Having survived here on the island since 2005, I like to think that we know a thing or two (through personal experiences) about the workings of the Majorcan ‘SYSTEM’ – including the ‘do’s’ along with all the definite ‘don’ts!’
The things to avoid, and more importantly, the things you need to ‘accept’, are all very much part of the big survival scheme here on the ‘La Isla de la Calma’.
It can prove really tricky at times dealing with illogical and sometimes brain numbing bureaucracy. It can be both extremely frustrating and incredibly time wasting as well as delivering an absolute nightmare headache of biblical proportions. But then that’s all part of the joy surrounding Majorcan living!
On an extremely positive note, the way they ‘do’ things here can also be very inspiring as you re-learn and re-set everything you were programmed to ‘know’ about back home in the UK. Going with the flow is a necessary learning curve for Majorcan survival, even if you don’t realise its relevant importance.
Being prepared ahead of time is a great ‘sanity’ saver. Yet, no matter how advanced you plan, the Majorcan ‘system’ has an uncanny knack of always asking you for a certain paper you don’t have, a document you’ve never heard of, or a set of figures they need ‘right now’, as the deadline is ‘tomorrow’ even though you presented everything they asked for ahead of time over a month ago! Is it just Spain that behaves this way? Or is it just me?
With this conduct in mind, we thought four weeks would be plenty of time to book the car in at our local garage for its ITV (MOT test certificate). We were surprised, to say the least, to be told that due to an enormous backlog, the ITV centre could not commit to or accept any scheduled appointments until February2020. Our ITV expired at the end of November 2019!
“So what happens if we are stopped by the infamous traffic police?” we asked. “Well!” they said, “in theory (that’s a great word used here that means nothing) if you have an ITV appointment booked, then it shows ‘intent’, so they shouldn’t issue you with a fine".
We were also aware that police cameras on motorways pick up expired ITV stickers displayed on car windscreens. We couldn’t think of a worse case scenario than trying to explain to ‘Traffico’ that we had ‘intent’, if our expired ITV details ever entered a central police computer and we flagged up as criminals!
We were told the best option was to go along to the ITV centre in Inca and book an appointment, then get the centre to stamp and verify the appointment, thus providing a definite motive of ‘intent’ should the need to provide such evidence ever arise! We traipsed along to the ITV centre and queued-up for an appointment which was scheduled for February 2020 and stamped to prove irrevocable ‘intent’.
The assistant behind the desk was pleasant, functional, but not really interested in the reasons behind such a backlog at the centre. Perhaps employing a few more mechanics, or stop having so many ‘puentes’ – that’s when two fiesta days (i.e. a Monday and Friday) merge over one weekend resulting in a four day closure of business.
The girl behind the desk, who suffered a terrible inability to smile, half-heartedly suggested that there are sometimes cancellations, and we could wait if we wanted. We decided to wait for half an hour, just in case!
Meanwhile, Happy Harriet finished her shift, replaced by a bright smiley person with a totally different attitude towards customer service. She asked why we were waiting, and then spent the next twenty minutes trawling through her computer looking for and double checking appointments for cancellations. Lo and behold, she found a cancellation for the following day and immediately reserved the booking for us.
It just goes to show how two different people doing exactly the same job can achieve totally different results. But such is the diversity of living in Majorca. ‘Can’t be asked’ – is a common attitude here. A valuable lesson to learn - nothing is generally volunteered here in Majorca. If you don’t know or don’t ask, you could miss out on something that could be terribly important.
An example of such ignorance happened directly after the ITV incident. We suddenly thought about our ITA road car tax. The UK system is easy. You have a tax disc displayed on your windscreen. When it expires you simply renew it instantly, over the counter, at the post office (at least you did 15 years ago!)
When we first moved here we had a P.O. Box address as our house was in the heart of the countryside.
ITA road tax reminders were delivered in a batch to the village greengrocer store, who was supposed to pass them on to the appropriate individuals when they ‘popped’ into the shop. We didn’t ‘pop’ in that much so the proprietor never passed on the tax reminder. Subsequently, when we finally discovered our retail error, we also discovered we had accrued a large amount of interest on the unpaid ITA at 20%, a hefty and convenient bonus targeted at innocent, ignorant individuals like us!
In order to make sure this never happened again we raised a direct debit with our bank. Yet Other Half recently checked the account and couldn’t find any payment relating to the said ITA road tax.
It transpired to be an obvious bank error, although of course, a bank here would NEVER admit to that, endorsing once again, that you have to check and double check everything when living here in Majorca.
You have to think ahead, anticipate everything in advance, and never trust that all is being taken care of, because as much as you like to think you are keeping on top of EVERYTHING – there will always be SOMETHING!