Rafa and Sole are madrileños, which means that they were born and brought up in Madrid, they speak with a marked Madrid accent, and they belong to a large group of people who at this time of year disperse themselves far and wide round the coastlines of Spain.
Rafa and Sole have had a holiday home in Orihuela Costa for six years, and have been holidaying with their daughter in the Valencian Community for a total of nine years. They used to go to Cullera further north along the coast, but as they found it was filling up with more and more tourists they moved south to escape the crowds. After renting a place in Torrevieja, they bought their present holiday home which was the first to be built on their urbanisation in Playa Flamenca. They had absolutely no idea of the sheer numbers of people who would arrive from all over Europe to live in the new developments around them, but are still happy to come here whenever they can, for long weekends and holidays, to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Rafa and Sole both answered my questions in turn, filling in the gaps for each other, so their responses ended up as a joint effort.
Why did you choose to come to this area for your holidays?
We chose this area for the climate, and in particular for the sake of our health. Here we can relax, dress as we please and potter about. What we most like about our house is that we can walk out of it into our garden and terrace, because like all madrileños we live in a high rise flat. Also at this time of year the heat in Madrid is asphyxiating, whereas here on the coast it is much more bearable.
How do you spend you days while you are here?
We go to the beach in the morning, have lunch, sleep a siesta and in the evening we may go out for a stroll around the urbanisation and chat to the neighbours or meet up with a few friends.
Do you wish there were more Spanish people living around you?
Well, yes, we had no idea that this area would end of full of foreigners. But, please don't misunderstand us, we get on extremely well with our English neighbours. Actually, we probably get on better with our English neighbours than we would if they were Spanish. The Spanish are such terrible gossips, always poking our noses into other people lives. We're also very envious people, and we like to have a good argument.
How do you get on with the Spanish people from this area?
Oh, they don't like madrileños. When they see us coming they look up to heaven as if to say – not another madrileño! They are very friendly to foreigners, but not to us and the reason is simple. If they charge 2 euros for a cup of coffee to an English person, he will pay it without saying anything. If they charge us 2 euros, we say "Where do you think you are, on the Gran Vía of Madrid?" We know the real price of things and we argue with them. Mind you, it doesn't do any good, in the end you have to pay what they charge. Even if you ask for the complaints sheets, you'll find they've listed the prices even higher than they're charging you.
Is Madrid much more expensive than here?
Madrid is very expensive. Along with Barcelona we have the highest income per capita in Spain, so that's another reason why they don't like us here. They think we've come to show off and appear superior. In Madrid everyone lives in flats but nowadays you won't find anything decent for 45 million pesetas (270,000 euros). There are even flats for 200 million pesetas (1,200,000 euros). Even the dormitory towns around Madrid are full of high rise flats. Only the very rich and famous can afford to live in a detached house outside the capital. But you would only pay really high prices in bars and restaurants in the smartest areas of the city like the Paseo de Castellana or the Gran Vía. Of course prices are going up here now as well, but that's because of the money all the foreign tourists are bringing in, and that's why the local Spaniards like the foreigners.
Do you have Spanish friends who are from this area?
Oh yes we've got plenty of friends, especially from when we rented near Carrefour in Torrevieja. They are local, but once they get to know us they realise that we're good people and we get on very well together. We go over and meet with them regularly. Madrid people are very very open to all kinds of people because we are used to tourists visiting our city. We welcome everybody and we are very sociable. In this house we have had lots of parties, with Spanish friends and our neighbours from other countries.
How do people in Madrid get on together living in flats – isn't there a lot of conflict?
It's very different in the city, neighbours don't have much to do with each other, they just say hello and goodbye on the stairs and that's it. If there are problems we have things called "denuncias" and "juicios" (reports and lawsuits) and it is very strict. If a neighbour makes too much noise between 12 midnight and 9 a.m. we call the police and report them. If they carry on we can eventually get them excluded from the community of neighbours and get rid of them.
Does this actually work?
Oh yes, it works very well. It doesn't work round here. Nothing like that works round here, but in Madrid it does. In Madrid we have an excellent health service, we have very good hospitals nearby. We have good bus routes that take us everywhere we need to go in the city. The schools are good and we have plenty of things to do in our spare time. Here there aren't enough hospitals, you have to have a car because nothing is nearby and the standard of schooling is very low because of all the foreigners. That's why we're staying in Madrid until our daughter finishes her schooling. Then we'll come and live here permanently, but she will probably stay in Madrid to work. There is nothing for her here.
Why do you think the services are so bad here?
Well the local council says it is because of all the foreigners who live here without signing on the "padron". That's why they can't provide the services for them, and of course the foreigners don't do anything about it because they do not understand how we live in Spain - what services we are used to and how we expect things to be done.
Do you think English people would like Madrid?
Not to live in, no. There's too much stress and they wouldn't like all the traffic and high buildings. But Madrid is a wonderful city to visit as a tourist – it's the best city in Europe - well, what do you expect us to say, we're madrileños!
This article is published courtesy of CB Friday in association with thinkspain.com