Society & Culture - Culture Essays

Cultural Differences between Andalucia and the UK


There are many cultural differences between Spain and England and the service industry is just one of them. The English expect the service to be prompt, no matter what service it is! Waiting for the bill for five minutes in England can leave people a little agitated. In Spain, asking for the bill then waiting and watching the person you asked walk past you without making eye contact can be quite common. Also in England you expect to be acknowledged when you enter a shop. Also when being served, the British expect to have the full attention of the provider. Being served whilst the shopkeeper is talking loudly on the telephone is considered by the British to be rather rude, especially when they shout 'si' (yes) at you, by way of a prompt for you to place your order. The Spanish language may be seen to be rude when translating it back into English, but this relates more to the cultural differences and way of looking at life. Part of Andalucian life is to be forward and say what you mean and what you want. Rather than ask 'politely', in Spanish you order what you want without apology. For example 'dáme una cerveza' (give me a beer), or 'dáme la cuenta' (give me the bill) is perfectly correct and normal. When answering the phone, the Spanish say 'dígame' (tell me) or simply 'si'.

Most people in Andalucia speak or have some knowledge of English but the best advice for tourists coming to Andalucia or Spain in general would be to try to speak some Spanish no matter how little. It shows some respect and the locals will appreciate it, probably giving you a better service and treating you with more respect. It is unlikely that staff would be expected to speak Spanish to an Andaluz in an English restaurant and yet this is what the British expect in Andalucia. Just simple words like 'hola', 'por favor' and 'gracias' goes a long way to making your trip more pleasant. It is simply treating others the way you would like to be treated.

The majority of Spanish cafes and restaurants have a 'menú del día' (set menu of the day) which consists of a starter, a main meal, desert and a drink and costs around 6 - 10 euros. The dishes vary from restaurant to restaurant, but you can expect typical dishes such as gazpacho (cold soup) and a mixed salad to be among the choices of starters; paella and some sort of fish dish for the main course and ice cream or coffee. This may seem reasonably cheap to British tourists. However to the waiters or waitresses working in some central Malaga cafes, who earn an average of 5 euros (approx £3.50) per hour, it may not seem so inexpensive. The Andalusians have rather a laid back approach and this is reflected in the service sometimes on offer. Having said that, in some very busy cafes, where the turnover of customers is fast and there are limited tables, you may feel that the service is too quick. In more modest places (often with excellent home cooking), the starter and main dish may arrive together.

For students coming to Spain watching the television is an invaluable way of improving their language skills and learning about the culture. However do not rely on the television guide completely as to when the programme starts because even if the paper says it's going to start at 9:45 it might not start until 10pm. Then when it finally does begin five minutes later there will be a thirty second commercial break, the normal commercial breaks can be as long as fifteen minutes.

The seating arrangements on the local buses may seem to be a little disorganised and the system that the passengers use is something that the British are not used to. Take the priority seats for instance. These are red and situated at the front of the bus. There are also two more, one on either side of the aisle nearest the window. The people who sit on the normal seats tend to swing their legs, rather than stand up for an elderly person. Would it not be more convenient to have the priority seats on the outside so that the people who need them don't have to struggle to get passed someone on a normal seat? Even on the normal seats people automatically sit on the aisle seat and when the bus is packed and people have to stand, they still won't move over to allow someone to sit. You have to ask if you can get past them to sit in the vacant seat. In England it would be very rare for someone to stay seated and allow the elderly to struggle to get past them to sit down.

There are also differences in daily life to look out for. For example if a family with a pram and a toddler are walking down a narrow street, they tend to take up the width of the pavement. The parents, rather than asking the child to move over to allow someone walking towards them to pass, rather they leave the oncoming passer by to be squashed against the wall.

Men are also noticeably more attentive to women on the streets of Andalucia. They whistle and shout comments at girls, much more than in 21st century Britain. Spaniards use the slang word 'guiri' to describe the typical foreigner in their country. This word is often openly used in every day conversation. Political correctness is not yet fashionable in Andalucia.

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