bike, and had to get out a stop before my usual one as the carriage was filling up and I didn’t want to run into any moany bankers. I was still feeling weak too, and my throat was also beginning to hurt.

When I got back home and picked up my daughter, they informed me there was a virus going round (surprise, surprise) and our daughter had the squits.

The week just wasn’t getting any easier.

I shot off for a quick class, then when I came back, I stupidly left my daughter in her pram on a step outside our front door. As I was cleaning some pee pee off the floor from my son, I heard a crash, followed by a scream. I ran outside and my daughter was lying on the floor with the pram on her, with her face all cut up. My son did look guilty, but he was also smirking a little. I had to have a go, but felt bad afterwards. It was my fault for leaving it there after all.

On Saturday I woke up with a clenched throat, dreading going to 4 hours of oral examining. Luckily we had some antibiotics left over, which worked a treat and I got through the afternoon stress free.

So that just left Sunday; Father’s Day. I was allowed a lie in till 9am, to chill out after an exhausting week. I woke up in a decent mood, rested, and my throat was okay.

We were chatting in the kitchen, when the dog started to lick the floor. At first I thought she’d been sick, but then realised the dishwasher was leaking. A perfect extra job for Daddy to do on his ‘day off.’

We managed to sort out the mess, and did have a reasonable Sunday, largely helped by half a bottle of my favourite red wine, Beronia, and a victory by Spurs.

What a week though!

Annoying things in Spain

The Dreaded Movifart Monopoly

They’ve got us good and proper, ain’t they? Bloomin’ Movistar, controlling the telecommunications market like that; not letting any of the other companies in. At least not where I live I old boy.

Movistar spain
It’s the Monopoly guy! Photo by Jamesks

We’ve been with Movifart for about ten years. They seem to be the best telecommunications company in Spain, but I haven’t got loads to compare them with.

We were with orange for a while, but they messed us about with bills and ridiculous, deceitful offers.

“Sure, you can have free minutes, but they are not actually free, and in fact double the price that we quoted you.” When we tried to cancel the deal, even though we were at the end of the contract, they still took money from us. It was also a nightmare transferring to Movistar.

Our relationship with Movistar has been an addictive, dependence one; like a strange hypnotic drug which gets into your blood stream and takes over your mind.

At first we just had the telephone line and a mobile, then we got a TV deal, and then we got football and movies. The price has gradually risen over the years, but it’s like the Euribor, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The football package is pretty darn amazing though. It used to be only 25 euros a month for everything: 5 premiership games per weekend, 8 Spanish ones, including the big derbies, and also all Champions League and Europa League football, so it’s not a bad deal.

The great thing is that you can record the games, useful when your team plays on Monday night and you are working late (like most ESL teachers), or if the games are on when your kids are running riot.

My daughter seems to know when Spurs are playing, as it’s the only time in the week she actually latches on to me. A couple of times she’s almost ended up in our bedroom when we scored though: it’s directly above the lounge. I managed to hold on to her, albeit a tad loosely.

My son is not really into football yet, although he know who Spurs are (but only because he doesn’t really know the other teams yet). He picks the opposite team every time I ask him though.

“Spurs or Liverpool?” (Me)

“Liverpool.”

“No, rubbish.”

“Spurs or Seville.”

“Seville.”

“No, rubbish.”

It’s the same every week.

Admittedly he said he preferred green to red the other day, when Seville were playing Betis, and in the end he was saying Verde Caca…Green is pooey.

Anyway, back to Movistar. Since Christmas I’ve been on an amazing deal, which included all the footy, films, series, and a great playback option so you can see everything in the last 7 days. The package was worth 65 euros a month, and we got it for free. But now we have a taster for it. Damn you Movifarts.

Right now I’m paying 70 a month for normal Movistar TV, a landline, and one mobile line. The problem is we don’t have football, or decent films anymore. So it’s a bit of a rip off.

As it’s the end of the football year, I want to be able to see Spurs mess up the season again (it’s only tradition). Plus it’s about time I had a contract too, and I only have an iPhone 4, which is a great phone, but waiting ten minutes for my emails to load is starting to get annoying.

So I’ve been shopping around, but I’ve realised that I’m stuck.

Orange have a great deal, for two phones, plus TV for about 70 euros. The problem is there’s no premiership games, plus a friend of mine said you have to actually rent most of the kid’s films and series, which is a typical orange scam. No thanks.

Vodafone seems okay: two phone lines for about 70 euros, but they don’t have the rights to fit the TV lines where I live. Plus they don’t have the premiership games.

So, if I want footy, I’m stuck with Movistar. I know I could stream it, but I just can’t deal with that anymore. Also I want to be able to record it, and get decent movies for the weekend, although I normally end up dribbling in my own saliva on the sofa most Friday and Saturday nights: such is the life of fatherhood.

The latest Movistar deal with two mobile lines, the complete football package, or just Spanish football with films and series, plus a new mobile is about 125 euros. I’m edging towards it, but only because it’s our only form of entertainment at the moment; we haven’t been to the cinema in four years.

It grates me that I can only have Movistar though. They have a total monopoly on the TV and telephone lines, which is no wonder they are so expensive. Maybe there is another solution?

What do you think? What telephone company are you with? Have you had enough of the Movifart Monopoly?

Brexit

Oi, why are you ignoring us expats?

