“Why do English people say sorry, when they don’t mean it?” asked a Spanish man outside Sinclair’s Oyster Bar in Shambles Square. It’s a popular rendezvous for the Spanish community in Manchester.
I shrug. “I don’t know, maybe they mean it. What other cultural differences have you noticed?”
He pauses, clocks his surroundings and then says, “Going out at 7 and finishing the night early. At home we don’t go out until 10, sometimes later.”
Suddenly, and typically English, a fight spills out on to the street. It’s not even closing time. The barman tries to defuse the situation as the tattooed drunk stumbles around, shouting obscenities into the warm night air.
“Do people here drink more than in Spain,” I ask, a little embarrassed at our national stereotype, knowing full well the answer.
“Don’t ask me, I’m from Italy,” he replied. “The English drink more than anybody, don’t they?”
To say that Spain is in the mierda is a bit of an understatement. It has one of the lowest birth rates in the world at 1.2 children per woman; an unemployment rate hovering around 24.8 per cent; a shrinking and ageing population, with hundreds of thousands of young people fleeing to look for work elsewhere. Understandably many are worried that their countrymen are lost to their host nation.
How many have left Spain is difficult to tell. Suffice to say mass emigration on this scale hasn’t been seen since the Second World War. Before that – apart from those fleeing Franco’s regime – emigration from Spain had been rare. As an attractive half- Colombian Spanish lady tells me, “things are so bad in Spain that people are actually relocating to South America.” This time they’re looking for jobs, not gold.
Not everyone sees this exodus of Spanish youth as a bad thing. A case in point is Yashin Dadashnejad, an affable and articulate man from Tenerife who moved to Manchester ten years ago. He tells me it’s been good for both Spaniards and Mancunians that so many of his fellow citizens have relocated here.
“Before, you had many Asians but perhaps the city was lacking people from different parts of Europe. Now, Manchester has people from other cultures it didn’t have before.”
Having originally worked in one of the Spanish restaurant chains – “you know the ones I mean, where it’s not really Spanish food, and quality is poor” – he wanted to bring some of the authentic stuff to the city, so eight months ago he opened La Bandera with his brother. The restaurant has received rave reviews and has become popular with Spanish footballers resident in the city.
So, how’s the Spanish community changed since he arrived?
“When I first came to Manchester, at Uni there was a Spanish society of only six people, and another online community run by a guy from Barcelona, we used to meet up every Thursday, at a place called the Retro bar.” Times have changed. “Now you can find Spaniards all over the place. Sinclair’s is popular.”
In Spain, corruption and welfare are a major issue. “You can work for a year and live off benefits for a year after that – with something like 90 per cent of your wage. I don’t think that helps.”
(Read the rest at ilovemanchester.com)