Living and Working on Tenerife – Are The Canarian People Friendly?

Posted: February 9, 2010 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you were to ask me if Tinerfeños (people from Tenerife) were friendly people to live amongst, I’d answer “Yes” without any hesitation. I’d probably tell you that you could walk anywhere in the hills, visit any little village, turn up at the smallest fiesta and in each case you’d encounter wonderfully smiling, welcoming people…and then I’d pause and add a “but…”

For anyone who’s on holiday, or even those who have retired to the island (especially if they’re living in a complex where someone else has the ‘job’ of dealing with the authorities and the utilities companies), the likelihood is that the Canarios they encounter will fit into the smiley, happy people category.

90% of the time you get this...well maybe usually with a few more teeth

When you’re trying to run a business, the picture can change. Partly this is because efficiency is essential if you’re trying to be professional in your business and Tenerife and its people may have many sparkling qualities but efficiency isn’t at the top of the list – careless mistakes are made…a lot.

A friend was left without internet access because an engineer forgot to switch it back on after working on a neighbour’s line. We were left without water for a weekend because the water company ‘forgot’ to turn the water back on after working on the pipes.
I could go on and on and on. A certain lack of care and attention to detail is endemic – just watch the till assistants at the supermarket try to scan bar codes.

When mistakes are made by others that affect your professionalism, it’s natural to want to demand to know ‘why’. However, on Tenerife some people don’t react well to this.
If you keep quiet and put up, you’ll continue to deal with happy friendly people, but if you don’t…

When we first moved to the island and were renting a house, the electricity was accidentally cut off. When we asked the agent we rented the house through (a Canario) to immediately contact the electricity company and insist they turn it on he smiled sheepishly and replied:
“I have to be careful. If I upset them, they won’t turn it on for days.”

The longer you live here, the more you realise that although small family businesses (bars, restaurants) are usually very friendly to deal with, customer service in big corporations can be sadly lacking – but this is as much a Spanish problem, than just a Canarian one.

Similarly business dealings can be incredibly frustrating. Andy and I were used to regularly dealing with people at the top of their tree in the UK. Nine times out of ten these people had no airs and graces and were approachable and open to suggestion. They were confident, successful people who, let’s be blunt, didn’t have to behave like arrogant arses to let you know that they had power and authority.

Here it can be different. For a start, generally speaking there is no delegation as such in businesses, so decisions can usually only be made by the top dog. This isn’t very good business practice for a number of reasons. It doesn’t encourage ownership or innovation amongst workers and worse, it slows the decision making process to a snail’s pace.

A friend commented recently about how rude Canarios could be, but he was talking purely in a business sense. Some businessmen appear disinterested and even aggressive when faced with someone talking to them about how they can improve their business. I’ve experienced this myself, but I don’t think that they are being deliberately objectionable – I think they just don’t know any better. Businessmen I initially thought to be rude and arrogant turned out to be completely the opposite.

My theory is that many haven’t conducted business outside of the island much and therefore don’t know how business is conducted in the big wide world – so they’re almost acting the role as they think it should be played. Additionally when they’re faced with someone telling them about something they know very little about, arrogance and disinterest can be a cover for ignorance. Finally the biggest problem of all – if that advice comes from a non-Tinerfeño source, then it is to be treated with the utmost suspicion and usually immediately discarded.

The idea of actively seeking out ‘best practice’ is a business concept which has still to be adopted here.

Tenerife suffers from a massive inferiority complex (I’m Scottish and come from a small island – therefore can spot a mass inferiority complex at a hundred paces) and this unfortunately can mean that instead of being 100% friendly, it’s only 90%.

Thankfully from the point of view of tourism, the 90% are the ones that most visitors come into contact with.

  1. Ariel Levi says:

    I’ve lived in Gran Canaria for ten years. Most people here ist unbelievable sexist and coward. I have seen many women afraid of expressing opinions. Only gay people is welcome to Gran Canaria and it’s becoming an unsafe place for women because of men’s (both gay and hetero)violence. Could a women alone live without fear of being battered by any men?

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