And it’s all gone quiet, all gone quiet, all gone quiet over there. Where? In the UK government, who are ignoring all the Brits in Europe following Berkexit.

buskers-brexit
Busker in Spain, admittedly probably Spanish. Photo by SnapDoc

It’s easy enough for all involved in Berkexit back home to ignore those it might effect in Europe. Like all those retired people who deserve a peaceful end to their days, all those English teachers who are providing locals with life skills, and all those free spirited buskers who are putting smiles on people’s faces. Those currently living in Europe; the free continent, that is no longer so free.

This week I read an article on The Local titled Brits in Europe blast UK government for snubbing them over Brexit about how a few expat organisation, such as Ecreu (Expat Citizens Rights in EU), have had a go at berks involved in Berkexit for ignoring them.

And I can’t blame them. This is serious stuff people. Rules, legislations, and dodgy deals are about to start happening and innocent individuals, who have a passion for living in another country, could find themselves without jobs, homes, and the possibility of ending their days in a warm climate with cheap bottles of red wine.

Have they no shame?

Apparently there are 12 other groups like Ecreu, and all of them are being treated like pests with no voice. They are trying to get some answers, but so far they have had about as much luck as the Catalans have of getting independence.

I’m not surprised they are ignoring us. After all, it’s such a shambles anyway. I mean who in their right mind actually voted to come out of Europe? Have there been any benefits yet? Apart from the fact that Cameron resigned as PM, but even that brought in Mrs Maggie May.

As far as living in Spain is concerned, I don’t think we are feeling the pinch yet. As I said in my previous post; Is Brexit going to force Brits out of Spain? I was a bit worried about getting kicked out, or even worse, made to become a Spanish citizen. I just can’t face the idea though. Giving up my British passport is about as desirable as a plate of chorizo, which I stopped eating after watching a documentary on how it was made.

Maybe I should think about it though; at least if I was a Spanish national then I’d have the right to vote here. It’s madness really. I’ve been here 12 years, have always paid my taxes, have married a Spanish woman, have two Spanish kids, and have bought a house here, but still I can’t vote. It seems insane that I don’t have a say in my own, or my children’s future. Just think when my kids are 18 they will be able to vote, and I won’t (I wonder if Brexit will be sorted by then, 15 years away?)

Have you become a Spanish Citizen? Are you worried about the effect of Berkexit? Please leave a comment below.

Are you a government employee ignoring all us Brits? Then pull you finger out and give these organisation some answers.

Expat Focus blogs, Uncategorized

Interview with Expat Focus

interview
Photo by Steve Bustin

My latest article for Expat Focus is an interview about being an expat. I was asked to answer a few questions related to my experiences living in Spain, including information about why I came here, what first surprised me, challenges of bringing up bilingual children, and advice for families wanting to move to Spain.

For a look at my previous articles for Expat Focus check out my columnist page.

Thanks

 

Uncategorized

Just how many different types of carnivals are there in Spain?

I wish I’d gone to the Cadiz festival before my kids were born. Now it’s going to be a few years until I join in the masses and get dressed up as a pirate, chicken, or prisoyaner and go on the lash for the weekend while trying to understand the chirigotas being sung in the streets of Cadiz.

chirigotas
Chirigotas in Cadiz. Photo by Canal Sur

It’s not like I’m sitting about moping that I never went, crying in my cup of tea while watching it on the TV. It’s just that I saw this interesting article on El Pais (in English) with photos and descriptions of the 15 must see Carnivals in Spain, and by the end of it realised that I’ve never seen the carnival here. Hopefully I’ll get a chance later in life. Maybe I could go with my kids (if they let their embarrassing Dad with them) when they are in their late teens.

By the look of the list in the article, I’d be most interested in seeing the one in Tenerife, and also in Cadiz. Tenerife for its Caribbean style, and Cadiz because I’ve heard so much about it and would be interested to see if I could get into the actual Gran Teatro Falla to see the Chirigotas final, which is a competition of satirical songs taking the mick out of real life, politics and culture.

Have a look at this video for an idea of what you could expect.

I have seen quite a few festivals and carnivals around the world. The biggest was in Bahia, Salvador, for the Brazilian carnival. That was 5 days of drinking, partying, dancing, and pure mayhem. It took about 15 days to get over it. Another of my favourites was Songkran in Thailand, which was a water festival welcoming the start of the summer, also an amazing atmosphere and great if you want to get to know just how mental Thais can get.

Here in Seville there isn’t really a carnival as such, but the two mains festivals are Semana Santa, around Easter as it’s a religious festival, and La Feria, which is more about dancing Sevillanas, going on the attractions, and drinking rebujito. I’m more of a Semana Santa freak, rather than a Feria one. Have a look at these previous blogs for a deeper insight.

What I will and won’t miss about Semana Santa in Sevilla

What does my head in about la Feria in Sevilla

The carnival is quite popular with Sevillanos though. My kids are both doing carnival type activities this week. My daughter’s nursery are putting on a little parade with all the kids. Last year I watched my son in it dressed up as a rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, but he wasn’t too impressed. This year he’s got a fireman outfit to wear for a school parade. My daughter’s outfit is a surprise. We bought her some beige tights and cardigan, but the nursery will dress her up. Looking forward to seeing that this Friday!

What about you? Have you been lucky enough to experience the chirigotas in Cadiz, or would you say other places in Spain have a better carnival vibe?