Another possible title for this article might have been "How a Harmless Article About Little Things the Spanish Do When They Eat Provoked a Torrent of Abuse About British Hygiene Standards".
Some background: Back in October last year, I wrote an article entitled The Top 6 Eating Habits of the The Spanish. It was a lighthearted look at some gastronomic customs and habits in Spain from the point of view of someone who grew up in another country but has lived in Spain for some time. I think all of us who have lived between England (and/or other countries) and Spain during our lives, whether Spanish or English by birth, have noticed many of these little things and have almost certainly commented on them at some time or another. I know that food is a favourite topic of conversation at Spanish dining tables so I'm sure that these points have come up many a time in Spanish/English bicultural environments.
Over the weekend of the 23rd/24th February 2013, the article went somewhat viral on the internet, ending up in a hacked up translated format on the major Spanish national website abc.com (here's a link to the article).
As you can imagine, the article generated a lot of debate - at last count there were something like a thousand comments between this website and various forums. I was glad to receive a tonne of positive feedback on the piece - a lot of people agreeing with some of my observations, some disagreeing and many comments that they had enjoyed this little summary of observations, many of which they and their friends and family had made before.
However, I was disappointed with a minority undercurrent of extremely negative and abusive comments being generated by Spanish readers who had somehow managed to talk themselves into being offended by the observations. These comments often referred to the 'criticisms' I had made. They made plenty of accusations about my intentions and about my supposed attitude towards Spain. I responded in person to some of these comments, but decided in the end that it wasn't worth it. I came to the conclusion that they were probably coming from ignorant people who had almost certainly not been able to fully understand the article, particularly the tongue-in-cheek tone (thanks to many of the commenters on Meneame.com who corrected previous commenters' wrong interpretations due to poor understanding). I'm not referring to the people who disagreed with my observations. To those people I say 'thanks' - that was the whole idea of the piece - to provoke discussion. I am now armed with at least 12 more suggestions for a follow up piece. No, I'm talking about the really nasty comments that very often aimed insults towards the British.
That's right - I was identified as a worthless guiri who knew nothing about Spain and was referred to as 'you people' or 'you Brits'. Firstly, to those people, let me just point out that purposely offending a whole nation shows a side of your character you might want to try to keep under wraps in the future. Secondly, for what it's worth, I love Spain - it is my home and will be forever if I'm lucky. I am culturally much more Spanish than English.
Now onto the tasty stuff. In the interests of levelling the playing field (and having another good laugh), let's find out what some of our commenters think of the British and their eating habits (links to the forums and translations included). If you are British and offended by these, remember - I DIDN'T WRITE THEM - they are real comments in response to my original article. These types of comments were in the minority, but not by as much as one would like. I think some of them are hilarious. Enjoy.
From Meneame.com (a Spanish social bookmarking site)
Me encanta que en este tipo de artículos el europeo (que deja entrever a veces cierta superioridad) siempre se pregunta cómo los españoles se preocupan tanto por la higiene para preguntarse acto seguido cómo ellos mismos pueden ser limpios sin hacer lo mismo que los españoles. Sencillo. Porque no lo sois. Los españoles dan mil vueltas en higiene corporal y doméstica a la mayoría de ciudadanos al norte de los Pirineos...los ingleses no tenéis la piel de teflón aunque lo creáis. Cerdos, que sólo os limpiáis por Navidad. I love the way these types of articles in which the European (with a certain air of superiority) always asks himself how the Spanish can be so worried about personal higiene and then goes on to wonder how they themselves can be clean without doing the same as the Spanish. Simple. Because you are not. The Spanish are miles better at bodily and domestic cleanliness that the majority of the citizens to the north of the Pyrenees. You English don't have Teflon skin even though you think you do. Pigs - you only clean yourselves at Christmas.
Un inglés opinando sobre gastronomía... o_o
No sé si partirme de risa o compararlos con algún país tercemundista. An Englishman commenting on gastronomy - I don't know whether to die laughing or compare them to a third-world country.
Yo después de estar viviendo un tiempo en Inglaterra constato que en la mayor parte de los casos la higiene en general deja bastante que desear. No es una sensación mía, todos los españoles que conozco y que han vivido o viven con ingleses me lo han comentado.
Deja que desear en todos los aspectos: higiene personal, orden, la manera de limpiar todo muy por encima, lavar los platos sólo con agua caliente, solucionarlo todo con la aspiradora, dejar que los fogones, microondas u horno acumulen grasa requemada hasta límites inimaginables. Myself, after having lived for a while in England can state that in the majority of cases the general level of hygiene leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's not just my own feeling - all the Spanish people I know and who have lived or live with English people have commented on it. They leave a lot to be desired in all respects: personal hygiene, tidiness, the way they have of cleaning everything superficially, washing the dishes with hot water, fix everything with the hoover, let the hob, microwave and oven accumulate burnt grease up to unimaginable levels.
A unos tios que comen pescado y patatas fritas con las manos les resulta curioso que nosotros usemos servilletas????. To people who eat fish and chips with their hands it seems curious that we use napkins?
