Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guest Post: Nora Johnson -- Tales of an Expat

Nora Johnson, of The Johnson Diaries: Life on the Edge has very kindly agreed to write a special guest post for Whistling. Some background: She grew up in England, went to law school in Los Angeles, has taught German at two universities, and is the author of THE DE CLERAMBAULT CODE (available on Amazon.) She currently lives in Andalucia, Spain.


In the time since I moved to Spain, I’ve come to value the joys of the Spanish lifestyle in ways that the average tourist never could. I’ve made a sincere effort to come to terms with new practices and beliefs and differences in politics, culture and way of life - some as basic as eating omelettes drowning in olive oil or kissing every José I know (young, old, short, tall) on both cheeks - that would likely bewilder the mere tourist.

I now accept the paradoxes of a language in which a double negative does not make a positive and the word ‘constipado’ means ‘a cold’. I’ve tried really hard to appreciate new-fangled, modern ideas like the customer never being right and the nuances inherent in local building rules by which illegally constructed properties are legalised instantaneously and legally constructed ones are bulldozed out of existence. I read with astonishment that a generously endowed monument is to be erected in Galicia for “war hero” actor Leslie Howard while the country sinks deeper into the worst economic downturn on record.

I love the garlic-infused fish and seafood and rush joyfully to shops and businesses that open at ten a.m. and then wait to be served while the assistants finish catching up on news with other assistants and on their mobile phones. I adore being tailgated by macho, young Seat fender benders at 120 kph on the autopistas, and enjoy the increased adrenaline flow experienced crossing a street at a crossing whose pedestrian signal by chance happens to be green. I belong to a well-established expat community which has sought to achieve acceptance and understanding by dint of a deeply-felt need to blend in.

But all my struggles will be worthless if I do nothing while my chosen lifestyle is irrevocably altered before my very eyes. I have a moral duty to protect it! I am talking about the bar owner in Cataluña, northern Spain, who was recently thrown into jail for over five years for allowing ‘too much noise’ in his bar!

‘Too much noise in Spain’ is an OXYMORON! Noise is as much part and parcel of Spain’s culture as bullfighting and football. A chat between just a couple of average Spaniards ends up sounding like a penalty shoot out in any international Cup Final.

And the small, sleepy town where I live wouldn’t be the same without the joyous jingle of pile drivers, pneumatic drills - and fifteen-ton trucks tearing through on two wheels.

I was making my way one day with P through Malaga’s snarled-up traffic tentacles when I noticed newspaper headlines about the bar-owner’s sentence. “I guess Spain’s in for quieter bars from now onwards,” I bawled at him. He just squinted at me in the sun but said nothing. Now I was bellowing at the top of my voice. “Can’t hear a word. Need to speak louder,” he bellowed back.


Anonymous said...

I love this! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly charming!! Please tell us more.

marta said...

Lived in Spain for 6 mos. I found this guest post amusing and so true.

Clarissa said...

Bring on more guest posts Miss Whistle! It's fab hearing from far off lands. Bravo, Nora!

Musings said...

Lovely to hear a view on Spain...vibrant thoughts. Olive oil garlic, seafood !!...... more

Nora Johnson said...

Many thanks to all for your comments - so glad you found the post amusing! Find making light of Spanish life like this on my blog helps keep me SANE...!

Many thanks especially to Miss Whistle for her overwhelming generosity.

Best wishes, Nora