Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Friday, 15 November 2013

Why Britain Should Be Thankful to Spain

… and not for the cheap good-quality wines, the olive oil (cheaper than oil labelled Italian, probably produced in Spain and bottled in Italy), or the holidays, be they of the cultural or beach variety. And definitely not for the histrionic, over-rated pretentious pap peddled by film director Pedro Almodóvar and considered "Art" by many misguided souls.

No, Britain should be grateful to Spain for the amount of highly-qualified, highly-cultured engineers, doctors, nurses etc. who want to make a decent life for themselves in the UK.

My colleagues and I have just finished a long and gruelling round of language certification exams for the students of our august university, a university whose internal schizophrenia is reflected in the student body and the population of Seville itself. I am, of course speaking in general terms, but it would seem to me that the students could be classified into two main groups, the backward-looking parochial types and the ambitious, motivated ones with an international outlook. 

The Humanities seem to fall quite neatly into the antiquated, parochial pigeonhole[1] while the Sciences are definitely more forward-looking, more academically up-to-date and definitely more innovative. In fact, the Faculty of Medicine here is a true centre of excellence, something also true of Life Sciences and Engineering.

Anyhow, back to the main argument. In my last round of oral exams, I was truly gratified by the scintillating performance by over 80% of the candidates, young people with great ambition, high expectations and limitless drive. Not only was I impressed by their use of English, but by their intellect and depth of thought. These are just the sort of people a country needs to progress economically and socially. Unfortunately for Spain, most of them want to contribute to the progress of other countries, mainly Britain, the US and Germany.

Spain isn't working.  
And it's not the fault of the Spaniard in the street 
(sometimes literally).
Perhaps “want” is too strong a word, perhaps not. Would these bright people stay in Spain if Society as a whole offered its young people more opportunities? Perhaps most would, I cannot say. But I can speak from personal experience. My own son is an economic migrant, although within Spain. In Andalusia he had little chance of getting a stable job – or indeed training – in his own field of interest and specialisation: high-performance motorbike mechanics. In reality, he had little chance of finding any type of job at all. Now, after three years of training and practice, he and a colleague from his course have just opened their own workshop in Barcelona (Global Motos, Josep Tarradellas 55, Barcelona. Tel. +34 931 413 084).
By dint of hard work and application.
By dint of hard work and application they have found a financial backer and have also received support from an official motorbike dealership in the form of workshop equipment and advice. In Andalusia, such a thing would be well-nigh impossible – unless you had connections in high places, in which case some sort of subsidy might well be forthcoming.

As in Andalusia, as in Spain in general (Catalonia excepted). Spanish Universities are producing whole battalions of highly-educated young people and then consigning them to a life of dependency upon their parents. If they are “fortunate” they will sweat out their youth in a series of short-term Macjobs with no real future of betterment. If not, then the only alternative left to them is to master the finer points of the latest X-Box or Play Station.

This is why British Society should be grateful to Spain. Thanks to such gifted young people, the British economy will have a brighter future while Spain, after two decades of economic effervescence, will once again fall into the sclerotic economic torpor to which its usually inept and far too often venal, rulers (now with the connivance of the EU) have condemned it for much of the last five centuries[2].

[1] Could you believe that the Journalistic component of its Master’s in Translation concentrated exclusively on the translation of reports of 1950s football matches and abstruse fashion articles into Spanish??? Well, believe it. Really contemporary, mainstream stuff.

[2] As an economic migrant myself, I benefited from an excellent British state education and migrated to Spain in the late 1980s. I have never paid income tax in the UK, but now find that my Spanish income tax is contributing to the education of such brilliant young people who will in turn go to Britain and pay their taxes there. The ironies of life!


  1. Immigration to the UK has been receiving a good deal of attention lately and both the major political parties have policies for "controlling" the numbers of immigrants. How this will affect well trained professional people with jobs to come to in Britain remains to be seen.

    I think that immigration is increasingly seen as a "problem" among certain sectors of the public who believe that all incomers live on benefits and remain unemployed or that high unemployment is their fault because they take all the jobs. (This group of people are not known for their consistency or understanding of logic.)

    I think that Britain does need immigrants to fill a number of high-level jobs (for example, in medicine) for which there is a dearth of native-born candidates. If fulfilling our need meets the needs of such people, then it should be seen as a win-win situation.

    Language is, of course, an issue. There have been horror reports in the media of things going wrong because of linguistic incompetence. Having to operate in a foreign language is obviously an extra burden for immigrants of non-English native language and work like yours is essential to them. One advantage is that English has become the de facto lingua franca or Europe and of much of the rest of the world and it is therefore an attractive language for people to learn as it provides more opportunities than some other national languages.

  2. I couldn't agree more with what you say. As for language skills, sometime last year I heard on Radio 4 that, when seeking employment, EU citizens are not subject to English language tests so as not to discriminate against them whereas US, Canadian, Australian and NZ citizens do indeed have to do one!

    I also heard recently that language testing for EU citizens wanting to work in the NHS will soon be in place.