Tenerife – island paradise or country bumpkin land?

Posted: March 2, 2009 in Life, Spain, Tenerife
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes I have days when I fall completely out of love with Tenerife. Days when quaint charm seems more like being borderline retarded.
Usually it involves days when a brush with bureaucracy has taken place. On this occasion we were lulled into a false sense of optimism by two experiences which weren’t the endurance test we expected.

First stop was the dreaded Correos. Being Carnaval week and the day after Shrove Tuesday (a public holiday), I was expecting massive queues, but surprisingly there were only a handful of people in front of me. Even though the ticket machine wasn’t working, I was done and dusted in under 10 minutes.

Next stop was the new Medical Centre to register for a tarjeta sanitaria (a long, long overdue task). Another pleasant surprise came in the guise of a big car park beside the centre – signs surely that somebody somewhere was showing an aptitude for planning. A mini bus full of third-agers pulled up just as we arrived – maybe a trip to the medical centre was their version of a day out. Luckily they weren’t very fast on their feet and a quickening of our pace meant we were able to overtake them and get to the reception desk first where we found another bonus; there was only one person in front of us.

When the receptionist called us forward and we told him what we wanted, I could see his face drop. However, he remained pleasant despite shuffling through the folder load of papers I had given him looking for some reason why we couldn’t register (I’m deducing this was what he was doing, cause the first two documents I gave him were the only official ones he really needed). Eventually he conceded defeat and entered our details into his computer; a bit of a lengthy process, hence his reaction to our request.

As he typed away, the queue of grumbling pensioners built up behind us, one of them so close, her cardigan tickled my arms, even though a sign advised people to stand back for obvious reasons of privacy.
Twice the receptionist had to ask the nosy old git to move back, pointing to the sign. The second time she mumbled that, as we were English, she couldn’t understand us anyway (even though our conversation with the receptionist was in Spanish). Bless him; he actually pointed this out to her adding, ‘they speak Spanish perfectly’ which was very kind but clearly an exaggeration.

And then we were done, or so it seemed. He handed me my temporary tarjeta santoria with the dreaded words:

“Now you have to go to La Orotava and register there.”

And this is when things went belly up. We made the mistake of thinking we were on a roll and decided to go for a hat trick.

The dingy little office in La Orotava wasn’t just behind the times; it was behind the times and then some. I started working for the Civil Service back in 1981 and I can honestly say that apart from the absence of computers in those days, the office on Bute where I worked was far more modern than that one in La Orotava.
I had visions of a wideboy at a fair selling dodgy ornaments:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I won’t give you 10 years behind; I won’t even give you 20 years, or 30 years…no sirreee, I’m offering you a whopping 40, possibly even 50 years behind a modern European office.”

We took our ticket and waited…and waited until, after an hour, it was our turn and we sat down at the desk of a woman who looked like suspiciously like a vengeance demon we’d seen on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ the previous night (apt description as it turned out).

We said that we’d been told to register and handed over our documents. She glanced at our marriage certificate then announced:

“This is no good, it has no stamp.”

In the space of thirty seconds this officious and incompetent twerp who shouldn’t have been allowed the responsibility of cleaning out pig swill seemed to think she had the authority to not only accuse us of fraud, but to annul our marriage at the same time. Way to go dipstick!!

Of course this got an outraged reaction and she showed it to somebody who clearly had the gumption to realise that the world didn’t end at Tenerife’s coastline and documents from other countries might actually be a wee bit different from those issued in her local town. But questioning her had riled her. She shuffled through the papers again, this time announcing that Andy’s NIE document was wrong and that we’d have to now re-register at the police office in Puerto.

Now this is a load of old bollocks I’m sure, but customer service in government offices on Tenerife are still a concept which is a bit sci-fi, so when you get service like this you hit a wall. Questions fall on deaf ears.

She gave us a slip of paper and ticked that we needed two documents, one of which was the marriage certificate she’d already seen. When Andy pointed this out, she huffed and puffed and crossed it off the list, not exactly instilling a feeling of confidence in her competence, and sent us on our way.

By the time we left that office, Tenerife was the biggest shit hole on the planet and was populated by primitives who had hardly evolved in 500 years. This is the feelings that these people arouse. Thankfully people like her and experiences like this are few and far between, but they still happen.

What really winds me up is this; if the authorities on Tenerife are happy to pocket my taxes and my autonomo payments, then I should be treated exactly the same as a Tinerfeño.

The frightening scenario? Maybe I am.

  1. Pamela says:

    Well, you can’t register for a NIE twice, so gawd knows what tree she’s barking up there.

    Did she think that your marriage certificate needs an official seal, the Certificate of Apostille of the Hague (Postilla de la Haya), perhaps?

    But, if it’s any consolation, I first registered and requested my tarjeta sanitaria back in 1993 and never, ever, did get it.

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