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Are things really so different? 

A light-hearted look at life in Tenerife versus life in the UK.

Having recently spent a week back in the UK, it has started me thinking and I find myself making comparisons between what life was like there, to what it is like now. I am not talking about life changing events, just simple day to day things and how you approach them with an entirely different mindset.

Take queuing at the airport to collect my hire car for example, one hour without moving one inch forward; there was a time when such a thing would not have passed without a fair amount of ‘discussion’. Now well used to all things happening at a much slower pace, I took the delay in my stride and not one adverse comment was made when I eventually reached the desk.

So driving on the left side of the road again, the ‘right’ side of the road as many think, but for me right or left, it makes no difference; both options have their own merits. However, I have to say that driving back in the UK was a pleasure, just to approach junctions which had a logical layout and to drive around roundabouts without having to stop to give way to traffic joining them, if nothing else. Those flashing orange lights, what did we use to call them? Indicators, that’s right and in the UK everybody uses them, amazing.

It was good to have some idea of what the others drivers around me intended doing, at least in theory. One way streets! With everyone going in the same direction, even if it meant going the long way round, another novelty. Car parks, without cars parked ‘outside the box’ as it were or on yellow lines and no cars driving round and round, intent on finding the space closest to the door , a very Spanish trait.

Not once did a car stop dead right in front of me for the driver to have a conversation with his ‘cousin’ who just happens to be walking down the street. But for me the overriding difference is that no one uses their horn, I don’t think I heard a single one, no blast if you took more than a nanosecond to pull away when the lights changed, no persistent tooting if there was a queue of traffic, no beep, beeping to acknowledge friends and family, no cars driving around with drivers leaning on the horn in celebration of the success of their football team, although possibly not the best example to use in the current climate, in either country for that matter.

I like the ‘cafe’ culture that this island has, friends meeting up over coffee to share their news and gossip, it is not quite the same in the UK, although to be honest it is catching up fast. Now aside from the big name brands there are more independent cafes opening up, with more people choosing to sit outside, weather permitting, and of course at least there you stand a chance of getting a decent cup of tea. Yes, there are differences, here in a busy cafe; you are bombarded from all sides by the sound of conversations, and not just from the neighbouring tables. The British however are far more reserved, there will be just a general hubbub, most customers choose to try to keep their discussions private, and besides, most are probably more interested in their mobiles and of making use of the free WIFI. If only they would learn how to make a decent cup of coffee and then to charge a reasonable price for it.

I visited a couple of busy tourist attractions whilst there and it was whilst queuing and listening to all the foreign accents, American, Japanese, Italian, French and Russian, but no Spanish, that I noticed all the signage was written only in English and the verbal instructions of which there were many from over enthusiastic staff members were again only spoken in English. Many were confusing enough to me, so what must it be like for visitors with little or no English, I dread to think. We are so fortunate here that they don’t adopt the same policy. We really are one of the laziest nationalities when it comes to languages.

I am, I admit, one of those rare breed of men who actually enjoys shopping, the experience of which I have to say has often been marred in the past by what I shall call poor shop assistants. Only back in the UK for a week and yet I could quote three or four examples of this. I have worked in customer facing roles in the past, so I have firsthand knowledge and don’t for one minute believe the old adage of the customer always being right.

Perhaps it is me. Maybe I rub them up the wrong way, or am I just unlucky and always catch the one having an off day. It is not as if I am a very demanding customer, all I expect to receive is a bit of politeness and the assistant’s undivided attention throughout the transaction, by which I mean they shouldn’t be carrying on a conversation with their neighbour about what they got up to the previous night, at the same time as serving me.

Is there any point to this preamble? Don’t worry I am getting there, you see it is only since returning from the UK that I have realised, on the whole the standard of service is far better here in Puerto. Don’t try to shout me down, of course there are always exceptions and believe you me I could name a few. No, what I am trying to say is that although the service is invariably slower, infuriatingly so sometimes, the assistant serving you is generally more attentive and polite.

People always ask, don’t you miss England and the answer is, of course, there are certain things. I come from a rural area and it was only on this visit that I realised just how green it is everywhere. So I guess that is what I miss, the simple things, the countryside, rivers and streams and catching sight of wildlife in its natural habitat. Now as far as greenness goes the Orotava valley is not a bad substitute. As for running water, it all comes out of the tap, hopefully, or from an occasional flood. Spotting wildlife, by which I mean mammals, forget it, they are almost nonexistent. My visit was in what will most probably prove to be their best week of the summer. Clear blue skies, hardly a cloud in sight, a scene of which, sadly, there seems to be a shortage of in Puerto, this year. Now had you asked me what I miss about England, at eight in the morning, in the middle of December, still dark, and faced with either pouring rain, or frozen windscreens, and you would no doubt get an entirely different answer.

So this is a very different article for this edition. However I don’t doubt something will have happened, or more likely not happened, In Puerto, by the time of the next edition, for me to have a good old moan about and normal service will be resumed.