Monday, January 12, 2004

A slightly different world

Another interesting thing about being in Spain is that you are in a different world culturally and linguistically. And it is quite a big one. Walking down a street full of shops selling expensive women's clothes, one finds the same convention as anywhere else of shops giving the names of the cities where they have outlets in the shop windows. You know, "Paris London New York Tokyo Los Angeles". That kind of thing. However, in quite a few shops here the places are different. It is "Miami Puerto Rico Argentina Paraguay Barcelona", and that kind of thing. (Note: I will come back and add a photo to this post in a couple of days). The Spanish speaking world is quite big, and it does show. If I could read the newspapers and understand what was on television it would no doubt be bigger. Just as globalisation has brought the English speaking peoples closer together, it is and must be doing to same thing to the Spanish speaking world. Another issue that must come out of this is that Spain has a way of avoiding the fearsome demographic crisis that faces much of southern Europe, which is to open up immigration for Latin Americans. There are no doubt lots of Peruvians, Argentines and Paraguayans who want to come here. It's an awfully nice place, and it's these days very rich and successful. One theory of current world development is that "lifestyle cities", where the weather is nice, there is ocean nearby, and the partying is good, are the sorts of cities that attract young, well educated "knowledge workers". Well, Barcelona is gorgeous from that point of view. Even though it is not nominally Spanish speaking, it must be a huge magnet for people from throughout the Spanish speaking world. I don't know how the Catalan speakers feel about this.

And the other thing about it is that it is interesting to see how parts of the US fit into this. Britons, Australians, and Americans are terrible at speaking foreign languages on the whole. It is entirely normal for people from these three countries to go around the world, only speaking English, and getting by. But when you are in Spain, at least some of the Americans separate from the others. For the ability to speak Spanish is these days not uncommon amongst Americans - particularly younger Americans. Miami is on the list above, after all.

Update: Here is the picture. We have a reflection of the street scene rather than the goods in the shop, and "Barcelona" at the very bottom of the list is cut off, but you get the general idea.

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