22 May 2023

Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.

And, lo, has caught the sultan’s turret in a noose of light!

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable

Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España

Spain has increased its population by c.4 million in the last decade, or 10%. Mostly, if not all, via immigration. Unlike the UK – where permitted immigrants now number almost a million a year – there’s no controversy about this here. Possibly because the majority of the immigrants come from South America and, for various reasons, assimilate more easily. These days, the hospitality and catering industry seems to be dependant on South Americans. At least as regards reception and waiting staff.

But, as this article shows, not everyone is welcome, and there certainly is racism in Spain. I first read of similar incidents in the early 2000s, when the English football team played against Spain here. In this case, it’s being directed against Real Madrid’s best player. Which might help to explain it. It’s very saddening, though, to read his comment: A beautiful nation, which welcomed me and which I love, but which has created for itself the image of a racist country in the rest of the world. I am sorry for those Spaniards who disagree but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.

Reader David has kindly commented on 2 things mentioned recently: 1. Getting Spanish nationality, and 2. Accepting Spanish social norms. As for the latter, I endorse everything he says. As for the former, he writes of a scarcely credible achievement on his part. See below for details.

There’s an ad on TV for Oigo, a low cost rail operator, which ends with the exhortation Let’s go!. At least, I think it does. As so often happens with Spaniards, the English words are pronounced as just one, wrongly stressed word – lessgo! Which makes it hard to understand. Unless you’re another Spaniard who knows a bit of English.

I’ve said before that one of the joys of walking around Madrid is happening upon lovely buildings in the middle of a nondescript street of flat blocks. Especially if – like this one – they bow in the direction of the Mudéjar style:-

I usually try to identify such buildings but, this morning, went down the proverbial rabbit hole trying to identify this one. In the end, I discovered that it’s a church dedicated to San Pablo but often labelled as La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. Withe the added complication that the part behind the church – an ex convent?– seems to be called El Hóspital Universitario HM Madrid. Anyway, the front bit is in Calle San Bernado.

An odd thing happened during a bullfight in the Las Ventas ring last night. A bull simply keeled over mid performance and looked very unwilling to get up. When it did eventually stand, it was applauded by the aficionados. Which must have been a great comfort to the moribund beast.


Una lucha lupina.

The Way of the World

As we all know, to our cost, the genius of capitalism is that it monetises human weaknesses and desires with no regard for potential harms and then, when the problem it creates is big and lucrative enough, flogs us the supposed solution too – a comment made in the context of the drug, semaglutide, which enables clinically obese children to achieve significant weight loss.


White gaze: I don’t know what this really is, beyond something which a theatre in London doesn’t want to have at an all-black performance there. Possibly a term which will fall by the wayside but who knows? It could be on everyone’s lips by the end of the year.

Quite: A tricky word in the Anglosphere. I discovered years ago that, to North Americans, it doesn’t mean any of the several things it can mean to Brits, depending on the tone used. In the USA, it simply means ‘very’. So, a British audience isn’t going to be impressed when a US businessman tells them his company’s results were ‘quite good last year’. Yesterday’s example was the creator of ChatGPT who said: “My worst fear is that, if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong.”

Did you know?

Another reader called David suggests that Marmite – which I’ve never been tempted to try – is very effective in keeping mosquitoes away. Eaten, of course. Not spread all over your face and limbs.

Finally . . .

I read yesterday that: The central Madrid barrio of Salamanca is a neighbourhood of cashmere, Weimaraners and Maseratis. I first saw a Weimaraner in Australia in the 1970s and then bought one back in England. They were so rare at that time, folk were constantly asking me about him. So I carried copies of a note for anyone who approached me with a quizzical look on their face. Most of them asked me how I knew what they were going to ask.

There was a hell of a rugby match in Dublin yesterday. Highlights here.

Welcome to new reader: Latest Soup. Who might or might not read my posts.

For new readers:- If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


[On this, here is the link to the Ministry of Justice, replacing the one in my text of the other day]

1. Getting Spanish Nationality

I got my mine in about 15 months, Covid possibly responsible. There are some things to bear in mind. They are partly learnt through trial and error.

Spain’s public services are digitalising at various speeds, some departments function better than others.

I gave up on the poor government websites and went directly to my local Registro Civil, and said “Quiero ser español”. I was given an A4 sized paper with a list. Collected my list, went back. I made a few mistakes, hadn’t crossed or dotted the it’s and t’s. Fixed it, signed some stuff, then left then to it. Didn’t chase it up, nothing. Eventually it all got sorted. I signed my nationality. I was Spanish. Popped down to the policia nacionalidad without an appointment, produced a few tears, said I was desperate for my DNI, how happy I was. They fit me in. Asked about a passport, was told I needed an appointment. I said I was travelling in a week, going to Dubai, pleeeeaaaseee. I had it in 15 mins.

The first thing they said in Registro Civil was “Don’t bother with a lawyer”. They can’t speed up the process. I guess I would say if you must spend, then, yes on a translator. Even better, try and learn the lingo in the 5 years prior to asking for nationality. If you can’t, see if a friend, or a friend of a friend, can help, as interpreters are expensive. As for, dual nationality. Read what is in brackets. Read between the lines.

