Mind your language

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Hands typing on vintage typewriter on wooden table.

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May 21, 2022

Dear Editor,

Recently, a new cafeteria/restaurant opened two minutes from my home.

The all-female staff are all very friendly, English is not spoken. We have got to know each other well, or at least I thought so.

Taking a coffee, the other day, one of the girls was moaning to another customer about her experiences working in Ciudad Quesada and Orihuela Costa, two expat hotspots.

“Most of these English have lived in Spain a long time and do not know one word of Spanish; this makes it very difficult for me, I just can’t understand why they don’t learn our language”.
She went on for a while until she got it off her chest.

A couple of minutes later I asked her “Surely, you know that I am a foreigner?”
Whilst I speak Spanish, I imagine that it sounds like Geordie or Glaswegian does to a Londoner.

She acknowledged this, so I asked her where she thought I was from.

“Oh, Russia maybe?”.

Well, I have been thought of as German, French, Italian etc, but hardly ever English as we are not expected to speak Spanish, never Russian, and even if I were, I could hardly admit it in the present climate. “No, English, I am a guiri,“ using the slang word for foreigners.

Her hand went to her mouth so hard she almost lost some teeth as the blush filled her cheeks.

It reminded me of the time when I was waiting in the reception area of the honorary Irish Consulate in Alicante with a client.

English was not spoken until the Consul was met.

The receptionist looked like Angela Merkel after a night on the schnapps and curried sauerkraut; she was very offhand with everyone.

Paddy and I were making disparaging comments about her, along the lines of which poor bugger woke up with her this morning?

A short while later I asked her a question; she replied in perfect English.

Oh dear – we felt like naughty schoolboys.

Graham Shelton

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