Jose Monllor Perez is small, dark, law-abiding and enjoys nothing more than relaxing with his pals, a cerveza and a cigarette. A stereotypical Spaniard, you might say.
We all have our own views on what constitutes an archetypal native of this particular Iberian nation. But how do the Spanish see the thousands, nay millions, of British holidaymakers who swarm around their country seeking the sunshine that invariably shuns our own grid-locked island?
For the past 16 years Perez has been teaching Spanish to students of all nationalities (myself included) on the Costa Blanca – the majority of them English. Teaching runs in Jose's family and after seeing 5,000 pupils pass through Berlingua’s doors, he’s a pretty good judge of character. The Alicante-born profesora is also a dab hand at another trait that runs in the family - art. And he paints a hilarious tongue-in-cheek assessment of the stereotypical Brit.
Spainly speaking, it seems we are an apologetic, dog-crazy, dirty, unfit, drunken bunch of tattooed hooligans. And those are our good points! The bad guys apparently all wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas.
Here’s the lowdown on how Spaniards see us – as interpreted by assessor Perez.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 1: ‘‘They are always saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Sometimes I think that if you stamped on an Englishman he would apologise. And they say ‘thank
you’ so much that the Spanish believe you thank cash machines after withdrawing money.’’
Next comes the obligatory condemnation of our drinking excesses. No, not getting sozzled every day and spending most nights, in the words of Billy Connolly, ‘‘talking to Hughey down the big white
telephone’’. Something gentler and more refined than that - tea.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 2: ‘‘They drink tea at all hours – and with COLD milk. Uggh! I thought it was meant to be a hot drink!’’
The fun stops when we move on to the UK’s much-maligned drink culture, which arguably represents the most vivid stereotypical image of an Englishman in the eyes of 21st-century Europe.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 3: ‘‘The English drink far too much beer and wine and they all seem to spend all day in a state of drunkenness. ''
Of course, when we’re on the beach or by the swimming pool, all that booze makes us forget that our white skins are being roasted by el sol.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 4: ‘‘They just can’t take the sun. Their white skin never goes brown – it’s always bright red.’’
And then there is our perceived obsession with queueing.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 5: ‘‘They love to stand in a line waiting. Sometimes I think they make queues when there is nothing to queue for!’’
The British attitude to pets is another peculiarity that amuses Jose.
- BRIT STEREOTYPE 6: ‘‘They really love your dogs. We think they sleep with them, eat with them, take them on the bus, go into bars and get drunk with them – and then take each other home. They spend a fortune on their animals, but as for having a RABBIT as a pet, now that we cannot understand!’'
‘‘That TV show is incredible,’’ he says. ‘‘The gardens are clean and tidy, but inside the houses it’s completely the opposite. If I go into an English bar after seeing that programme, I always examine the cups and spoons!’' Then, of course, there is our physical shape.
BRIT STEREOTYPE 7: ‘‘Their fitness levels are bad with lots of people overweight – and the guys all have tattoos and look like hooligans.’’
According to Perez, the Spanish also see us as bashful when it comes to discussing sexual matters and hmmm, let’s say anything involving personal excretions. But when it comes to using the F word, then there’s no holding us back...
Away from the wisecracking, Jose insists that only ignorant people actually BELIEVE these characteristics are representative of the nation. ‘‘Each person is an individual,’’ he insists.
‘‘There are Englishmen who do not drink tea, Spanish who don’t like flamenco, Germans who have no moustache, Italian pizza haters, non-romantic Frenchmen and Russians who don’t belong to the Mafia.
‘‘Our brain wants to save energy and work quickly, so it creates stereotypes. It's easier to believe than that each person is uniquely different.’’