Don Colin is starting to understand Iberian pavement proxemics

Don’t look out, or you’ll bump into someone.

Re: Remember how your mum told you “Look out, or you’ll bump into someone.” Well, in Spain it’s “Don’t look out, or you’ll bump into someone.” Forget generosity of spirit: the only way you’re going to get precedence as your paths cross is by implying that the other – through no fault of your own! – will suffer grievous injury if they don’t give way.

In my early days I used to try to give visual cues to large, dispersed groups heading my way that at least a small part of the pavement would be appreciated. Then, when this was consistently denied, I went through a brief and unenjoyable phase of hard-shouldering. But for a number of years now I’ve been using the Spanish strategy of pretending I haven’t seen anyone else, assuming that, to misquote Abe Lincoln, all Creation is Mine, and every man a Miner.


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  1. Thanks, Trev,

    I’ve tried the hard-shouldering strategy. But being neither tall nor strong, I’ve had to be judicious about targets. I find schoolgirls easiest – a phrase I wouldn’t want repeating – so long as they aren’t above, say, 5ft 4.

  2. I’d have thought your legendary charm would have had them swooning to either side of your feet, without reference to the schoolgirls.

    It’s a pain really because one of the reasons for walking the streets is to look at people, but if you look at them they’re going to obstruct you.

  3. I’ve never been to Spain but I’ve always thought they must have incredibly wide pavements, given the behaviour of Spaniards in England.

    Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground is a hundred page book about not giving way on the pavement.

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