Accustomed vs Resigned

Conversation I had with a smart Argentinian guy in a suit outside a bookshop yesterday. Time Bookshop was meant to open, 5pm. Bookshop still shut at 5.10pm:

Argentinian guy: That’s why this country is in such a mess.

Me: It drives you a bit mad. The other day I went to the bank, it was meant to open at 9.30, didn’t open til 9.45! A bank!

Argentinian: See what I mean?

Me: In the end you get accustomed to it.

Argentian: No, In the end you resign yourself to it…

I wanted to tell him to lighten up. There is a big difference between getting accustomed to something, and resigning yourself to it, and I think I prefer the former.

In fact I think I’ll redo my Expat manifesto, to add the following:

7. When living somewhere you don’t originally come from, don’t resign yourself to the differences, just smile and get accustomed to them.

[Note: Please don't use this post as an excuse to leave negative comments about Spain - they will be deleted! I've had enough trouble with that in the past!]

29 thoughts on “Accustomed vs Resigned

  1. Gary

    I resigned myself to the fact that Mrs C will start to get ready at the time we have agreed to depart and become accustomed to giving her a departure time in advance of the one I really want in order to satisfy my obsession with punctuality…
    Still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad one.

  2. david villa

    Yo siempre voy media hora o una hora más tarde de la hora de apertura por eso, y yo incluso aunque sea un nativo me cabrea también, así que no me quiero ni imaginar lo que tiene que ser para un inglés :)
    De todas formas, al final esa costumbre acaba convirtiéndose en una seña de distinción de este país, me refiero al relax con el que se hacen las cosas aquí, sin prisa. Yo creo que aunque tiene la pega de que no se hacen las cosas a tiempo, a lo mejor al hacerlo más lento se le añade un plus de disfrute, relajación, sin estrés, que a lo mejor compensa lo demás. Pero claro esto lo compensa para el que hace el trabajo, para el que lo sufre ya es otra cosa lógicamente.
    No sé, todo depende del tipo de retraso, si es en abrir un establecimiento, como es el ejemplo que se pone aquí, yo acepto retrasos de hasta media hora, si se retrasa más ya empiezo a quejarme, pero eso supongo que cada uno lo verá de una manera distinta, incluso en los propios nativos de aquí habrá mil maneras de verlo

  3. Sam

    I can’t say this is something that happens to me very often, but when it does, I do ask myself how long it will continue to be this way.

    It must be terribly difficult for small shops, especially so with “la crisis”. Only opening while the majority of office workers are working, and then opening late just means everyone ends up going to a VIPs, el Corte Ingles, or better yet on-line.

    I wonder if we should just enjoy these quirks by having a coffee in the bar next door while waiting. I don’t think it’ll stay like this for much longer, especially not in the cities.

    1. Lee

      Really. I’ve lived here, obviously I like it, but the sloppiness can’t be helping the business situation.

  4. BrianA

    Just returned from the doctor’s where my wife’s 1030 appointment happened at 1130. Paradise for people watchers though :)

    1. Pippa

      I am a GP. This morning I started a clinic a 8.30. My 8.30 patient, the one at 8.38 and also the 8.44 arrived at 9.00am, which meant that at 9.00am I had 6 patients to see. What are you supposed to do?

  5. Hollis

    Nothing like a book to make 15 minutes seem like 60 seconds … I felt so American when I went to get my NIE here in Barcelona. I arrived early about tenth or fifteenth in a line circling the block. I brought a camping chair, a cafe con leche para llevar and a book; what was a grueling 2-hour queue for everyone else I thoroughly enjoyed!

  6. Maya

    I totally agree – what is the point of choosing to be somewhere unless you make an effort to embrace all that goes with it? Sure, it’s frustrating – I especially find it so when trying to balance the needs of UK business clients with the fact that, because of my lifestyle choices, sometimes things just can’t happen when/how I said they would – but if we ever forget we’re here because we want to be, we might as well go back to the UK and moan there.

  7. IVAN STOLER

    As a visitor to both Spain & Argentina, I always found Spain to be the more punctual/prompt. The Argies to my mind were more of the manana mindset. If that’s still true there, I don’t know, but I found it amusing that an Argie would complain ’bout this. In NYC, the Argie places are of the manana mindset. LOL

  8. MrMark

    This can be a bit of a myth in certain respects. If you turn up late to a cinema showing in spain, chances are you’ll miss the opening (in the UK you’ll still be a quarter into the commercials). Book a AVE ticket and you’ll get your money back if late – try that in the UK! Plus, on the metro if you see a newspaper waiting to be read, pick it up straight away or you’ll lose your chance. But yes, small shops tend to be more relaxed about opening times. And bars that are meant to close at 11 or 12 will stay open a bit if there are customers finishing off a night. Prefer that by far to the British equivalent virtually pushing you off the premises on the dot.

  9. Jan

    We’ve found that most things begin/arrive at the time they were supposed to, and have no problem at all with Catalan time-keeping! But yes, to become accustomed is much better than to become resigned.

  10. Gary

    @BrianA
    …yes, but as a patient no such latitude is afforded you – if you are late then youre down as a DNA (did not attend) – if you grovel enough they’ll let you wait til the end of the surgery and see if the doctor will deign to see you – dont get me started on GPs!!!

      1. Gary

        The GP doesnt seem to be there to actually see you when you are really ill, merely to monitor your progress in following the edicts of a nanny state and ration access to the real power in the system (the consultants) by jollying you along for a while.

        I get on well with my GP, I tell her what the symptoms are, what I think might be wrong and suggest the medication I might like. By and large she signs off on it.

