Tuesday, 6 August 2013

More British than the British?

In primary school history lessons we were often told that the Viking and Norman invaders of Ireland integrated well with the native population – after the raping and pillaging abated – and became, over time, "more Irish than the Irish themselves."

In a variation on the principle, Gibraltarians are very keen to show you just how British they are, and not Spanish at all.  From "Welcome to Gibraltar" on, all the sign posts are in English only.  Take a walk down the main street and you'll see Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Mothercare and many other famous British retail establishments.  There are more joints offering "English Fish & Chips" than you can shake a stick at; almost every watering-hole is a "genuine" pub; red phone boxes are all over the place (who uses phone boxes these days?); and the populace is protected by British-style bobbies.

A little bit of England in the Med?  Apparently so.  But listen to them speak and not all Gibraltarians are convincingly true blue.

The first one I encountered was the bus driver on the route from the border crossing.  He didn't seem to understand when I asked in English if he was going to the city centre.  But when I said "al centro?" he replied "".

I ordered my fish and chips and pint of San Miguel in English.  The two people behind the counter – one seemed to be the boss – were talking Spanish to each other and to other clients, and when she served me, the waitress said "enjoy them."  Odd!

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