One of the main differences I find between Brits and Spaniards is honesty. Brits (in general) always try to be nice and diplomatic when they speak to avoid any confrontation or fuss. That means sometimes they don’t say exactly what they think. Spaniards are straightforward and direct by nature, which makes foreigners think we’re rude, when we only want to be honest. We say what we really think, no matter the consequences. We appreciate the truth, even if it hurts, as they say.
Another difference I notice is related to how much personal information we share. Brits are usually more reserved, being careful not to share too much information too soon when meeting someone. If you meet a Spaniard, you’ll know how much he earns after just a few beers. Yes, we err on the side of oversharing. And the deeper you go in the country, the more we overshare.
During a one-night stay in Zafra last year, I witnessed the most random oversharing of personal information in years. It must have been about nine in the morning. We went down to the bar of our hotel to have breakfast, before heading to the next stop in our itinerary. The bar was empty, and the barman took his time to serve us (not that he was busy!). When breakfast finally arrived, I tucked into my pan con tomate, but our quiet enjoyment and appetite would soon be over.
A man entered the bar and asked the barman for chickpeas. From our corner we couldn’t see him, but he was loud enough to be heard miles away. His familiarity with the barman made me think he was a local regular customer, but I didn’t get why he’d go to the hotel bar to collect chickpeas. Then, the barman asked the visitor how was he (an innocent question that a Brit would reply with ‘Yeah, good. How are you?’), and that was the tipping point of the conversation. It went something along these lines:
(Barman): So, how are you? How’s things?
(Visitor): My wife is staying home. She’s ill.
(Barman): Oh, no! Is she ok?
(Visitor): She has the runs. She’s been ill for a week. I had to take her to hospital and everything. Man, what a diarrhoea she has! It’s not just the runs, it’s something unbelievable!
And he kept describing how bad it was for a good few more minutes until the barman tried to change the topic by saying he hope she recovered and he would let him know when the chickpeas would arrive. Needless to say, this man’s detailed account of his wife’s diarrhoea took my appetite away within seconds. In the meantime, my boyfriend kept dipping his perrunilla into a glass of Cola Cao, totally unaware of what was going on. Not being fluent in Spanish yet proved to be a positive thing for him. At least somebody’s breakfast wasn’t ruined.
There were quite a few things I didn’t understand here:
• Why didn’t he just say she was ill? Why did he had to go into such detail?
• Why didn’t he even bother to check if there were customers?
• Why didn’t the barman warn him we were there?
• Why on earth did the man go there to collect chickpeas in the first place?
We finished breakfast and did the check-out right afterwards, also at the bar. The barman pretended nothing happened, and I pretended I enjoyed my breakfast.