The difference between Spanish and Expat parents

kids calm

Well, can you spot the differences?  An example.

Idling around a quiet hotel pool recently, the only sound to break the idyll was a gentle murmuring from other guests, and just the scrape of a sun-bed being positioned, or the ppffft aerosol of more SPF applied and of course the laughter of happy kids in the water.


The low wail that led to a screech like a fire engine, sudden and LOUD, made us all sit up and focus towards one end of the pool, as the lifeguard jumped in with a panicked splash and emerged with a girl of about 7, hands to her face and blood gushing forth.

Her parents were next to us, Padre slowly levered himself up putting down his book and Madre walked with no particular hurry to the shower area where the lifeguard was sluicing the kid down.

She had smashed her front tooth – and was inconsolable.  Wails of “I want to go home” and “I miss my friends”, “I’m ugly now” mingled with snot, sobs, tears and big shuddering intakes of breath.  Madre placated, cuddled and crooned, and after 5 minutes pushed her off and told her to shut the F**k up. Padre went back to his book.


Which is about typical.  I had to giggle – she was pushing for the underage Oscars.  Everyone nodded, smiled and went back to sunbed arranging and SPF application  The kid shut up.  She forgot about her tooth and went back in the pool.

I turned over to face the sun and spied an expat couple who sat at the side of the kids pool (about 1 foot deep) whilst their kids played. Constant cries with loudly projected voices of “Play nicely Thomas”  “Be careful Jake” “No splashing your brother” accompanied them.  When they left, flustered, anything but relaxed, with their equipment and kitchen sink, kids in all-in-one suits and Tintin-type swim hats – it was only about 22 degrees –  Mum and Dad fussed and held their hands and instructed not to walk too close to the pool. They were just short of a lead.


What if they had fallen in?  Well, I guess someone might have fished them out.

Have we become fussier?  What happened to risks and tough love? When I fell over as a kid  – most days – I got a splash of iodine, a sugar sandwich, and was sent back out to play, the blood hastily wiped as it ran and congealed into my once-white sock. A lovely big knee scab afterwards that would itch and beg to be picked along the edges as it healed.  Like a big fruit pastille.  I still have the lumps and marks today. My mother was right about the picking.

So, can you spot the difference?

10 thoughts on “The difference between Spanish and Expat parents

  1. Funny post Carol. I have to admit I am a bit like that expat couple constantly muttering instructions to the kids. Next time I do it, I’m sure I’ll think of you and the scene you have just described 😀

    • Thanks Pamela, to be honest I probably did it myself, it was all a bit tongue in cheek and drew a surprising amount of debate! These days I have a 20 yr old Uni student and a 16 yr old selfie queen to shout at (and yes, they do still fight in the back of the car)

  2. Great post Carol and so true. Being your typical Andalusian parent, my boys are continually covered in cuts, bruises and more often than not….sand 🙂 Children need to be children. They need to fall. They need to hurt themselves. And they need to get dirty. It’s healthy for them and for our sanity

  3. Argh, I’m the naggy helicopter mum… even though at ten I used to be able to go cycling with friends for 20 miles with no mobile phone (mobile what?) and at one point my parents left me in Switzerland with a non-English-speaking couple they’d just met so they could have a few days on their own. Actually, that was a bit weird… but yes, my children are barely allowed in the kitchen unsupervised. Because *parenting is scary*.

  4. Wow…is it just me but I find it’s the opposite! i.e. helicopter Spanish mums and laidback foreigner parents. I’m an expat mum of 3 living in the mountains of Malaga and I’m always getting frantic “Careful, she could fall from there!!” when I’m leading my 3 year old by the hand on a foot high wall, and constant CONSTANT!! “has she got enough sun cream on?”. Though my 2 girls are SOOO blancita it must be pretty alarming for the spanish. In a situation like you just described, in my local town it would be the spanish mums losing the plot, rushing for ice, smothering the child with concern while the foreign mothers roll their eyes. Interesting! Though I definitely DO recognise the all-in-onesies Tintin hat tourists..
    Great post!

    • Thanks Gráinne! Ah sure that’s because you clearly don’t know anything (as you’re a foreigner). How could you possibly be qualified to know about things like children/growing vegetables/making soup? Tut. 😛

  5. Ha ha! great post very controversial and got us all commentating. And complete nonsense. My wife is Spanish, She is the one molly coddling them all and I am the one encouraging them to take risks. But then that’s just us and as we all know you can’t generalise from the specific.

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