The Hobo Guide to Not Looking Like a Tourist in Spain
Did you know that Spaniards have their own term of disendearment for us? Well they do, it’s guiri (pronounced giddy), and it basically means sunburnt foreigner who puts chorizo in all their dishes, but is also levelled at us whenever we commit a faux pas while travelling in the kingdom.
Your Spanish friends/girlfriend/in-laws will place hand on heart and swear that you’re not a guiri – that term is reserved for the boozed-up sun-chasing northern-European hordes that descend on the Spanish coastline every summer – but will level a ¡Que guiri eres! at you for doing something as inconceivable as putting some manchego cheese on your jamon iberico sandwich.
Or perhaps a bit of mayonnaise.
Or a slice of tomato.
On a ham sandwich.
¡Que guiri eres!
Did you see the outrage that the Spaniards affected when Jamie Oliver dared put chorizo into his paella? Someone said that they were going to shit on his ancestors. Shit on them. His ancestors. For chorizo. In a rice dish.
The Spaniards have a tricky relationship with their guiris. On one hand, they view them with comprehensible disdain: the public follating (follate is Spanish for fucking), stumbling sacks of bloated full-English. The clog-wearing clogged arteries of the lowlands. Germans. All sunburnt and getting sunburnter, parading their vile offspring in the city centre, packaging pink marshmallow pig flesh in tiny polka dot bikinis and stopping to pull wedgies out in front of churches where nine generations of a family were baptised, confirmed, wed and confirmed dead.
Those are the guiris, they insist, and we are different, until we dare to drink a beer in a glass that holds more than 150 millilitres. Then we’re guiris. ¡Que guiris somos!
The guiris have propped up the country’s economy as it struggled to emerge from the khaki blanket of a 40-year military dictatorship. Unfettered development now sprouts from Spain’s Mediterranean shore, highrises rising from where the desert meets the sun-soaked sea. Without the towers, these dry coastlines would trade mostly in siestas and dirt, entire provinces whose fortunes could be measured by ear of donkey per square pueblo. But now they have acres and acres of sunburnt fat tourists shitting and complaining stacked 50 high. Follating each other in the bars and on the beaches, complaining that the paella down here doesn’t have as much chorizo in it as they’d expected. Having their ancestors shat on by the same people who are cashing in the money they’re stacking along the coastline with their desperate hunt for sunshine.
Last year, roving bands of Catalan youths set to harassing the elderly and families whose big faux pas was participating in group travel. They would don the outfit of the antifa (anti-fascists) and surround buses and tell the tourists to go home. They complain that tourism has pushed up the cost of living in the city, while it’s the Catalan landlords who own entire buildings and city blocks and multiple apartments across the city who are adjusting their business models to profiteer of the pink, undulating gelatinous masses visiting the city.
Guiris go home!
Disregarding that the modern city’s fortunes and sights that tourists are supposedly taking over were built on the back of tourism (1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition, 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games)… Spaniards, Catalans included, have a funny relationship with tourists.
We, of course, aren’t like the other tourists. Not until we wear thongs more than one street from the beach, or shorts from October-May even if the temperature tops 20 degrees. But as non-tourists, as travellers, explorers, we like to separate ourselves from the flabby, sun-scorched masses. We go to lengths to stay far away from tourist-tourists, unless we want to participate in some sociological appraisal of the worst of travel in the guiris’ cider-saturated natural environments. Maybe we just want cheap Jager shots. Maybe we want to follate and be follated in public, under the approving glare of Franco-era skyrises.
We, the non-guiri adventurers can easily find ourselves far from the inevitable consequences of mass tourism unfettered. We go one street that way, two beaches over. We take the national road to the west instead of the highway to the east. We find ourselves back in the vast and sparse Spain where wealth is measured by the size of catfish in your river.
But to get there we piggyback off the worst of tourism. We take advantage of the infrastructure required to shuttle 80 million annual visitors from colder, cloudier climes to this sun-soaked, catfish filled, donkey thick wonderland. We, like the Spaniards, require the tourists that we so disdain and distance ourselves from. Eighty million annually need cheap flights, and we will just quietly hop on the back of that as the 80 million and 1st low-cost carried. We will happily converse in Spanish when the dusky eyed object of our affections speaks a little English, because they’ve been forced into the coalface of dart-throwing, pre-diabetic skin cancer prospects demanding pints and bangers and mash.
I would like to say that we the traveller have a symbiotic relationship with the real guiris, just like the Spaniards do. That this is a mutually beneficial relationship. But the reality is that whether we’re travellers, adventurers, explorers, or backpackers, in Spain, we’re parasites on the back of mass tourism. We use and then we leave, we discard, we dismiss and we mock. We benefit from them being in Spain, but they’re indifferent to us. We don’t even exist to them, not even while we’re sat in the corner of their favourite full-English spot, furiously scribbling field notes, while they go about their follating and complaining and we take advantage of the big beers and ham sandwiches with sauce and tomato and cheese on them.
We take and we don’t give back, not to the guiris at least. And really, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you love chorizo in everything as much as we do, join us in Spain for our on-the-road writing workshops in 2019! Learn español, refine your journalism skills and have a bloody good time.
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Ex-editor of Australia’s Surfing Life, current producer and host of 50 Fiestas, Barcelona resident and drinker of all the wine, every last drop of it.