Attitudes towards tourists in Andalucia
By Russel Seaman Liverpool University Student
Andalusia and especially the Costa del Sol is possibly the most culturally diverse area of Spain. This is due to the amount of tourists that flock to the region every year and have been doing so for the past 40 years. In many of the tourist resorts you will most likely see and hear as many English people as you will Spanish residents. The all year round good weather has made the Costa del Sol a second home haven for thousands of Brits as well as other nationalities from across Europe; most noteably Germans and Dutch. There is an image of the Costa del Sol as being a simple holiday destination and continuation of life back in the UK. Many people view it as the UK in the sun. For sure you can get you English breakfast with real Heinz beans, whilst reading the Daily Mirror, but there is much more to experience than that.
The Andaluz people have had to adapt to the surge of foreigners that decend into their everyday lives. The economy of Andalusia is based in the service sector, with the majority of employment being directly connected to tourism in one way or another. Therefore, tourists are very important for the prosperity of the region. However, this does not, and should not mean that tourists have anymore rights or special treatment than the local residents. Mutual respect is the key to experiencing the best that this wonderful area has to offer. The differences between the UK and this part of Spain are often glaringly evident but you must be prepared to except that Spain is not a Britain in the sun. Spain is a very open society and has experienced a lot of changes since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. It has had to grow up incredibly quickly and as a result of this, things may not appear to run as smoothly as in the UK The key to overcoming differences is to be aware of them.
Being natural English speakers, we already have an advantage over tourists from other countries. You could rightly say that English is the common language amongst the vast majority of tourist businesses and tourists. However, the ability of the locals to speak English varies from region to region and cannot be expected. Most restaurants and bars will appreciate you using any basic Spanish that you may know. Even if it is just 'hola' and 'adios'. It all goes a long way in showing respect and a friendliness that will no doubt afford you good service too. Another difference in service styles is that the Spanish are taught to ask from an early age. It is not unusual to shout across a crowded restaurant if the waiter's attention is called for. This in England would be seen as being extremely rude. Many tourists feel that they are being simply ignored or that the waiter is just not attentive; but in reality, the waiter is just behaving as he normally does according to his social rules. So the main point is if you want something, anything at all, just ASK!
Generally speaking the further away from the coast you are, the more likely you will encounter true differences in lifestyle and customs. This is to say that more respect will be demanded in rural areas where tourism has not affected the traditional values that many Andalusians still hold. Although Spain is much more liberal nowadays, it remains a very religious country, especially amongst the older generations. Respect for the locals in all situations will ensure good relations between you and them. Remember, that even though you may be on holiday, you are still in their country and must play by their rules; regardless of how incredible or poles apart they may seem!
The differences are generally not seriously problematic but can be frustrating and challenging if you are not prepared for them. A recent CIS (Centre for Sociological Research) survey found that 93% of the Spanish public welcomed foreign visitors and thought they improved life in Spain. So opinion is on the tourists' side and through continued mutual respect of each others different customs and lifestyles, the relationship between tourism and Andalusia will be happy for years to come.
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