Living on Tenerife involves a lot more than simply moving to a climate where you can sit back and soak up the sun…well unless you live in a bubble that keeps you well away from having any interaction with the real Tenerife.
In some ways, the British and the Canarios are similar and in some ways the culture couldn’t be more different, occasionally to the extent that it can make your head want to explode.
This week as Andy dropped off some Real Tenerife guides at the post office, I spent my time waiting for her at the car by, as usual, observing daily life in Puerto de la Cruz. This normally involves listening to the old guys at Bar Aqui Me Quedo sounding as though they’re arguing about everything under the golden globe, and enviously watching the slick moves of the pupils at the dance academy opposite where we park. But on this occasion there was the added bonus of a car crash right in front of me.
Actually it was more of a gentle bump, but what developed illustrated the gulf in cultural responses to certain situations.
The road where the bus station is now located is a slow one and accidents like running into the back of another car when you’re driving at 20 kph shouldn’t occur. Who knows what had grabbed the woman driver’s attention as she drove too close to the car in front, maybe it was the moves at the dance academy, but when the car in front stopped for people at pedestrian crossing, the woman behind didn’t and subsequently drove straight into the back of it.
It wasn’t a big bump, but it did result in a small dent on both cars. Both drivers were out of their cars pronto to inspect the damage and that’s when the cultural differences came to the fore.
The car in front wasn’t a Toyota but was a hire car and was occupied by two German visitors who looked at the bump on the fender and then reached for their documents. This didn’t go down well with the Spanish driver who didn’t feel that the damage was serious enough to warrant exchanging insurance details.
The Germans couldn’t speak Spanish but clearly understood the gist of what was going on. One of them pointed to the hire car label on their car. It was obvious to me that they were trying to communicate with the woman that as theirs was a hire car, they had to do this by the book. But she was having none of it and became more and more agitated, flinging her arms in the air and pointing out over and over again that the damage was minimal. Despite their requests she refused to give the Germans her insurance details.
Then, with an impasse looming, the German woman did something really smart. She took out her digital camera and snapped a photo of the ‘culprit’ driver’s number plate. When the Spanish driver asked what she was doing a ‘helpful’ local onlooker stepped into the fray.
Instead of pointing out that the Germans were in the right, he told the Spanish driver they were taking a photo of her number plate because ‘they were German and were trying to get money out of her.’
It was an interesting take on events and not a conclusion that I would have reached. This is what I mean about the occasional chasm between our cultures. In this case the Germans were judged to be in the wrong because they wanted to do things by the book which the culprit believed justified her annoyance at them.
She was the one who drove into them…yet she was the one who was angry. That is the sort of skewed logic that makes your head want to explode.
A few months ago Andy was sitting in the car when a local man we know reversed straight into her. Our car was in a car park and was stationary at the time which made it all the more bizarre. But the guy’s reaction was even more incredible.
Instead of apologising, he rushed across to the car, furious with Andy for, get this, ‘being parked there’. This type of thinking just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Similarly, what did the driver do when the Germans took a photo of her number plate? She jumped into her car, reversed (nearly hitting another car in the process), pulled around the bemused Germans’ car and drove off, leaving them and their car isolated in the middle of the road.
Thirty seconds later the police arrived. I was gutted as I really wanted to see how they would have dealt with the situation.
When I witness situations like this and the approach to what I’d consider are basic laws of the road, Pirates of the Caribbean always enters my head.
I have a sneaking suspicion some drivers on Tenerife have a similar view to the highway code (codigo de la circulación) as Captain Barbossa does to the Code of the Order of the Brethren – i.e. that ‘the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.’