Face to face is often better. The lack of digitalisation and lack of training, means doing things in person is often easier.”Depende a quien te toca.” This means it depends who serves you. Some funcionarios can be real plonkers. Others are very friendly. My rule is to do a bit of brown nosing in these situations. Anger and shouting adds a year to whatever process.

2. Accepting Spanish norms

Try and integrate. It does make life a lot easier.

Except for when they get behind the wheel of a car, my overall experience with Spaniards positively outweighs the inconveniences. I am often surprised that assistance and support comes from where you least expect it.

Acceptance. Spain has things that are difficult to accustom to. I’ve lived in a dozen countries and, yes, it is noisy. And they are always late. Don’t stress,- If it’s a noisy bar, go and drink your coffee in a park. Or change tables. Or, if they don’t even turn up, enjoy a moment to yourself. Then remember not to bother inviting them again. We can’t individually change an entire culture. If we can’t integrate or enjoy certain aspects, then we can go mad or accept it, and do something else, or change our own circumstances.


  1. Dual nationality. Spain does not accept it. You’re either Spanish or something else. However, there’s plenty between the lines.

    When I first came, thirty years ago, I made my DNI, even though I had become a naturalized American at age 16. I just asked for my “literal” birth certificate at the Registro Civil. (It’s just a stamped photocopy of the page my birth is registered on.) Then I went to the Policía Nacional and got the DNI. Though I was already in my early 20’s, and had given up my green card when I became a US citizen, that was of no consequence because the green card only defined my immigrant status as the citizen of another country to US officials, not the Spanish police.

    There, I asked about my status as a nationalized American. They explained that, since I had renounced my Spanish citizenship in front of an American judge, and not in front of a Spanish judge or consular officer, that I was still officially Spanish. That the US also considered me a citizen had nothing to do with Spanish law. So, technically, one CAN have dual nationality here, just don’t expect Spanish bureaucracy to admit it publicly.


  2. Reading David’s and Maria’s comments, has prompted me to write that how to get things done in a country depends an awful lot one’s attitude. I have lived in quite a few countries. And in countries the difficulties one can encounter when dealing with the state make life in Spain in comparison look like a Kindergaten in paradise. But it might be, first, worth pointing out that one of the delights of leaving in the UK is the lack of bureaucracy. This should be understood in relative terms. Putting things into context helps to comprehend the world. I don’t mean to say that there is no bureaucracy in the UK, but compared to almost anywhere in the world it seems fair to say that there is a general effort not to let paper work get in the way of getting things done. Therefore the necessary hassle is kept to a minimum and it is almost always possible to find a solution because under most circumstances everybody makes an effort to use initiative and apply common sense. Pragmatism rules – with few exceptions- above everything else. And in this respect – not unfortunately in all respects – Britain is top of the class. In any other country in Europe things are worse. Outside Europe things get decidedly iffy (not for the faint hearted). If you compare Spain to Britain, you are comparing an average performer with the best of the best. Which perhaps explains why many Britons are so exasperated, exasperation bordering on arrogance, when they encounter the slightest difficulty abroad. Always a good chance for bitching around (ie sarcasm). What David demonstrates is that you can get things done. But you need to adapt. David has made the effort. Many other Britons have not and spend the day whining, moaning, complaining. Curmudgeonly.


    • I’ve heard that some Europeans living in Britain had problems attaining settled status because of bureaucratic snafus.

      I didn’t find bureaucracy in the US quite as onerous as in Spain. Long-winded, sometimes. Self-defeating, sometimes. But not as headachy.


    • Up in Galicia, where there’s a lot less English spoken than on the benighted costas, I know no foreigner who hasn’t learnt the language and fully assimilated.


  3. Family& friends, 13 including two toddlers, travelled to stay in Porthmadog over 19th-21st May to ride on the Welsh Highland Railway. The weather was sunny & warm & the views were spectacular. We booked 1st class in the observation car both directions, which left us 90 minutes to partake of refreshments at the Anglesey Arms below the walls of Caernafon castle. We walked around the castle & I noticed two buildings that I believe might compare well with La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

    Synagogue? in Castle Street

    The Old Courthouse in Castle Ditch.


  4. Dear Maria. I can assure you there were never any problems getting settled status in the UK. It was a piece of cake. Then again, I have personally been through some hair raising experiences concerning bureaucracy in other countries. I am a hardened individual. The UK is heaven on earth compared to that. Coming back to getting settled status, I know of foreigners who had problems, but not because the process itself was difficult (believe me, it could not have been easier – it literally took 15 minutes) but because they either did not want to do what was required, or were too old or ignorant to use modern technology. I know of a French lady who refused getting the settled status until the very last minute because, as she said, it was infringing “her rights”. Two weeks later and she would have been in real trouble.


  5. Have enjoyed all rhe comments from your original posts on the topic of immigration Colin.

    Where I have heard stories of problems settling in the UK or Spain, in many cases it is because there might be a document or signature missing, or a translation not done legally. It is easily fixed, and usually easily remedied, but may knock the process back a few months.

    I lived in Morocco for many years. THAT was bureaucracy on a serious level. Yet, it was usually fixed by kindly inviting the civil servant for a coffee. In fact, it was pretty much expected.

    My favourite, when seeing the queue of 500 to get the ferry to Spain, was to walk right to the front, open the passport guys door, hand him my passport with a 100 dirhams slipped in, to have it promptly stamped and returned to me. It’s 25 years ago, may it doesn’t happen now.


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