I’ve always wondered whether I do or not, but this summer I found out for sure. Straight from the bull’s mouth, as it were. It all happened in the exotic location of Benalmadena, Malaga.
It was our second day in the 4 star hotel-apartment as we came back after lunch to get out of the heat. When we turned up at the room the head maid was just going in (it helps to know we’d had a chat with her the day before in the corridor, all in Spanish, and the following conversation was also in Spanish).
“Oh,” she said, looking down at her list of rooms. “I didn’t realise you guys were in this room.”
“Yeah we are,” said my wife.
“It’s just, if I had known, I would have cleaned your room earlier. You’re down as being guiris.” I smiled. Guiri means foreigner in Spanish. Some people take it as an insult, and it can be depending on the tone, but it doesn’t bother me.
“Really?” said my wife, turning her head to me, probably hoping that I wasn’t about to kick off.
“Yeah, you see, we have a system here, the guiris rooms are left till later because they are normally out all day. We don’t tend to clean them anyway.” Oh dear, I thought, knowing full well that my wife has a bit of a thing about cleanliness.
“That’s funny because yesterday no one cleaned our room either,” said my wife.
“Yeah, well if you’re down as being guiris then we don’t normally bother until they complain.”
“So you don’t normally clean guiris rooms?” I said; just to confirm.
“Not normally, no. Funny that, I wonder why you are down as guiris,” she said, looking down at her list again. By this time my wife was smirking, she knew what was about to come.
“Maybe because I am one,” I said, grinning. The maid’s jaw dropped.
“Oh,” she said. “I thought you were Spanish.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment for my accent, but no, sorry, I’m one of those funny guiri people.”
“There I was, going on about how we don’t clean guiris rooms, and you’re a guiri,” she said, laughing. She was probably laughing because so was I at that point. I wasn’t bothered that the room hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned; the beds had been made and bins emptied, and my laptop was still hiding in the cupboard, so I didn’t really give a hoot, at the time.
“Well, are you going to clean our room then?” asked my wife.
“Of course, right away.” And she did, but no one else did while we were there. I would have kicked up a fuss, but I couldn’t be arsed to get worked up about a few specs of dust and grains of sand. I get more pleasure from writing this post and publishing their name online instead. So, if you are bothered about a spankingly clean room and are a guiri staying in Benalmadena then try to give Benalmadena Palace a miss.
Over time though, the fact that she’d mentioned that guiris were treated differently did start to annoy me. How dare they? Fiddle the people who are possibly holding their country together; the tourists. Take the guiris out of Spain, the ones spending the money anyway, and the whole country would collapse quicker than you could say “How about cleaning my room then?”
I was glad that I’d heard it directly from a Spanish person; guiris get treated differently, and unfairly. I’ve always had my suspicions. At least 50% of the times I eat out in Sevilla the waiter adds something extra to the bill, whether it’s a couple of beers, a plate of tapas, or even €10 just for the hell of it. It can’t always be a coincidence and I’m sure the locals don’t suffer from the shared memory loss of the waiters, which is always the excuse.
We did find one bar where the waiter kept forgetting to put our wine on the menu. After a couple of visits he got the sack though. That’s my theory anyway. Maybe he was a revolutionary against the poor treatment of foreigners in Spain and is working his way round the country giving free drinks to tourists. If only I’d got his number.
It’s not only in the restaurants that foreigners are a target. When we were in Barcelona we almost got mugged as we were entering on a metro train. I’d spotted the group of thugs hanging around waiting to pounce (I was done four times while travelling in South America, so now have a trained eye). As we got on the metro a lad moved closer and tried to stick his hand in my pocket. I elbowed him in the arm and pushed him back, so he scarpered off. The funny thing was watching my wife’s reaction; I’d never seen her stick up her middle finger in public before.
Pick pocketing and petty theft is a huge problem in Barcelona and Madrid so you’d better watch out. Guiris, tourists, and foreigners are all targeted by local louts. The main problems are on the metro, but also on the beach in Barcelona, as I found out recently from my number one fan of A Novel Spain. He left a comment saying he was distracted by a pretty girl while drying his hair on a bench by the beach and someone nicked his bag, and all his belongings, including his passport. The worst part was how he got treated by the local police when he reported the incident. Check out his story on the comments section here.
I believe that I’ve been treated unfairly as a foreigner by being short changed, served last at the greengrocers and at the bar, not allowed to join pompous swimming clubs, made to pay more rent, and laughed at for running in a vest. Someone even threw an orange through my window at school on Halloween, but I’m not sure whether that was because I was a foreigner or one of my ex-students getting their own back.
What about you? Do you find yourself getting taken advantage of because you are a poor defenceless foreigner? Do you get laughed at, picked on, ripped off, or targetted by the Orange Guiri Crew? More importantly, do you know the whereabouts of the Spanish waiter who is giving away free wine to tourists?