Close

What am I missing?

Ok so my first few days in Spain (Málaga) I have found the Spainards to be very friendly and accommodating. One couple even invited me to join them at their table. However now I am in a small town up north for a week now and I have had a situation 3 times now where the locals in a grocery store were chatting in an isle, thus blocking it. Clearly they noticed I could not pass but they chose to ignore me and continue chatting. Once I even pardoned myself but they still did not move. All three times I ended up going in the opposite direction to get to where I wanted. My only other alternative was to physically move there carts.

So what am I missing? Secret password? Pretty please? Look I have been traveling the world for 40 plus years and know to expect and respect cultural differences and nuances but honestly thought that politeness was pretty universal. Even my fellow Americans, who can be among the rudest in the world, even know when they are blocking your way and will quickly make room for you.

Vincente

Clearly you missed the secret password  :lol:

What I would do is when I'm in the situation like yours and they ignore me, I will ignore them too and push their carts aside yo get through. If they don't show some respect why should I?

No your are not missing anything, this is perfectly normal behaviour and not just in the shops.
Just barge through like they would do to you and then you are well on your way to assimilation.
Things like politeness, personal space and common sense just isn't hardwired in Spaniards in the same way it can be for people from other western countries.

Also there is no need to say thank you and sorry anywhere near us much as we do, everything thing is far more direct here. We are told to not confuse it with rudeness but doesn't change the fact it's still rude.

Ok, then it will be! I will assimilate! Thank you for both replies as it will help me understand and react.

JB80 thank you for the "welcome/thank you" comment. I agree with you. I am an extremely polite person and have been even more so here. Everytime I offer a "lo siento" I get a wave as in not necessary. And I am always thanking. So I will change that as well.

Just to add in that I agree with the comments. If you hold a door open for most Spaniards they would never think to acknowledge the gesture whilst they will let go of the door in your face without batting an eyelid. Considering how your/their actions affect other people is not a Spanish strength.

As someone said above it's not done to be discorteous or rude, they simply don't recognise that it is. Watch people ordering in bars. It's so offhand it's unbelievable. Watch people stop their cars in front of yours so that the passenger can get out but notice that there will be no hurrying, maybe a last minute conversation through the open door and then they still have to collect something from the boot or back seat.

lagunacat :

Ok so my first few days in Spain (Málaga) I have found the Spainards to be very friendly and accommodating. One couple even invited me to join them at their table. However now I am in a small town up north for a week now and I have had a situation 3 times now where the locals in a grocery store were chatting in an isle, thus blocking it. Clearly they noticed I could not pass but they chose to ignore me and continue chatting. Once I even pardoned myself but they still did not move. All three times I ended up going in the opposite direction to get to where I wanted. My only other alternative was to physically move there carts.

So what am I missing? Secret password? Pretty please? Look I have been traveling the world for 40 plus years and know to expect and respect cultural differences and nuances but honestly thought that politeness was pretty universal. Even my fellow Americans, who can be among the rudest in the world, even know when they are blocking your way and will quickly make room for you.

Vincente

Hi Vincente. In my opinion being there just in your first days and encountering such as this situation it wont describe them as a nation. I can say it was just an incident that it may happen in any place, in my opinion, so far u r not missing nothing. I had a visit b4 there and I cannot categorize the Spaniards being rude even when I was in a crowd place.

One time is an incident. This happened 3 days in a row so I figured I needed to understand why. I had a local here tell me today it is not unusual and to just push your way through.

Thanks for your input. I have noticed the thing about the cars. A local guy here I know saw me sitting at a sidewalk table and he parked in a marked crosswalk. Put his flashers on and sat and had a beer with me. Policia came by at one point and never bothered him.

When I was in school in Madrid, one of the first things I realized was that I would need to essentially 'forget' many of the social "niceties" of American life: just barge right in . . . with a smile y un saludo.

Need to pass someone on the street?  Grab something off the shelf at the Mercado? Get into the store when the neighbor ladies are "in conclave" at the front door?

Try this:  A bright cheery smile accompanied by any variation of "Buenas/Que Tal/Hola! Me permite, por favor?"  And walk right on. No need to wait for a response just go right on and do what you need to do. (Elbows not mandatory.)

There is an unspoken requirement in Spanish society for a measure of common courtesy but not necessarily of the same level expected in other areas of Europe, in my experience.  I found that if one maintains a calm demeanor and a good sense of humor about one's self and of life in general, one tends to encounter much more pleasantness than anything else, even without a whole lot of "please" and "thank yous" thrown about.

I would suggest . . . relax, take it easy, give folks the benefit of the doubt for not automatically knowing to do what we expect them to do, with the understanding they're probably not being purposefully "rude," and above all . . . "when in Rome!"   :D

You should understand that social contact is incredibly important in Spain and comes before everything.  They meet friends in a supermarket and begin to chat.  They become so engaged they are unaware of anything else.  Most common is when a car blocks the road so the driver can chat to a friend, oblivious to the traffic behind them.  The most important thing is to accept that this is the way it is here, be patient  as there is worse to come when you begin to engage with Spanish bueaurocracy. 

Remember the old WW2 poster - Keep Calm and Carry On.

I agree with all the comments above. I am Latin and also have this attitude toward social interactions in my blood. Remember, these two people are friends and they feel that their interaction should be respected and protected when in public. Don't ask me to explain, please. It is like saying:"hey, don't you see we are talking? And this little area has become our personal space. Don't you dare to interrupt." Something like that. You are not their friend. Same as any other Spanish. It has nothing to do with you been a foreigner. So you have to do the same. Just push thru but make sure that when they look at your face you look relax and move their cars in a very polite way. Do not look at then if you don't need too. Remember, the problem is the carts, not the people. So you say something and look at the cars. That way you don't look intimidating. Smile and keep going. Never look back to respond, avoid interaction or it may really become an issue. You will find the same arrogance in bars and on the street. This is the way we are wired. Spanish certainly more than Latinos in general. They tend to be more "asshold" in a way. Sorry for the word. It is their way or the highway. You have to be strong too. Only issue is that you are a foreigner so they may see your arrogance and a sign of supremacist mentality. Not good. Hope this helps.

Luisto,
Thanks for the in depth response! Yes it helps me understand better. Though when I first wrote the post I had just arrived in Spain. I am no longer there but by the end of my six months in Spain I understood the  'habits'' of Spanish people much better. I also think part of it was the small town I was in and perhaps they resented English people more (this town is overrun by British). Also, from my experience as an American I think that small town folks can be more small minded and less accepting of outsiders. This is certainly the way in America, unfortunately. I did meet many nice and polite people in this small town. When I was in Jerez later in the summer I found the people to be extremely polite, much more than the small town I was living in.

Thanks again!

Vincente

Yes, I understand it very well. I am from PR and even in this small island you can find people are arrogant in the city and super nice everywhere else. So, yes, it all depends on where you live and the particular little culture of that place.

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Malaga

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Malaga

Moving to Malaga

Find tips from professionals about moving to Malaga

Travel insurance in Malaga

Enjoy a stress-free travel across Malaga

Flights to Malaga

Find the best prices for your flight tickets to Malaga