With elections just gone, my natural instinct this month would have been to use this column to bemoan the fact that I can’t vote here despite having been a resident and taxpayer for over 20 years, but given that my colleague Neil Stokes so eloquently covered that topic in his column last month, I instead decided to go off the beaten track a little and ask some Britalan friends of mine for some ideas - in case you’ve forgotten, “Britalan” is a term I invented for British people who live here and have integrated to some extent, i.e. they at least speak Catalan and/or Spanish with some degree of proficiency, as opposed to the term British expats, i.e. Brits who live here without having integrated. The two responses I got were from Britalans long married to women from these parts, although they would both object to the term Britalan, given that they feel 100% British despite their level of integration. I got the following from one (I’ll leave you to work out which culture he’s referring to in each point):
“Drinking tea (any time is a good time); meeting for a beer rather than a coffee; finishing said beer, not leaving a quarter of it in the glass; paying in the act and not just for your own (there are exceptions); meal times; cakes for so many occasions and the price of them (we only do birthdays, Christmas pudding and hot cross buns); not understanding that “international” cuisine is part of our culture (especially for us Londoners); asking who is last in the queue even though it is blatantly obvious; asking someone if they are getting off the bus/tube as they are too impatient to wait and see; going out at midnight”, and then in specific reference to football ”actually going to support our football teams instead of just talking about it; still going to the ground if it rains; going to away games; having centre forwards that don’t fall over and then moan about it.”
As you can tell, this Britalan took my invitation as an opportunity to get a few things off his chest about living in a culture other than his own. I wonder how true those things ring with readers, given that they are an (albeit somewhat negative) expression of what it’s like to live in Catalonia from the point of view of a British man fully integrated into a Catalan family.
Another Britalan in a similar situation, namely being married long-term to a local woman, had the following to say: “walking too slowly; spending hours trying to sort out a bill; adults drinking Fanta; thinking a croissant means breakfast; celebrating Saint’s days when they haven’t seen the inside of a church since the passing of Franco; holding a loud conversation in a bar with the furthest away person in said bar; TVs blaring out terrible programmes at top volume; thinking we love Benny Hill and Queen; saying “good-bye” when passing someone in the street; not using please and thank you.”
Now it had been my intention to use these comments as inspiration for future columns, but then I realised that in themselves they represented quite an interesting insight into (some) foreign residents’ views of where they have decided to live. Please remember when digesting them, however, that as Brits, dry humour forms a large part of their life view. So you can take their bellyaching with a pinch of salt. They love living here really.