- -  Day # 102  + +

EU > Spain > Santiago

Welcome to Spain

Santiago, ES (View on map)

Another flag in the upper right corner of the website! I have arrived in Spain and will use the coming to weeks to report about what`s happening here. Starting with some statistics: Spain is the fourth largest EU country. It has roughly 40 million inhabitants and, in addition to that, a huge variable population of incoming tourists. During my travel through other European countries, I already learnt that Spain is a very popular holiday destination, especially in countries where sunshine is either liquid (Ireland in summer) or scarce for other reasons (Scandinavia in winter).

Sigrid (25):

`Speaking Castellano will get you by in most areas of Spain, but it`s better to learn the regional language of the place you`re visiting`
Taking Portugal as a starting point to describe Spain, the two nations clearly share their love for football and food. They also share a large part of their language, although pronunciation is fairly different. Spaniards tend to pronounce each and every letter, which a fixed sound associated with each letter. Stressing of syllables is constant, making Spanish a more accessible but less melodious language then Portuguese. Beside that, and I will try to check this during coming days, Spanish people seem to use many more bad words than Portuguese people do. Prostitutive hobbies in combination with female family members tend to slip in to every so-manieth sentence, while the meaning of the insult differs according to the context.

Autonomous regions
There is no such thing as one Spanish language. Sigrid (25, photo) tells me that each of the 17 autonomous region has, at the minimum, a different accent. The Spanish spoken on national TV and studied by students abroad is usually Castallano. Learning Castellano will get you by in most areas, but people in Santiago de Compostela, for example, speak Gallego, Galician as their first language. Catalunya has a language similar to Castellano, while Bask (Vasco) even has entirely different origins than Spanish.

All of the regions have autonomous governments that report back to the capital Madrid. Food specialties are different by region, the weather can change 180 degrees from one side of Spain to the other and, according to Nacho (30), even the mentality of the people is different in all corners of the country. `People from the south, from don`t like to move and don`t like to work. They are tired all the time, even when they don`t do anything?, he says, referring to people from Andalusia and the Canary Islands.

Fiesta y Siesta
Despite the perceived laziness of people in the south, the Galician are just as happy to take very long lunch breaks. People working in the office typically start work at 9, take a break from 13h to 15h30, then return to the office until 19h30 or even 20h. Many people aim for a job as civil servant, as it almost guarantees lifetime employment. The admission criteria are very strict, and many people compete every year to be allowed into the public system.

Just like the Portuguese, people in Spain are highly attached to the supportive structure of the family. In Spain, however, the network of friends is considered even more important. Fernando (31) thinks this is logical, as he misses his friends more than his family when he is away from home. He further explains that people usually do not leave their home for a very long time. `Spanish people like to go on holiday in Spain. If they travel abroad, it will mostly be to get to the Baleares, the Canary Islands or the Carribean Region`, he says.

The popularity of Spain is not limited to its own holiday makers. As said, people from all over Western and Northern Europe easily find their way to the Spanish beaches. They happily inject the Spanish economy with money. At moments, they may be thought of as annoying. Especially if they come in high numbers and colonise entire islands or beaches. For the rest of the time, they are at least more welcome than another group of people who think of Spain as paradise.

Refugees from Africa also aim for the beaches but not necessarily to enjoy the sun. Reaching the Spanish beach to them may be the start of a better life. May be, because even if they are not sent straight back to their country of origin, they may not find what they were hoping for.

They may acquire citizenship and find a job, but their foreign origin may haunt them well beyond that point. Under the pretext of supporting the local football club, many skinheads enjoy harassing and molesting immigrants. Tourists are welcome because they support the economy, immigrants are not because there are not even enough jobs for the Spanish, let alone for people from foreign countries. Add a considerable dose of xenophobia to that, for a good share inspired by the 2004 attacks on the Madrid metro, and you will quickly understand that the situation in the big cities is rather tense.

Since Spain is one of the main entrances to Europe, the European Union is assisting Spain in reinforcing its border surveillance efforts. Rather than supporting the argument that immigrants are actually undesired people, the EU claims to tackle human trafficking, drug imports and organised crime - all inevitable by-products of huge income differences between to adjacent continents.

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