Archive | April, 2012

Rude behavior or North American pet peeves?

Posted on 12 April 2012 by American expat!

So called pet peeves are annoyances that are particularly bothersome to an individual, but that seem acceptable to others.

But is it still considered a pet peeve if it involves disrespect, poor manners or poor personal hygiene? I mean how can you call your stomach churning when a coworker leans over your shoulder and breathes their nasty, rotten smokers mouth into your nostrils a pet peeve? (You know the kind-that 3 pack a day, rotten tooth smoker’s breath). Or that fact that you find people cutting you off mid sentence incredibly rude? Or when you thoughtfully and carefully answer a question only to discover the person had no interest in an actual answer and didn’t listen to a word you said? Are those pet peeves – or can you be justifiably annoyed with what is actually rude behavior?

I am going to argue against my own feelings that these are examples of rude behavior and say that these are pet peeves – because while many North Americans might find these things incredibly disrespectful, they are are totally acceptable elsewhere.

Personal space

We North Americans (and others out of Anglo Saxon origins) hold our personal space sacred. Mediterranean Europeans are much more physical.  They stand closer, speak closer and touch each other more, hug and kiss and shake hands with perfect strangers, and God forbid you expect an Anglo Saxon to adjust to personal space norms in a place like Brazil, which is even closer than southern Europe. The touching and closeness is a very human way to be and can be looked at as group inclusiveness, which we all have a strong need for.  But the downside is that outside of greeting and chatting and having the closeness directed kindly at you, it is taken for granted that involuntary touching, bumping and even pushing is nothing that needs to be avoided.

Courtesy Scott Adams

People barge right past you here without so much as an “excuse me” or “may I pass?” or even “sorry!” In fact most people refuse to move aside from your trajectory, either forcing you off the sidewalk, into an oncoming group of people or, if you hold your line and do what they do-which is not move out of the way–bump right into you as they elbow their way through the crowd without so much as an acknowledgement.

When I first moved here, I thought this was because Spaniards were horribly rude. The ricocheting off other people, coupled with never smiling at strangers (a blank stare or look up and down is normal – which I have adopted, but that is another story) made me feel like I was in a sea of angry, bitter people who just didn’t give a crap who they mowed over to get where they wanted to go.

But… while the people who walk three or four wide on a sidewalk, essentially taking up the whole damn thing –- this is super common with the older ladies here who even link arms to fully block any passage from behind– still makes me want to scream, shoving my way through a crowd can be liberating when I get in the right frame of mind.

You see,  no one cares here if you whack them with your bag, elbow them aside, or shove them ever so gently so you can pass while they stand in the path of traffic. It is expected. So when you do let out a little aggression on one of the seven burly dudes coming at you, maybe leaning into one of them a little too firmly with the shoulder, well, they don’t care. No one ever turns around and says “hey buddy, watch who you are shoving”. They just keep chatting and lean into it along with you.

I realize that may not be the best example – it’s  a cultural thing that may be considered rude or normal, depending on from whence you hail, though it is unlikely to be considered a pet peeve by anyone. But I included it here because 1) it’s entertaining 2) it goes along with the theme of  ”one man’s inconsiderateness is another man’s normal behavior”. I’ll put myself in the spotlight next.

I know that I drive some people crazy because I speak very softly. I know this because people frequently say ‘what?’ to me after I say something. Or they more rudely might ask “are you talking to yourself?” or even “what are you mumbling?” which leads me to believe that they might be a tad annoyed. One would logically assume that I would just talk louder, but I really do have a quiet-ish voice and to project it takes a lot of effort. After a couple of hours of speaking at a level that, to me, is loud, I am exhausted. It’s like singing to an audience for hours. Add to it that my hearing is really sensitive –  a lot of times it seems to me like people are yelling when they are speaking – and you have got yourself someone who isn’t going to change her quiet world for the sake of everybody else, especially not for the assholes who ask me what I am mumbling instead of just saying they didn’t hear me. (Ironically, I have met other people who speak really low or, yes, mumble, and guess what? I find it annoying.)

