The Spanish Gawp

“Gawp” (verb) – to stare openly in a stupid or rude manner.

This is something you will have to accept if you plan to travel around Spain in your campervan. We’ve now travelled around pretty much all of Spain, and it’s the same everywhere. We’ve tried to fight it, but there’s just too many of them. It’s ingrained into their society. You can’t fully understand it until you’ve experienced it. Even writing this now, I’m getting gawped at. I’ve tried dramatically gawping back, I’ve tried over enthusiastically waving at them – nothing works! I may consider putting up a sign next,  just to see what effect it has, but I think I’ve had to admit defeat and accept it.

The Spanish are generally fantastic, I love Spain, and have found most people to be welcoming, helpful and also generous, I just wish they could be more subtle. Everyone likes a little snoop, and I too like to have a quick look into someone’s campervan, to see how they’ve kitted it out and generally have a nose at what they’re up to, but seriously – it’s ridiculous!

On their approach to their van, once they’ve noticed you, the mouth opens, they’re transfixed. If they’re alone their eyes remain glued, if they’re travelling in groups they make sure the other members of the group have noticed, with an obvious nudge or grabbing of the arm. Once they’re at optimal gawping position they will more often than not stop and stare straight in. If you catch their eye, either by accident or on purpose, they will not look away in shame. I’ve often entered into a staring competition, but being British I could never win, self awareness over takes me and eventually I cave. It’s like staring into an empty shell – if it wasn’t so annoying it would be quite impressive. Then once they’ve satisfied their incessant curiosity, their legs will start moving but their gaze will remain unbroken. Only when their necks have reached full extension, and they can’t strain any further, will they eventually continue on their original path. Some have been known to then pause and have a second look to check they’re not missing anything from their new vantage point.

Not knowing the culture well enough, I’ve been unable to read into the purpose of the gawp – whether it’s disapproval, curiosity, amazement, or just instinctual like a dog that’s just noticed a squirrel. I have only come across a milder form of this once before – in the elderly French population that are often found occupying benches or stationary at the end of their drives, but I understand this. I know that they look upon me in disapproval – “Why are you in my country, you silly roast beefs”.

The French come across as mere amateurs, now that I have seen the professionals in action, but I would love to find out the reason behind it, and maybe one day discover a cure. Until that time comes I will just have to sit proudly in my van, casually ignore them and continue about my day.


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