        I have had knee trouble over the last few years and went to see my GP. I saw the man in the practice who sent me foe an Xray told me my knee had some wear and tear. I am in my 50s so he wes probably right, but as knees by and large come in pairs I wondered why the difference between the two… We bumbled on like this for a couple of months before I’d had enough and said the words “I want to be referred to a specialist”. He wasnt keen and slow timed me for weeks before I finally got an appointment. The Consultant took one look, poked and prodded and said I had all the five classic symptoms of having torn cartilage in my knee.

        My point being that if the symptoms are classic – how come the GP missed them….

        Its Disgnosis by algorthm – here is an example of the dagnostic procedure chart that they follow to the letter….

        http://healthguides.mapofmedicine.com/choices/map/hypertension2.html

  11. Parubin

    Not saying that the anecdote is untrue but never in my entire life have I seen a bank office in Spain opening a minute later than it was supposed to.

    I also found amusing that an Argentinian was the one complaining about punctuality in Spain. For heaven’s sake, they are indeed lovely people, very interesting characters but still the whole country shuts down for three weeks during the Football WorldCup. Even in schools they made available tv sets in all classrooms so children and teachers could watch the games in class instead of totally skipping school.

    1. Ben Curtis Post author

      Totally true about the bank! The staff arrived at 9.30, locked the door behind them, and didn’t let us in for another 15 minutes! And this is the BBVA! Argentina sounds great by the way!

      1. Parubin

        Yes, great country and even better people. Natural born seducers most Argentinians very charming but I wouldn´t take them for the most punctual people on earth, really.

        Are you sure the smart guy in a suit complaining for opening hours in Spanish shops was Argentinian?. Maybe he was Mexican, that’d be some killer anecdote :).

  12. BoutiqueSpain

    The only time I ever see Spaniards or Catalans in a hurry to do anything is in their cars – maybe it’s because they’re all running late to open their bookshops,banks, etc, etc?

  13. Rai

    This reminds me of the old argument I think my parents have simply agreed to disagree about.
    My Dad says you shouldn’t do the “right thing for the wrong reasons.” That if your heart isn’t in it, you won’t do it right. And, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
    However, my Mom always says you should just do the right thing, and get it done, and then you can worry about if you did it for the ‘right reasons’ or whether or not your heart was in it. At least you got it over with.

    I think they’re both right; (which may explain the fact that I feel I’m going crazy sometimes.) I’m not sure I’m able to definitively say which are the things I’ve become accustomed to, and which I’ve merely resigned myself to, since moving to Spain.

  14. Colin

    Hi, Ben.

    As I wrote in my blog today, I prefer the more neutral(?) term – ‘managing your expectations’. As has been so rightly said, a book or a couple of magazines is/are essential in this regard.

    With these, it’s always possible to turn a lemon into lemonade. And with the short fuse I’ve got, bloody imperative if I want to avoid heart attack!

  15. Lee

    This is what drives me 1)batshit crazy about Spain and 2)batswhit crazy about foreigners in Spain. Folks, it’s a country, not a theme park. And it’s drowning because, 35 years after the death of Franco, it’s still playing games of “Spain is different”. No one wants Spain to be London City or Wall Street, but after 20 years of living here, the lack of professionality has lost its charm. Who says you can’t have a relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle and a serious business culture at the same time?

  16. JoyceM

    I’ve only been in Madrid a month and a half, and my motto has been, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

    If they are going to enjoy 3 hour lunches, I am going to enjoy 3 hour lunches. If they are going to invite me out for a two hour coffee, I am going to go and enjoy the amazing flavors, the conversation and getting to know my new friends. By the way, I LOVE the fact that I never feel rushed in a restaurant. Contrast that with NYC and the pressure to “turn” the tables and as a customer, you will pick the Spanish way every time. Also, here you are able to get away with leaving “cheap” tips (the norm). Try that in NYC and see what kind of service you get.

    I look at my new life as a total gift of divine intervention. There is a lesson for me here, about needing to learn how to relax — and I intend to learn it.

    I left a life in the U.S. with a stressful job, back to back meetings every day, 100 emails a day to return, 877 contacts in my Outlook and many 18 hour work days. Now I am in Madrid trying to learn how to enjoy life. I am going to let the people of Spain teach me how to do this. I love the language, the food, the people, the architecture. This is not food or architecture that was designed by my anglo-germanic ancestors to be practical. This, by the way, was architecture to express passion. Those of us who are so concerned about a 15 minute delay should think about what the Spanish have to teach them.

    When I returned home to the U.S. last month for a short visit, people asked me, “what is it like?” I said, “It’s like a WHOLE DIFFERENT COUNTRY. Different language, different customs and different culture.” So, I have set out to learn the language (thanks Ben and Marina!), the people and the culture. And, maybe, along the way, there will be something that someone will want to know from me and the way I used to to something “back home.” But, for now, this is my home.

    BTW, my husband was joking with me about my new-found love: aoli oli. I told him that if he didn’t want me to eat foods that tasted of garlic, he brought me to the entirely wrong country! When everyone eats garlic, no one notices the smell!

    1. Ben Curtis Post author

      Hi JoyceM, you are right about the joy of not being turfed off a table at lunchtime, it’s wonderful! I’m so glad you are enjoying the life here so much, and I’m not surprised after the description of your past schedule! And yes, no one is bothered by garlic-eating here, which is wonderful!

  17. Juliet

    To me Spain is a bit of each, sometimes one is resigned to things, such as the authorities who run the show totally erratically, but you have a piece of paper missing when they show up and your in deep doodoo, but on the other hand I have become accustomed to the slower pace, the more relaxed way of doing things and I just love the cafe con leche (sin espuma – please do not go American on me!) Now that I am beginning to understand what is being said on the radio (thanks notesinspanish & intercambio Beatriz) I am loving the Spanish sense of humour. I have been here two and a half years and can see I still have a lot to learn. Love it!

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