Interrupting others

Outside of the misuse of their, they’re and there, my biggest peeve has to be when someone talks over me. You know, when you are talking or finishing a sentence and someone just starts talking forcing you to either stop or speak louder to drown them out? Turns out either way you lose, because then you are so annoyed you’re no longer thinking about the subject but how the person just cut you off mid sentence.

Well guess what? Interrupting others is totally acceptable in certain places too. Anglo Saxons wait for each other to finish before speaking, and take turns holding the floor. Mediterraneans generally just talk as the thoughts occur and speaking at the same time is totally acceptable. I am telling you, the reality TV here is incomprehensible, with 5 to 10 people frequently talking (or yelling,I am not sure which since a lot of talking sounds like yelling to me) over each other for up to three minute stretches. I personally don’t think this makes for good TV, but I don’t think anyone here cares because TV here sucks.

So my point with all of this is – you can’t take things at face value when you are in a place you are unaccustomed to. This seems obvious, but until you understand why you consider something unacceptable, you might just write off a place or a people before you really know it.

Comments (8)

Working in Spain

Posted on 05 April 2012 by American expat!

 Working in Spain as an American citizen is harder than you think

On the other hand, it’s also easier than you think.

What do I mean by that? First, if you plan on coming here and finding a company that will sponsor you with a work visa, you can forget it. Unless you are already working for a company in the US that has an office in Spain, you won’t get a work visa. Even if such an unlikely thing were to happen, you would have to return to the US and wait 8 months to one year to process said visa, since they must be issued in the country of the citizen and not in the country offering the job. The reason why you won’t get a work visa is that there are plenty of native English speakers with the same skills you have who are EU citizens and can legally work in Spain already – the British.

On the other hand, if you are planning to teach English, there are a mountain of jobs waiting for you. Based on what I hear from others, many language schools are happy to pay you under the table. If you are uncomfortable with that sort of arrangement, you can always go freelance and give private or group lessons on your own. This such a common practice because so many people here do not speak English and the globalization of business is making it an extremely desirable skill. So most teachers will take on private students of their own at one time or another, whether the teacher has a NIE (equivalent to a SSN) or not- Though you really do want to get yourself a NIE, because you need it for nearly everything.

Another option that will allow you to work is through a student visa. You can work legally on a student visa for 20 hours.  If you are planning to learn Spanish anyway, this will be your best bet.  There are no fewer than 20 Spanish language schools of varying in prices with a variety of classes, schedules and course lengths (note: you generally get what you pay for with Spanish language schools) and all of them will help you get a student visa.

Note that you have to apply for the visa  at the closest Spanish embassy to you while you are in the US after you have paid the school and have the paperwork. Plan at least four months and many trips to the Spanish embassy to receive it.  Once you get to Spain you’ll want to talk to a employment lawyer to see exactly which steps you need to take for authorization to work on a student visa. But don’t worry, there are plenty and they aren’t too expensive.

Also note that there is no way to expedite anything in Spain. (See my many posts regarding work and work ethics here, and do not miss this youtube short about a freelancer doing battle with the system!).

You can always come here on tourist visa –which is for three months and you automatically have one if you have a US passport–to check things out while you figure out what to do. I’m not advocating overstaying your visa, but I will say that I know more than one American that has lived here without any sort of residency for over five years and only leaves the country maybe once a year.

Once you have figured out your strategy, there are plenty of places to look for jobs.

  • As a rule, always check loquo.com, kind of the local version of Craiglist, first. You will use this site to look for everything from jobs, to apartments, to vehicles to – well just about anything. There is an English version and you can search for any term in the job listing category you want.
  • Check out the Indeed.com job page for this site.
  • Look at the job listings under the Barcelona Professionals Group on LinkedIn (you have to join first, both LinkedIn and the BCN Professionals Group to see the job listings).

Otherwise, get to know people and meet their friends and colleges. You will find that others will be happy to introduce you to others and most socializing takes place in public rather than in private homes, so before you know it, you will have a circle of like minded people to network with.

 

Comments (8)