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1 January 2011

Why Britain's expat bums are a real pain in Spain

How sad that most of the world equates Brits in Spain not with class and culture, but with Benidorm, beer and builder’s bums.

I doubt if 10 per cent of UK citizens who start new lives in Spanish territory learn the language to even a modest level, let alone fluently. Yet isn’t it bizarre that in Britain so many people resent the concept of immigrants who don’t or won’t speak OUR language?

It’s hypocrisy to the extreme, of course – but typical of a nation which rates as just about the least linguistically talented in the world (or perhaps just the laziest).

How many times have you heard Brits complain about the preponderance of Asian immigrants to the UK who have a smattering of English at best, and seemingly neither the ability nor desire to master our tongue?

Yet the reality is that we ourselves behave exactly the same way when we venture abroad to greener (or rather, sunnier) pastures.

Many of the expats I meet seem to think that learning Spanish equates to an unnecessary waste of time. After all, most of us live in communities which are either predominantly English-speaking or where most of the locals speak our language, anyway.

Of course, if you live in some tiny pueblo up in the mountains, you have no choice but to learn the lingo. That’s how it should be – but when it comes to the British mentality, it takes a very special sort of family to take on such a demanding challenge.

For most of us, it’s plonk ourselves into a British urbanisation (OK, we don’t mind a few Scandinavians too, as long as they speak good English), spend our social lives in the British bars playing bingo, on the beach and gawking at Corrie and East Enders.

Muy español!


A breath of unfresh air

I popped in to a local bar in El Raso for a coffee the other day – only the weather was so nice I decided to sit outside in the sunshine. I picked up the menu and was about to order some lunch when a middle-aged English couple plonked themselves down on the next table and promptly lit up a couple of Benson and Hedges.

Within seconds I was inhaling as much nicotine as they were – and these particular ciggies were just the first of four each that these two unfortunate drug addicts poisoned themselves with in the next hour or so.

Fortunately, I wasn’t there to share the joy of passively permeating my lungs and clothes with the fumes of their cancer sticks. I had long since upped myself and moved to another area of the bar where no one was polluting the air.

OK, 30 years after giving up my own 20-a-day habit, I accept that I’m a boring, sanctimonious old ex-smoker.

But where’s the justice when an innocuous woman having a quiet coffee has to move in order to accommodate people indulging in an unhealthy, unsocial, even life-threatening habit?

Surely it’s the smokers who should be banished. Preferably to a suitably-title Cancer Corner that might help them realise just how much damage they are doing to themselves and everyone else.

All I can say is thank God for the introduction of  UK-type smoking laws on January 2, 2011 - and the booting of the nicotine brigade up their proverbial dog-end.