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Monday, July 25, 2005

My permanent vacation

No I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon because I’m earning Spanish wages. I love this place, but the work situation is a joke. I’ve done everything here from loading trucks to driving forklifts to teaching English to being a virtual pimp (and that’s not the half of it). Crappy, barely sufficient pay in each of these jobs. Oh how I miss the days when I was a tourist and had the mighty pre 9-11 dollar. I lived like a degenerate king.

Now that I’m living the quotidian Spanish life, all that has changed. The Euro hijacked our pocket books and suddenly we’re paying three times more for everything, even staples like coffee*. In 2000, a coffee cost 100 pesetas, or about 60 cents. Now that same coffee costs about 1.20 €. That is about 144 cents. An over 200% mark up and the café solos are still only a finger high.

And don’t get me started on the rent.

Wages haven’t gone up either. According to el Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Institute of Statistics), Spain’s average yearly income is well below the average for the old EU, and even the expanded EU (with the new eastern countries). The average Spanish salary is € 19,802, although the most frequent average is € 12,503. Meaning, most people get paid this derisory yearly sum while a wealthy few earn far above that. People are surprised that so many people in Spain live with their families until well into their thirties – well, this is why. 12 gees a year is barely enough to go to the cinema more than once a month. I can attest to this. So can any waiter or truck loader.

You will see countless multinationals asking for someone with years of administrative experience; full knowledge of Windows Office environments (Mac would be a plus), fluent English, Spanish, Catalan; French and German a plus… and offering to pay 12,000 € (before taxes). I spent three years looking for a decent job and barely got by. No wonder you see so many prostitutes here (any local newspaper dedicates 3 to four pages to their ads). If you get paid like a crack whore to bust your ass in a stuffy office for 10 – 12 hours a day, that’s only a logical manifestation.

Now, the average yearly income for the expanded EU is € 24,000 a year (but, if you count only the original 15 EU members, of which Spain is one, that average jumps to € 27,000). And hey, if that wasn’t bad enough, we also work more: on average 23 working days of vacation (22 for the señoritas… gotta love those macho Ibericos) while countries like Germany have 29 working days of vacation. And eight hour work days? Let’s just say there’s an awful lot of leeway on that.

It’s no wonder people come here on vacation. They simply have more money, and more time. And hey, there’s the sun and sangria too. Plus, if you’re English or German, literally colonies of your fellow countrymen. That’s right, a trip to Spain won’t be any more stressful than going to you local Laundromat. I mean, who in their right mind would want to discover new things anyway?

Here’s a snippet from La Vanguardia (7/21/2005):

The number of tourists that visited Spain during the first half of this year reached 24 million, which means an inter annual increment of 5.7%, the largest augmentation since 2001…

At the current rate, it is predicted Spain will break its past record with 54 million annual visitors.

According to the Organización Mundial del Turismo (World Organization of Tourism), in 2004 Spain was the second country in the world for tourism-generated revenue, with € 37,355,000,000. Only the United States was ahead with € 61,983,000,000.

The absolute majority of these visitors are English, followed by Germans, and the French coming in third. The colossal number of English tourists is due in large part to ultra cheap airlines like Easyet and Ryanair, the scourge of our fair skies. Maybe this is an international white trash conspiracy. Hooligans are overrunning beautiful seaside towns shouting football anthems and getting belligerent as all hell. They stay within the confines of their pubs, perhaps make a little excursion to the beach. Hooligans of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your pasty complexions!

German tourists head to Balearic islands, where they are likely to find other German tourists. There they can eat bratwursts and drink hefeweizen and marvel at the total lack of Ordnung.

And, while Spain has record numbers of tourists, the revenue generated is practically the same as in previous years (according to the same article, citing the Office of Tourism).

Cheap flights and the promise of cheap booze and likeminded fellow countrymen. Who wants adventure when you got pay per view porn and your mates in a pub? Paco and Pepa don’t speak bloody English anyway.

The totally obvious becomes even more apparent: it’s the quality of tourist, not the quantity.

And, finally, our article in question goes on to state: Opposite this affluence of foreign visitors, the Spanish won’t go anywhere for vacation this year, according to the June survey made by Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS). The majority of those surveyed (50.3 %) cited the reason as being economic problems.

So, it looks like we’re stuck here with ‘em.


* The coffee here is superb. Go to any little mom & pop bar and order a café solo / cafè sol, café con leche / cafè amb lleche, cortado / tallat – or, if you feel like getting an instant heart attack, a carajillo (espresso with brandy, rum, or whiskey). You will not be going to sleep anytime soon, and if you’re American you will head to the nearest john to flush your uninitiated system. If you are American you are probably used to that piss water they call “coffee”. Starbucks thought they had the answer when they introduced all those fanciful flavors, but it’s still just masking the inferior quality of their product. That’s right, take that chai chai grandisimo and shove it up your American Pie eating ass. It’s got nothing on my carajillo de ron, baby.

Why then, do I see so many people go to Starbucks? It is a true mystery of life. This bovine like laziness. I’m not going to say something anti corporate like boycott the evil, ulcer-like manifestations of Starbucks all over Barcelona. I could care less, honestly. No, go there and sip your vanilla flavored Leonardo diFrappuciannos. Meanwhile, I’ll be sipping the real stuff in a real bar. Please, keep going to Starbucks and stay out of the authentic establishments. Really, you’re doing me a huge favor.