Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Joke that Wasn't Funny

Leader from this week's Business over Tapas:
There has been quite a reaction to the Sunday Times article about the behaviour of the Spanish – loud, jolly and eat late – written by a British journalist who spent a few years in Barcelona. He has since apologised profusely (reproduced in full here). We can laugh at ourselves, but not so much when a foreigner has a joke at our expense.
There is, of course, plenty of material to be funny about since (thank Goodness), Europe is not a homogenised mass, but a huge collection of regions full of their own customs, charm and idiosyncrasies.
The Spanish reaction to the article can be found in El País ‘The humorous article "How to be Spanish", published in The Sunday Times on January 22nd, angered hundreds of tweeters, who responded to its author, Chris Haslam, with angry messages with the stereotypical vision he offered of Spain. According to the text, we are rude, noisy and take three hours to eat, among other things...’ The article includes a video from El País in English editor Simon Hunter apologising for his British colleague’s remarks (and his essay on the subject, in English, here). An aggressive article on this at La Nueva Crónica here also fails to see the joke. More amusingly, the ABC wrote a piece on the British and their habits (including putting carpeting in their bathrooms) translated into English here. However, the best reaction we’ve seen so far comes from El Mundo, with their article ‘Who the Fuck says that we Spaniards like to Swear?’
The number of jokes at the expense of the British is likely to rise as we approach Brexit: jokes and inevitable truisms, like the departing German ambassador to London’s remarks about the popularity of the recent British films about Churchill and Dunkirk, that ‘...the image of Britain standing alone in the second world war against German domination has fed Euro-scepticism in the UK, but does little to solve the country’s contemporary problems...’. For those who prefer their eggs fried over-easy, here’s The New Statesman taking the opposite tack that ‘As the popularity of Dunkirk and Darkest Hour show, we remain entranced by the story of Britain’s heroic resistance to Nazism and its wartime leader. What are the lessons to be learnt? And why must we keep looking back?’
In Spain, Sir Francis (!) Drake is a pirate; in the UK, he is a hero; in Germany, they’ve never heard of him.


  1. John Cleese once said: "An Englishman would rather be told he was a bad lover than that he had no sense of humour."

  2. The Germans may never have heard of Sir Walter Drake but they will know about Sir Francis Raleigh.

  3. Whoops! Thank you for pointing that out.