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Saturday, September 19, 2020

A different type of stress

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Those who have worked in Asia are aware of the fact that reality there is much more complex than snorkeling in Thailand, shopping in Singapore or visiting temples in Japan. Life can be quite stressful in that part of the world.

I lived in Taiwan for almost two decades and for many years had two jobs at the same time, but not to make ends meet. To be honest, for a short while that was the case, though that’s another story!

On the contrary, I did it happily because I was paid very well. Therefore, for a couple of months I even accepted a third. I would leave home around 8:00 AM from Monday to Thursday and be back around 9:30 PM. Additional jobs popped up regularly as well and I never refused them. My philosophy was to make good money while I could!

Unfortunately, I had just decided to finally resuscitate my Japanese, going to class every Saturday from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. So at least it was bad timing, as it ended up being too much for me! I had little energy left to prepare or do follow-up homework. What a pity!

Taipei somehow is a city that never sleeps, just like New York in Frank Sinatra’s world-famous song! You can choose clothing at 1:00 AM, have a healthy bite at 3:00 AM or pay your credit card bill and buy a detergent at a 7-11 convenience store at 5:00 AM all year round. Sunday is the busiest day at hypermarkets like Carrefour or Costco.

In contrast, there’s the general perception that Southern Europe, for example Spain, offers a much more relaxed life-style. The countless bars are always filled with people having a beer or a coffee. At 10:00 AM, the night has just begun. In Asia, that was often bedtime for me!

Most shops here in Valencia close in the early afternoon for up to three hours, giving locals and foreigners alike the chance to take a nap after lunch. I personally need my siesta, just like in Taiwan. For that, I’m very Spanish! My two cats almost never let me sleep long…

Somehow, the weekend is sacred and many Spaniards don’t take a phone call, even if they know the caller’s number. It’s often reserved for family gatherings where strangers are unwanted. After so many years abroad, I have had to learn it the hard, frustrating way!

Therefore, on the surface it might look like there’s less stress to cope with, but personally I totally disagree. Facebook groups in Valencia are full of desperate expats trapped in Spain’s bureaucratic jungle, which requires an almost endless patience that I don’t have.

After my experiences in Taiwan, where government institutions operate very efficiently and those working there never give you the impression of being a tedious intruder, I find dealing with rude, unhelpful and lazy civil servants in Spain extremely strenuous.

Besides that, many small business owners show a “service attitude” that I simply don’t understand. Especially nowadays, when due to the pandemic they should be thankful for every customer they still have.

This is obviously not the case. Three weeks ago, after a really enjoyable tapas dinner worth the 100 euros we paid, two Danish friends and I were suddenly informed that we had ten minutes left at our table as it had been reserved for others.

When I kindly protested, the waiter lied straight into my face by saying that his colleague had surely told us earlier. He offered no apology or a free coffee or dink at the counter and came back exactly on time to tell us that our successors where already waiting outside.

We left without leaving a tip or saying a word and decided to keep in mind the very good food and not the lousy manners we had to endure. Needless to say that I will avoid that cozy little bodega in the future under all circumstances.

I have been treated with open contempt at different places, to the point that I decided to boycott them. This disease seems to be contagious, as it can affect Uruguayan butchers and Bolivian hair dressers. I also never went back to a Romanian laundry.

The gas, water and electricity companies deserve special mention, as it’s a truly dreadful experience to deal with those frustrated middle-aged women that pretend to work there. It makes me physically uncomfortable to think about it.

Of course there are rude and incompetent persons in Taiwan as well. A wrong information provided at the Aliens Police caused me some serious trouble afterwards. The big difference consists in the inverted proportion!

No lovely sunset on the nearby beach, which I enjoy almost every day, can compensate for the feeling of regularly being considered a beggar. I find this much more annoying and tiresome than working like a Trojan. That’s one of the many reasons why I’ going back to Taiwan as soon as the current situation allows it.

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