Patience, perspective and planning ahead - dealing with Spanish administration (and small children)

A kind English friend, recently returned from her summer visit, has just lent me a book on parenting - the Supernanny toddler one, which she said all her friends back in England are using. It's the new Gina Ford, except less rigid (if the name means nothing, don't worry - this post isn't a discussion on comparative theories of child-rearing). In the book, the author, a well-known and respected TV nanny, suggests the following necessary "coping skills" or "tools" for dealing with small children. She suggests you adopt them as a mantra, and pin them on the fridge: * confidence * patience * discipline * perseverance * energy * commitment * plan ahead * perspective * humour This list was common-sensical and logical but, at the same time, rather daunting. I don't know about you, but I have half-empty stores of most of these on any given day. "But what does this have to do with Andalucia and Spain?" I hear you ask. If you hadn't already guessed, it's that these are the very same qualities which are indispensable in dealing with administrative tasks here in Spain, whether it's applying for your NIE at the Oficina de Extranjeros, as many students arriving around now for their year of studying abroad will be experiencing; or going to the Seguridad Social office to fill in the forms to register as autonoma; calling up your phone company to report a fault; or trying to rectify a problem with your bank. Personally, when dealing with children, I need to work on my patience levels; my commitment has been known to flag when trying to ram home the concept of manners ("What do you say when you ask for something?", for the nth time); and my perspective gets very skewed by the evening when children won't finish their dinner, while my energy supplies are on empty by bedtime. Similarly, I often have a sense of humour failure when the automated telephone service of a Spanish company won't understand me, and my ability to plan ahead is frequently stymied by such a foreign concept here in sunny, sleepy southern Spain, although taking five copies of every conceivably relevant document is never a waste of time. These are my ideas for how to apply this list to living in Andalucia: Confidence - if you're ballsy and you sound like you know what you're talking about, it will help. As will a reasonable grasp of the language. Patience - queues, chatting cashiers, dreadfully slow service - need I say more (except take a book or magazine to read while waiting)? Discipline - if someone says they will do something for you, make damn sure they do it, when they say they will (in my case, that applies most strongly to my own dear husband). Perseverance - if you're told no, in almost any situation, persevere and you may find you get what you want. Ask them to check - it's often that they don't want to bother, rather than that they know it's impossible/unavailable Energy - this is more easily dealt with - stop off for a universally available coffee and pastry, or a beer and a tapas, and you'll soon be ready to go again. Commitment - ask anyone who has started a business in Spain - even more so a retail business with a shopfront, restaurant or hotel - and they'll tell you about the endless reams of paperwork, inspections, taxes, fees, and requisite standards of everything you have to meet. Noone undertakes such an enterprise thinking it'll be a breeze. Plan ahead - see above Perspective - they do things differently here, so you have to take that into account - speed, manners, who you know being more important than what you know. Humour - poking fun is a widely accepting means of diffusing a situation here. It will also win you respect with the locals. To be on the safe side, though, unless you're well acquainted with your audience and their personal belief systems, avoid certain more sensitive (if tempting) targets such as the Catholic church and the monarchy. Do you find you need these qualities to deal with Spanish authorities? If not, which do you need?
Blog published on 6 September 2012