A mí me costó encontrar gente que se duchase todos los días. Por no hablar de las moquetas...
moqueta+humedad+limpiar una vez al año=ASCO. I found it hard to find people that had a shower every day. And let's not speak of the carpets... Carpet + Damp + Cleaning once a year = DISGUSTING
cuando viví allí me quedó la misma impresión. Mis compañeros de casa se quejaron porque había subido la factura del agua por mi culpa. Una, que era cocinera, se daba un baño a la semana... El viernes por la mañana su pelo chorreaba grasa. When I lived there I was left with the same impresión. My housemates complained that the water bill had gone up because of me. One of them, who was a chef, took one bath a week. By Friday morning her hair was dripping grease.
Y añado al #2, no he visto ser humano más cerdo que el inglés de Glasgow de vacaciones. And to that I add - never have I seen a human being more disgusting than an Englishman from Glasgow on holiday.
De todas formas, cierto que tienen un clima de mierda, una comida insípida, un carácter por lo general estirado, pero las islas británicas (incluyo Irlanda) "Tienen algo" :-) Anyway, it's true that they have a shit climate, insipid food, a national character somewhat formal, but the British Islands (I include Ireland) "have something"
Primero, como toda generalización, no se puede aplicar a casos generales. Pero yo estoy viviendo con 4 alemanas y puedo decir que soy, con diferencia, el que más se ducha. En España, con el ritmo de ducha de mis compañeras, la casa olería a muerto. Firstly, like all generalisations, this can't be applied to general cases. But I am living with 4 germans and I can say that, by a long way, I am the one that showers the most. In Spain, at the rate my housemates shower, the house would smell of dead people.
Ahora yo escribiré otro artículos sobre prejuicios y generalismo everywhere, patético artículo y muy mal documentado.
También podríamos hacer un artículo sobre el motivo de que las mujeres del norte no se depilan las piernas. Now I'll go and write articles about prejudices and generalise everywhere - pathetic article and very badly doucmented. We could also write an article about why northern women don't shave their legs.
Tiene gracia el inglés, ellos siempre han creído que son el centro del universo, si alguien no hace las cosas como ellos, es que están equivocados...me sorprendía al principio, la poca medida que tienen para beber alcohol, no es algo social como aquí, el objetivo principal es cogerse una cogorza, cuanto mayor, mejor. This English guy is funny - they always have believed themselves to be the centre of the universe - if somebody does something differently to them then they they are mistaken. I was surprised at the beginning by the little tolerance they have for drinking alcohol - it's not something social like here. The main objective is to get wasted - the more the better.
De hecho, otra caracterísitca que recuerdo de las cenas con la familia inglesa (que por suerte con la alemana no pasa) son las copas o los vasos llenos de "pintalabios". In fact, another characteristic that I remember from English family dinners was the glasses covered in lipstick.
Lo ingleses básicamente solo tiene el hábito de sentarse a comer los domingos con el sunday roast con la familia. The English basically only sit down to a family meal on Sunday with a roat.
Leí una vez un estudio británico sobre higiene dental y comparaba la boca de algunos ingleses con los excrementos de gato… se ve que son muy avanzados en algunas cosas pero en otras dejan mucho que desear. I once read a British study on dental hygiene which compared the mouths of some English people to cat excrement - they're very advanced in some things but in others leave much to be desired.
Now extremely bored reading negative comments about British self-hygiene...
From the article on Spanish Food World
I am Spanish and you are stupid.
It’s not about neccesity, it’s about the different concept of hygiene that exists in Uk or Spain. I mean, I don’t think that in a country where you can find fitted carpet everywhere (even in bathrooms!) people are very concerned about hygiene.
Después de leer tu exposición llego a la conclusión de que los ingleses sois unos guarros, no sabéis comer, insociales y saborios. After reading your article I come to the conclusion that the English are pigs - you don't know how to eat, unsociable and ?
before you accuse me take a look at yourself!!!!!!!,Junto con Japón vivimos más que nadie y supongo que eso es debido a una buena higiene personal y alimentaria.Que un inglés me enseñe higiene, después de ver la cochinada de poner moqueta en el baño, no tiene precio. Along with the Japanese we live longer than anybody due to good personal and food hygiene. It's priceless that an English person, after seeing the disgusting habit of putting carpet in the bathroom, should teach me about hygiene.
Next time you can speak about bullfighing, flamenco an soon to continue the usual brainless speach about spanishs.
Just one thing: you are lucky because your wife stands you acting as you writte. So you can add one more thing. Spanish wifes are really kind with stupod husbands. And this is also ver spanish
Eres un capullo y un cobarde, Jonathan. You are a jerk and a coward Jonathan.
I disagree with you.
I think you needed to write something and you tried to take advantage of the fact that your wife is spanish. And on the way you explain some things just trying to make it strange, you have some replies saying that’s a usual way of eating in England or wherever.
In Spain we think that all the food from England is s***, and i disagree, but that’s the mentality… you can’t change this, you’ve to live there to understand it. Probably you travel to Spain usually but you might don’t get the way we do the things.
From Spaniards Forum
Creo que son los menos indicados, del mundo, repito y con mayúsculas, DEL MUNDO, para criticar las costumbres culinarias de nadie..juas, juas. I think they are the least suitable people in the world, I repeat in capitals, IN THE WORLD, to be criticising the culinary habits of anyone - Ha Ha.
So there you have it - how some tongue-in-cheek observations about eating set off a shitstorm of abuse about personal hygiene directed towards me and the country I was born in (but is not my home). Make your own conclusions. Personally, I have to agree that bathroom carpet is a bad idea.