Driving forces

Catalans are simply too cautious with money to want to risk it on a gamble rather than a sound investment...

Having lived in various cultures and taken great interest in trying to work out what makes them tick over the course of my life, I feel qualified to give my opinion on what I tend to call cultural driving forces. And even if I'm not qualified, I'm going to do it anyway. In the United States and many other places it's “God”, in the UK it's “justice”, in Spain it's “corazón”, in Japan it's “honour”, in Germany it's “logic”: say that you were driven by those things in your defence and you are forgiven just about anything. So what is it in Catalonia?

I think most Catalans would agree with me that the driving force here is certainly not the aforementioned “corazón” so influential and powerful in neighbouring Spain and many other what we might call Latin cultures. I believe the answer may be something more to do with financial caution, or being smart with money, or working hard to make money; but we'll need to investigate a bit before we can confirm that. And it's not very catchy, is it? So perhaps we can come up with something better.

I've lived in Catalonia and therefore among Catalans long enough now to know that earnest hard work and dedication to creating and preserving wealth/money are viewed as, if not the strongest, a strong argument and justification for your actions. It's something that stands out when you talk to people, if nothing else in the phrases they use. By way of example, “la pela és la pela” is a saying that has always sounded to my ear like it should be Spanish but is actually attributed to the Catalans. It literally means “the peseta is the peseta”, pela being an old slang term for the former Spanish currency. A good example of when it is used would be if someone asks to be pardoned a debt only to be advised “la pela és la pela”, or in other words, money is too important to simply dismiss a debt with no further consequences.

The general consensus among many Catalans I speak to is that nowadays everyone is working far too hard while getting ripped off by the main basic service providers, such as electricity, gas, water, telephony, etc. Despite this, however, working hard to earn money is seen as the only honest and proper way to live. That might sound obvious, but compare it to cultures where gambling is rife - the Spanish, the British, the Irish, the US and especially the Chinese and many other Asian cultures - and you see my point. Catalans are simply too cautious with money to want to risk it on a gamble rather than a sound investment - perhaps one element of the Catalan seny (what might be called the everyday application of common sense). Indeed, inherited Catalan wisdom espouses the virtues of what I've now decided to simply call “prudence” - and which may well spill over into other spheres of Catalan life rather than just the financial - with many sayings confirming it, such as Del jugar, al robar una passa només hi ha or El bon joc és no jugar-lo.

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