Life in a small village – Part 2

Life in a small village


Although the Mallorquins are viewed by other spaniards as a bit introverted, there is no shortage of compassion or curiosity. The villagers passing our cafe always make an effort to greet us, and if we ever needed to borrow something for repairs, all we have to do is to spread the word in Can Vila, the old bar across the road that first opened their doors for business in theeighteen century (and which probably could do with their first face lift). During the various harvests, the farmers will bringlittle samples of their products to Can Vila and they will insist that we try out their olive oil, oranges, almonds, plums, cured meat ,cheese and the rest.

Remarkably they ask for nothing in return. At the local super market in Inca, the story is the same. The cashier is on first names with most clients, helping them to fish out coins from their wallets if needed, recommending products, inquiring about grand children whilst giving clients a hand putting their purchases in their shopping bag. Over at the charcuterie counter, no request is too complicated. Your ham get sliced to order and if you feel like trying a slice or two, all you have to do is to ask.

Back at the till, nobody seem to mind the wait, (and nobody subconsciously reach for their mobile phones out of boredom) .instead, everyone just chat to their fellow shoppers. Being introverted is a relative thing.Despite the enthusiasm for our little enterprise, our villagers are not regular visitors to the café. We do not provide what they crave the most, a copy of Ultima Hora, the local newspaper that accompanies every cup of coffee, nor the steady flow of local gossip that is passed along this circular loop of five bars. Nor dothey accept any culinary fads from Madrid.

They would rather eat the straw hat that’s always positioned in the back window of their small, and normally quite beaten up cars than ordering a poke bowl or Superfood salad. For us, it is a good, and mutually respectful arrangement. We avoid the local crowd occupying the same table for three hours playing cards, and in return, they do not feel under pressure to make solidarity purchases of cycling jerseys.I probably speak for many though, when suggesting that the dealings with officialdom in Spain, is nowhere near as seamless and embracing. Whether its the town-hall, the tax office, law enforcement or the general acrobatics of the bureaucracy, it takes time, and there is nonatural affinity between the public and the government.

This goes both ways and seem predicated on a model of mutual distrust. The state does not feel they can leave citizens to their own devices or to follow sound advice, so they operate a very elaborate system of dishing out finesunder the pretext of this being a tool for reinforcing good behaviour. In reality it appears as a very integral part of the revenue collection and the average Spanish policeman (of which there are three distinctive types, often in competition, both with each other and the fire brigade), are very skilled at finding a law that will allow him to write a “multa” to any person happen to be passing in front of him on a bad day.In the eyes of the citizens, politicians and functionaries are all the same breed, eating in the same restaurants, being greased by the wheels of big business, breaking the laws they ask others to follow, and being the last ones to accept asalary cut even in times of national hardship. This is not to say there are no honourable or ambitious politicians, but the majority seem to more or less come out defending the status quo once they have enjoyed some years in the echelons of power. It is a strange system which tothe outsider appears inefficient and detached from the needs of the public they are meant to serve.

I suspect that anyone truly aiming to uproot the system, would be chased out of town by the myriads of public servants enjoying what they consider to be very meaningful jobs, preferably for life.I do tend to view this philosophically as the price we have to pay to be able to enjoy this fantastic lifestyle. If the Spain had scored highly also on governance and efficiency, then everyone would have wanted to live here, so this imperfection might in fact be a blessing in disguise.

There are also a myriad of facebook groups where locals and International residents can vent their frustration -and definitely do. One intriguing difference between this country and many others in Europe, is the perceived lack of consumerprotection. Big business calls the shots whether it is banking or utility companies, and individual consumers have very modest recourse if they have been taken to the cleaner by any of the big conglomerates.

The Spanish, however, seem to take some comfort in describing their misfortunes in social media, often with hundreds of others chiming in to show that they are not alone, and there is an extensive and colourful vocabulary dedicated to “the robbery” of the common man.The occasional frustrations over a somewhat inflexible state, does not stop the average Mallorquin from enjoying themselves throughout all seasons.

The majority of those working in tourism, have four months of inactivity during the winter, which is put to very good use. Perhaps surprisingly, people here love the mountains as much as they love the beaches, and the hiking FB group is more or less the largest community of any in social media. They also have a very descriptive verb “dominguer” -which basically means “to Sunday” and which can be used for any day I think, and in essence refers to hanging around with friends and family, laughing, having a beer, and not let the anything get to you. Caimari is a favoured destination for this activity and you just cannot find parking anywhere on a weekend.


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