The Language Barrier: Lunch

This week, Josh made the mistake of agreeing to company lunch…


Conventional wisdom states that to ‘make the most’ of being abroad it’s necessary to say yes to anything and everything. This is why I agreed to jump out of an airplane in Argentina despite being gut-wrenchingly terrified of heights. And by heights I mean climbing a stepladder gives me altitude sickness.

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‘It’s necessary to say yes to anything and everything’

So when asked, “Quieres venir” (Do you want to come with?) by a woman in the office the other day, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I hadn’t understood a word of what she had said, but so what?

Firing off an email to Harry, the only other Englishman, asking, “What have I just agreed to?”, I was relieved to find out it was only a spot of lunch. Apart from some potential banana-skins [What if my Mum is right and my table manners really are revolting? What if someone asks to taste my food? Or, worse, what if someone asks me if I want to taste their food?!] how bad could lunch be?

Accidentally taking my seat in the middle of the table, I was presented with a wooden menu. I peered in. Pricey. Seeing as the Wild Crayfish and Avocado sandwich at Pret-A-Manger is an expensive once-a-year treat, after one of these dishes it would be homemade cheese sarnies for a month.

My daily food budget

My daily food budget

Understanding only two things on the menu, (pollo, meaning chicken and ravioli meaning, well, ravioli) I asked what some of them meant. When I got “cheek, intenstine and gullet” in response I decided to play it safe. Attempting to linger as close to my budget as possible I ordered a 1/2 racion of pollo.

A bit unsure about ordering a half of something for €8, I was relieved when the first two ½ racion plates came out for my colleagues. Both were huge. And so I waited in triumphant anticipation for my own heaped portion to arrive.

A once-a-year treat

A once-a-year treat

I couldn’t have been more wrong. What came out next, for Jaime (silent J, don’t ask), was a thin slab of slate, topped with an even thinner slab of cheese sprinkled meat. Up next, Laura´s ravioli. Both of them. And Harry’s steak. Eclipsed by a pile of three ready-salted crisps.

Finally, my chicken. Or, rather, a tiny leg from my chicken. Oddly accompanied by a single prawn. By the time I had calculated how many of these I could have got for the same money in Dixy, I had finished it.

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Should have gone to Dixy

While everyone began to tot up money for their €20 slithers of meat, bottles of water and deserts, I found solace in my carefully selected €8 chicken and tap water.

So when I overheard someone dividing the bill evenly and arriving at the horrendous figure of €19.50 per head, I took it to be some sort of sick joke. But no. With a terrified look towards Harry that was greeted by an ominously slow nod, that was that. In Spain, bills are split. €19.50 for one chicken leg. And a prawn. More expensive than a skydive.