I, Guiri

Here in Andalusia Spring doesn’t always come early. This year, after a Winter which seemed not to exist, the weather became unsettled and cool in March, those conditions lasting until very recently.

Then Wham! the heat of a powerful late April sun mixed with a warm breeze brings about a feel more akin to Summer than Spring. And so…

I wear shorts.

This morning it was sunny again but less warm. I didn’t realise the temperature had dropped until I stepped outside the door, whereupon a Spanish friend of mine told me in no uncertain terms that I had got those shorts out waaaay too early. He even lifted up his trouser leg to reveal a skin colour almost as pale as mine. “El problema es éste” (This is the problem, he said, with a knowing grin).

No shorts until late May is the moral of the story because shorts in April make you look like a Guiri (pronounced Girry). I’m already a Guiri as it happens, but the shorts just accentuate my guiri nature.

What, you may ask, is a guiri?

A foreigner in Spain.

Easy to spot. They usually wear shorts at the wrong time of year.

(Ha! As I write this I notice have changed back into trousers!)

Okay, so what’s the problem with being a guiri in Spain? Why would any foreigner try to avoid the guiri tag?

During my 12 years living in Andalusia I have come across this word time and again, and on each occasion I get the feeling it’s being used in a derogatory sense. You know what I mean? “Look! There goes another idiotic guiri” (wearing shorts at the wrong time of the year, walking in the sun instead of in the shade, drinking too much beer, speaking English louder in an attempt to be understood, getting sunburnt, tipping the waiter too high etc etc).

Now let me check something online because last year the head of Tourism here in Arcos de la Frontera told me that Guiri was not a derogatory term at all but rather referred simply to ‘Someone not from these parts’. She went on to say that the word itself was used to describe the belts worn by Napoleon’s soldiers when they occupied this area in the 1800s. So let me check that. Back in a minute…

Right, the origin of the word Guiri is not clear but one commentator suggests it comes from the badges around the necks of the British military who, acting on the orders of Wellington, fought in Spain against Napoleon’s army. Where now their military insignia is EIIR, back then the insignia was GIRI.

That doesn’t explain whether or not the word has a derogatory meaning, so I have turned to Google images:

Image: princess-aubergine.tumblr.com

Image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVyUDoWLGv4

Image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UHnZJ1jGyc

Guiri. Derogatory of not derogatory?!

See you soon readers!


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

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