Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dark Side of Sunny Spain

Some time ago a man joined us in the pub with the intention of moaning about the state of the East End (of London). I attract these kind of people on a regular basis. I think I must smile too much and am trying to cultivate a slightly more miserable look.

He explained that he was thinking of moving to Bulgaria as it was cheap and there wouldn't be loads of foreigners. I asked him to answer three questions:

  1. Would he learn the language?

  2. Did he know anything about their culture and how would he contribute to it?

  3. Does Bulgaria have an NHS equivalent and, if yes, would he expect just to turn up and use it?

I left him in a state of confusion and he clearly didn't get what I was driving at. C. on the other hand was quite exasperated. I do all the talking but he's the one who'll take the punch when someone takes against me...

It was an article in Sunday's Observer that brought this to mind. Dark Side of Sunny Spain for Britain's Elderly Expatriates.

Complaints have been made that the British ex-pats are “placing an unbearable strain on scant medical resources” and that “Spanish doctors – even those who speak English – are now refusing to treat anyone who cannot speak Spanish without an interpreter present”.

I have to be careful what I say here as I have a tendency to generalise but from the people I know (including family) who have moved across the water I would say the following.

British ex-pats move for the same reason as the guy I've mentioned above. They think the UK is going to pot and the local people are being dealt a rough deal as foreigners move in and swamp the local services.

They live largely in Brits only compounds and enclaves; most of their day to day services are provided by other Brits. They see no need to speak Spanish or contribute to the existing local communities. Its thought that fewer than 10% of the ex-pats with serious medical conditions can actually speak Spanish. Some of the remainder have lived in the country for over 20 years and have complained that medical staff don't speak English.

These people totally fail to see they are acting in pretty much the same way, if not worse, than the foreigners back home who they believe have sent the country to the dogs.

I'd like to think this'll be a wake-up call. But I doubt it.


coolbuddha said...

Not so much a 'wake up call' as a mirror. Recently the BNP's myths have been further exposed, outrageous claims that too easily get adopted as fact. Brits abroad do not provide an ideal template.

City Slicker said...

Like the writing v much
Thanks for keeping up with Cityslicker

Ashley said...

This is the hotly debated subject in the US. We are moving to a bi-lingual country (English/Spanish). We have tons of Asian immigrants - most of which learn English. A large number of Spanish speakers refuse to learn English. Not that English is a better language (from a pure linguistic POV, it lacks the structure of most other world languages), but it's the official language. If Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russians, Polish, et al., learn to speak English, then I think that other residents should strive to do the same.

Re: British expats, my grandfather was a classic. He moved back and forth across the pond at least 6 times over 50 years between bouts of paranoia that either the US gov't or the British gov't was taking too much of his money. My granny's cousin and her family all moved to Mallorca, Spain in th 1970s.