I've been reading Head over Heel by Chris Harrison this weekend. It's his witty account of life in Italy through the eyes of a foreigner and it got me thinking about my life in Spain.
I've lived here all my life but I still consider myself a foreigner in many ways and there are things I find difficult to get used to.
For instance, Spanish people are extraordinarily welcoming. If they invite you to pop in for a coffee or drink whenever you want, they mean it. In fact they'll give you a bright smile when you knock at their door early on a Sunday morning and say "Hi, we've come all five of us and the dog for lunch today" and stay on until twelve at night. Even if their fridge is completely empty they will fabricate an edible meal with an egg and a potato (also called tortilla).
Now this sounds idyllic if you're the one knocking on the door, but if you're the one answering it in your pyjamas which you had planned to keep on all day whilst lounging on the sofa with a book and eating nothing but crisps, the scenario may not be as ideal. Maybe that beaming grin is actually a muscle spasm caused by the shock of opening the door to the couple with the hyperactive children who were so kind as to decorate your walls with inedible ink while you had to look through 500 photos of their trip to the beach. "Oh, look there's the little one with a full bucket. Look, here he is with an empty bucket. Ah, look at him filling the bucket..."
You just know you will have a stiff neck the next day from all that nodding and you will probably not be able to recover your usual mouth shape after stretching your lips into a smile for so many hours. The subtle hints in the form of a yawn or "Hey, is it that late?" gradually lose their subtlety, "Such a pity we've got to work tomorrow," "I'm exhausted and we've such an early start tomorrow", "Don't you have to work tomorrow?" until you finally get up, say goodnight and ask them to lock up after they leave.
But then of course, I'm still a foreigner and I've got lots to learn about hospitality.