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Home and away: spot the differences between the UK and Tenerife! 

PAGE 22 PUERTO POINT

To be honest, with my deadline looming, I have been in a bit of a quandary over what to write this month.

Having spent almost two weeks out of the last four in the UK, I would feel a bit of a fraud if I simply wrote about what has been going on in Puerto de la Cruz.

It was suggested by the editorial team that due to my recent visit I could write a comparison between life in the UK and my life now in Puerto de la Cruz.

Ok, here goes, but first a few ground rules, and to put everything in context, my life in Tenerife, as I see it, relates to Puerto de la Cruz, so some of my thoughts and experiences may differ to those of you living in other areas of the island. Likewise, my life in the UK is based on the place I visit each year, a small country town roughly the same size and population as Puerto (without the tourists), situated about 120 miles due west of London.

When you tell people in the UK that you live in Tenerife there is a general feeling that your life is all sun, sea and sand. Oh, you haven’t got much of a tan I have been told more than once. Living here is not a permanent holiday and Puerto de la Cruz does not provide the all year round sunshine that they used to advertise. Yes , overall it is warmer than the UK , but over the years you acclimatise and whereas I used to be in shorts all year round now it is six or seven months and the all year tan is not a priority. Add apartments without central heating or insulation and the balmy 10 to 12c winter evening temperatures are in reality a lot chillier than you think.

I visit the UK in the spring, it is my favourite season, with spring flowers and trees coming into leaf, and once the clocks have changed the light early mornings, the best time of the day. In the UK the four seasons are still clearly defined by the growing patterns, spring, summer, autumn, winter, all quite separate. Here whilst it is good to have flowers in bloom all year it does blur the edges to the seasons, so much so, in Puerto we now seem to only have two with winter lurching straight into summer and dark mornings through-out.

I miss the changing UK seasons, apart from winter that is, but Puerto de la Cruz and the north of Tenerife is not a bad substitute, besides, snow and ice are overrated, even so in that regard if I need a annual ‘fix’ there is always Teide.

As far as lifestyle goes the most obvious change is the pace of life, it is much slower here, there is less urgency. Supermarket visits during my recent visit to the UK are a prime example of how frantic people make their life, so much rushing to get things done, how busy their lives must be to need to almost run whilst doing the shopping and even more so over the bank holiday weekend. Food shopping here is a joy by comparison. Of course, the slower laidback pace of life can have its disadvantages especially in an official capacity. It is rare to accomplish anything in a single visit. Frustrating as it can sometimes be you can’t fight it, just go with flow and remember that mañana doesn’t necessarily mean tomorrow, it just doesn’t mean today.

By far the biggest change for me was having more time on my hands, time that there is a real need to occupy. I walk a lot. The UK has some beautiful scenery, but the north of Tenerife has such a variety and all within an hour’s travelling, coastal paths, mountain walks, cliff top, farmland, pine forests, dense woodlands, wilderness. Everything you could want for apart from a riverside walk, something I do miss from the UK.

I choose not to have English television , I don’t miss it, a resolve which is enforced by my annual visits to the UK, early evening TV viewing with my mum involves watching a succession of soaps , and that’s every weekday evening, there is no respite. Not that I have any stomach Spanish TV either. For me the irregularity and length of the commercial interludes make any programme virtually impossible to watch, and of course their peak viewing period when the better programmes are aired is much later than in the UK. No good for me, I am an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. As a consequence I read a great deal , far more than in the UK where I never found the time and obviously I write, though more for fun than for financial reward.

What are the differences in driving, now you are opening up a can of worms. The biggest are in the driving practises. Only using the outside lane of a roundabout, why? Sorry, but I can think of no logical explanation. Then there is their excessive use of the horn. Easily explained this one, it is all down to impatience. Not indicating? Now surely that can’t all be down to bulbs gone, although saying that every other car seems to be missing a break light.

However, to me the biggest difference between driving here and in the UK is the lack of courtesy shown to other drivers and pedestrians. Failing to stop at pedestrian crossing, see it all the time. Changing lanes or giving way on the motorway at junctions to help those joining, doesn’t often happen. Considerate parking, not a chance, bus stops, loading bays, yellow lines, pedestrian crossings, pavements, all become fair game when parking, as no one seems to want to walk any further than they possibly have to. Blocking the road by stopping to have a chat with someone on the pavement, think nothing of it. It all goes on here and on a daily basis. It doesn’t happen in the UK, where drivers are far more considerate, apart from perhaps when lanes converge at roadworks where drivers tailgate the car in front to prevent drivers from the outside lane slotting in. Have never understood why, maybe that’s when UK drivers show their true colours.

Food, the biggest change since moving to Puerto de la Cruz is the way my diet has evolved. Today I eat a far more Mediterranean diet and fish and shellfish have almost replaced red meat. I think that in general people have become more conscious of what they eat and fruit and fresh local grown vegetables are now a prominent feature in my diet. I cook far more now, which is obviously a contributing factor and favour lunch as my main meal. Whereas back in the UK while preparing meals for my mum I found myself almost obliged to cook for the evening and meals that must surely be considered a traditional staple, meat boiled vegetables and potatoes. Meals that had to been eaten before the soaps started and, of course, she didn’t want to eat any of that ‘foreign food’ or words to that effect.

I am a fan of the farmers markets in some of the nearby towns, buying vegetables direct form the people who grow them seems the right thing to do and they are fresher and cheaper. I find no problems with getting everything I need from the local supermarkets so am always somewhat surprised when I hear of people trundling down the TF1 to stock up with British brands. However, I make one exception, baked beans; of course, they have to be Heinz.

People, this was always going to be the most contentious of topics and perhaps one which I should avoid. Luckily, whilst I haven’t run out of words I have run out of column inches so this will be very brief. I am a firm believer of please and thank you and of being respectful of a person serving me and expect that courtesy to be reciprocated. On my trips to the UK I find that generally to be the case, here I have to say that is quite often not the case. However, I find myself making allowances, in the UK of course I am a native, but were I to be Johnnie Foreigner would I still get the same respect.