Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Is Poland invading Northern Ireland?

I’ve been going back and forth to Northern Ireland for quite a while now but in the past year it’s started to change quite dramatically.

For instance, the elve taking the money for the Santa photos was Polish and just about all the waiters/waitresses in the hotel were Polish. In fact, Polish workers are seen just about everywhere in Northern Ireland now.

The immigration to Northern Ireland is probably more striking than it is elsewhere in the UK in that there was virtually no immigration to Northern Ireland as recently as three or four years ago. So far, it’s not really changed much about the province but I’m sure that’ll change as the new immigrants settle into live there and start wondering about a few of the peculiar things that go on.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Why don’t the Spanish eat breakfast?

As usual when there’s a Spanish holiday, we were pretty much completely full over the last couple of days and yet nobody took a breakfast!

In some ways that suits us as it gives us a bit of a break from the need to get up very early to do the breakfasts.

But why don’t they take them though? They certainly take breakfasts in hotels in Spain so why don’t they take them in France? Although it’s hard to give a definitive answer I suspect that it has a lot to do with the absolutely pathetic excuse for a breakfast that you get in most French establishments although funnily enough the price is the same or even higher than for breakfasts in the Spanish equivalent and in Spain you get a very full breakfast for that money.

So, it’s probably down to the French not really “doing” breakfast as a proper meal.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Do you need to speak the language of the country you’re living in?

A long time ago, I was brave enough to ask the question which many are afraid to ask: do you need to speak French if you want to live in France?

It’s not such a simple question to answer as it might appear. For one thing, there are many expat enclaves throughout France where, by and large, English is the only language used. Within these enclaves, the shopkeepers and so on can be expected to speak English and indeed even if you speak French to them, they’ll reply in English. So, yes, you could live in France without speaking French.

However, in many other areas (most of France in fact) you couldn’t do that. The locals either cannot or will not speak English. After all, why should they be expected to? It is France after all. Except that everywhere else in the world the locals DO speak English: that’s why people expect to be able to move to France without speaking French.

Funnily enough, just a few miles south in Spain the locals won’t speak Spanish and actually insist on using English. Well, to be fair that’s Catalonia and few people outside it ever have the opportunity to learn Catalán which tends to dictate the use of English with foreigners.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Why is the service level so different in neighbouring countries?

You’d think that France and Spanish culture in the areas along the common border would be very similar after so many years of that border being open but there are still considerable differences.

For example, as soon as you cross the border, you see girls sitting or standing by the roadside. They’re prostitutes yet you don’t see any by the roadside just over the border in France. OK, that’s probably down to some legal difference, but even so.

What’s not down to a legal difference is that in France the restaurants serve food from noon to 2pm. After that, you’re basically talking the likes of McDonalds if you want to eat. Yet drive a couple of miles south and you’ll find the Spanish will serve food most of the day with no really sharp cut-off times at all. Moreover the portions are considerably larger and the prices considerably lower.

It looks like it’ll be generations before that difference starts to fade rather than the few years that many expected it would be.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Cultural differences in the way people book a hotel

We received an interesting e-mail from one of the European offices looking after consumer affairs last night.

They’re writing on behalf of a Spanish couple who booked with us last July but who didn’t turn up.

Ordinarly, that would mean we’d have billed them as a no-show but at the time the booking system had a technical problem so we weren’t receiving their reservation e-mails and therefore didn’t know that they were coming. Anyway, net effect was that we didn’t charge them although under the terms of the reservation system we were entitled to.

They’ve gone to this European office with their booking confirmation that has a note of the two nights booked and EUR 98 charge. Except, that it isn’t a change: it’s just a note of what they would have to pay.

The Spanish guy in the European office doesn’t understand that at all. They quoted their credit card number and they’ve a statement with EUR 98 on it, they didn’t get their accommodation (because they went to the wrong place) but he believes that they’ve paid it as do they.

Usually the Spanish are much more Internet-savvy than the French but in this area they’re just as far behind in that they assume that they’ve paid when they quote a credit card number yet it’s only used for a guarantee.

I suspect that it’ll run for a bit as he sent another e-mail this morning threatening to translate everything and sent it to the French consumer protection authorities to demand the refund of this EUR 98 which they’ve not paid.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.