Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Postcards from Spain: Culture in Context

The first thing that strikes me when I think about writing about my experiences here, as an American living in Spain, is all the things I don't want to write.

This is because of all the times I have been on the other side of the fence. When foreigners implore the "Natives" to read their cute little blog musings on the natives' little corner of the world, they don't imagine that how offensive the Natives will find some of those musings," for ex. "Have I become dumber since moving to America?"

Genre and the American Travel writer

The Self-loathing American/Geography snob
This is the type of person who usually grew up somewhere in bum-fuck and could not wait to move to New York, San Francisco, or Abroad, to manifest their innate sense of superiority to all the rubes they grew up with. This kind of person inevitably becomes "more" New York, San Francisco or name your Euro capital than anybody who actually grew up there. I think there is something innately fishy about being ashamed of where you come from, especially when that person came from the same place (in a manner of speaking) as me, and, therefore, looks down on me! I am not always proud of my country and don't agree with its current government, but there are still a lot of things I like about America, that I am grateful for. I realize that where I come from has played a significant role in my identity today.

The American Bigot
I was well into a reverie of the reverse type: "When Americans go abroad, waxing poetic about their fresh baguettes and Tuscan views and how they just love the relaxed pace of living in the 'Old World' they don't realize that this is because they are 'On vacation' and they are not having to get anything practical done."

This was in a moment of frustration, dealing with the headache of getting papers here, like the NIE--foreign tax ID number, whose only benefit is a big "come and get me" to the tax authorities--it's harder than you think to get, and without it you can't even get a mobile phone in Spain. Or, dealing with Customs and blocked containers and more administrative papers. In short, huffing and puffing because my immigrant status here forces me to deal with that most international, illogical and pernicious of characters: the low level civil servant.

Just at the moment, I feel myself slipping into the American bigot rant, which frankly, being married to somebody from somewhere else and having dealt with the INS on his behalf and seeing what kind of treatment you can expect from them, even if you do have a higher education and speak perfect English, and God forbid you move to another region of the US and they can't locate your file..., I was still tempted to feel all American-bigoty about how much more efficient we are at getting things done, when what do I get in my in-box? A note from my surgeon's "appeals professional," apparently he has a full-time person with this title on staff. The letter informs me that Cigna (which has now been bumped ahead of Blue Cross Blue Shield in my personal circle of Hell ranking of health insurance companies) has decided to only pay half their portion of my surgery, from back in June.

Nastygram to Cigna

So I spent the morning writing an appeal to Cigna, pointing out that the first reason they denied partial payment on my claim--that I had co-insurance, was patently false, I do not now, nor have I ever had co-insurance. So that does not exactly inspires me with confidence at how closely they reviewed my dossier, as a whole. Or, do they automatically deny payment as a policy, assuming that not everybody is going to be pissed off and energetic enough to appeal? I had a PPO, what ever happened to my choice in health care? Why should some paper pusher at Cigna determine that I should go to some hack who just happens to be in their network to have my belly sliced open from hip to hip when I could have a laparoscopic procedure done by The Male Surgeon and His Colleague, who have more published successes in this surgery than anybody else in the World, let alone the Atlanta metropolitan area? I have a poor history of wound healing and four children to run after...and so on.


Jean-Luc van Hulst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathalie said...

Good luck on your move, every place does have its specific welcome mat for newcomers. I remember those lovely ladies at the DMV quite well. Even just moving from CA to GA,I forgot to renew my driver's license before my birthday and had to stand in line for eons to re-take the whole written and driving exam.

What gets me though is the circular and contradictory logic involved in so many of those bureaucratic thingies you need to get by when you first move to a new country. You can't get y if you don't have x, but guess what you can't get x if you don't have y. In our case Spanish customs demands simultaneous "proof that we have been in this country for less than three months" and a "tarjeta de residente," which unless you're somebody special, you'd be lucky to get before three months...

Marcf said...

Hey Jean-Luc,

Good to hear you are making progress with your US move. Hope you get to enjoy it. The School situation is really f*cked in the US.. Good luck getting into anywhere and good luck with the public system.

I had to go back to the "Lycee Francais de Madrid" where I went when I was a kid to get my 3 kids. It was a french communist bureaucracy nightmare. I reminded me why I left France. It is that little "fonctionaire" spirit, buark!

The only thing that was nice about it was actually the online subscription stuff. I have found that in the case of education and papers (etat civil) the online french stuff is GREAT. I hear great things about the IRS (runs on JBoss :). It is when you throw people in the middle that it all goes to sh*t.

We are actually thoroughly enjoying the Retiro and the bario Salamanca. I think we are not even going to get a car while we are here, there is no need for a car.

Jean-Luc van Hulst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pcleddy said...

The first five minutes of Sicko, to paraphrase, says, "But this is not a movie about the uninsured. This is a movie about the insured." Let me know if you want to download a copy from my server, 700M.

Marcf said...

Hey PCLeddy,

thanks for the offer but I do like to pay for movies and IP in general :)

pcleddy said...

Entrapment attempt: FAIL!