Marbella moments with Nicole King: Are you being served?

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My dear friend was down from Madrid and we had a lovely dinner together, but things could have turned out very differently.  Whilst ordering it came up that one of the dishes has a different name here in Andalucia and this insignificant “confusion”, instead of being an anecdotal or comical moment as perceived by the waiter and myself, elicited an almost contemptuous response.

Just the week before another friend from Madrid had flipped out, several times, because the service was slow and incongruent in nearly all of the restaurants we visited.  Both were seemingly a tad “crisp” probably due to a very busy city life and high demanding jobs, added to whatever else goes on in everyone’s day to day that contributes to depleting our resilience and patience. 

This reminded me of when I first moved to Marbella in the 80s.  I was very integrated with the local Spanish community, particularly with the waiters at the hotel I stayed in as a child and those who worked at other local restaurants, bars and clubs.  Each year as August approached they’d start to ruminate on summers past and the tantrums they could expect from the “Madrileños”; those from Spain’s capital city.  In their opinion these people would save up all year with the sole objective of coming down to the coast to flaunt their money and exasperate one and all with their entitled demands, arrogance and impatience. 

This isn’t quite the case but I do know what they mean: I lived in Madrid for 20 years and as citizens of the capital city they do feel a little more special and entitled than those who live anywhere else in the country (as do Londoners I imagine).  Plus it would take me weeks to “calm down” once arriving here on holiday to be able to relax enough to appreciate the “informality”.  This is not easy for those that are used to a fast pace, an immediate response, a touch of reverence and expect likewise in a tourist town. 

I have even come to appreciate and embrace that “mañana” may literally mean “tomorrow” in Spanish but that down here in Andalucía it could equally be implied as “not today”. This doesn’t make it bad, just different.

When one’s a guest in another’s city or country one should be prepared and willing to acclimatise to the surroundings.  Maybe the service is not “the best” if efficiency and humility is what you’re after, but if its good weather, good food, joviality and good humour, with a touch of expect the unexpected, this is the place to be.  Let’s appreciate it and our waiters; they may be there to serve us but that doesn’t make them servants; please be nice to them …. and leave a generous tip!

Ps. A very, very, very, very, very happy birthday for tomorrow to my son Brett, forever my baby boy; I love you to infinity and beyond… and back again.


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