And when I say ex-pat, I’m actually only referring to those foreign residents who make no attempts to integrate, as opposed to the many that do.
“93 555 6724 Perkins”. That is the unexpected response I got when phoning an English work colleague here many years ago. She lived down the coast in Sitges, and hearing her answer the phone in this way came as quite a shock to someone who’d lived in Catalonia for several years. The most obvious impression it made on me is that I was dealing with someone who had not made even the first attempt to integrate into their adopted society. Her answering the phone using, first, the English language, and secondly an old-fashioned way of doing it - the number followed by the name - felt like entering some bizarre ex-pat world. And when I say ex-pat, I’m actually only referring to those foreign residents who make no attempts to integrate, as opposed to the many that do.
For the record, when answering the phone to a number they don’t know here people usually say “Digui’m” (literally ’tell me’ in English) or “Digui” or simply “Sí” or “Hola”? Indeed, some readers may remember a TV programme some years ago called “Digui Digui”, which was aimed at teaching Catalan to Spanish speakers.
When I come into contact with ex-pats who complain about “the locals”, I wonder what their opinion would be of immigrants to their own country who failed to make any attempt to learn the language or integrate. I doubt they would have much time for them, to say the least. The Catalan independence process has its detractors among such people, and it’s therefore not unusual for me to find myself debating it with them. Sadly, I soon realise that most ex-pats I talk to on the subject have no knowledge whatsoever of the Spanish government and constitutional courts’ machinations in recent years and how this has soured relations to the point that many Catalans now want a complete separation.
What I hear all too often is irrelevant comments like “Do you think Catalan politicians would be any less corrupt in an independent Catalonia?”, entirely missing the point about why a proportion of Catalans want to separate from a state that represses Catalan laws aimed at respecting Catalonia’s identity through its language, traditions and history and takes its democratically elected politicians to court for pursuing their mandate. My argument always seems to end up being “How can you have an opinion on Catalan independence if your only source of information is at best the Spanish-biased Madrid press and otherwise news sources from your own country, which also take the Madrid papers’ views and news as gospel on what’s happening in Spain?” I would hope that the daily English translations of Catalan news we provide in El Punt Avui and on the Catalonia Today website help some ex-pats to at least be minimally informed on Catalans’ reasons for wanting their own nation, or at least a referendum to find out how many of them do.
So the big questions to my mind now are, will ex-pats, Britalans and other foreign residents be allowed to vote in the October 1st referendum on Catalan independence? And if they are, how far will that affect the outcome ?