What is a “guiri”?

The Spanish often refer to a foreigner as a “guiri”. 

Any foreigner? No, a certain type. Usually a tourist from the north of Europe.

The word “guiri” convokes pale men wearing socks in sandals, pale women with white socks in high heels – or anything else that is seen as the opposite of stylish – or in Nikes at religious highlights, or people jogging through a white village as though it’s an entertainment park.

Yip, not the worlds’ nicest name to be called.

Though all things are completely forgiven, since this person is visibly “despistado”; off his or her standard track (the words “misled” or “disoriented” do not quite cut it). Physically  on a new track, but the mind is still somewhere else.

The Spanish wouldn’t be the Spanish if it also wasn’t often a term of endearment (“ai, guiri, sitting there alone in a restaurant at 6PM”) (“she sits there so uncomfortably”), amusement (“is going to a bar at 8PM”), worry (“they organise a walk in 40 degrees”) or commercial thinking (“holidaymaker budget”).

The less pale tourist is not often a guiri. Portuguese or Italians can have the same sun based routine, or sense of fashion, and nationalities who are coming to Spain to work, very quickly speak the language and slip into the zone and routine.

You don’t need to feel offended when you’re described as a guiri. It is merely an explanation to a waitressing colleague (guiri… so probably wants to sit in the sun, will order tapas as lunch, and will generally do things coming from left field, if not change tables a dozen times because trying to find their feet).

It’s so much associated with a tourist though, a temporary visitor who we will never see again, that it’s an epiteth you want to get rid off when you live in Spain. If only because it puts you in a box of commerce, instead of a broader one. You can be in the box of customer, an element in the tourism industry: “think of TripAdvisor and Activate Hospitality”.

Ben

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