It was just one of those days. You will all know what I mean when I say this, as we all have them from time to time. It was one of those days when something that might have been relatively straightforward in the UK, could potentially turn into an expensive expat nightmare. Most expats will empathize with those situations where one feels particularly vulnerable, mostly due to language and cultural differences. Indeed, it was the kind of day when I began to wish that I had turned right instead of left…
One second I was driving down a one-way village street, and the next, there was a loud thud and unhealthy sounding scrape, as a car reversed into my car. Of course, it is important to recognize the priorities of life, first of all; thankfully no one was hurt, but I was a little taken aback when I saw the woman driver in the offending car shaking her fist at me. I got out of the car, and I could see that the only thing that the woman had hurt was her pride. I was also a little taken aback when I saw her briefly brush her hair and check her lips and mascara, before she got out of the car. Hmm, maybe she thought I would ask her out on a date afterwards.
Once the problem that she had caused had sunk in, the woman eventually got out of her car and poured a babble of a language that I did not understand over me. It was a language I did not recognize as English, French, German or Spanish, but as an expat I have always found mime to be an incredibly useful addition to any language. I took a look at her car, where I could see minor damage to the front wing. My car seemed to have got the worst of the incident, as not only was the rear wing damaged, but the two doors also had suffered nasty scrapes and dents to the paintwork.
She was not a young woman, but stylish to a fault. From her gestures I could work out that she wanted my insurance details. No problem, but she appeared reluctant to give me hers in return. I had learned a long time ago that this was never the time to apportion blame or to expect an apology. However, I did insist upon receiving all her details in return, although I was a little alarmed that she could not find her own insurance details. It was at this point that I began to wonder if she actually had any insurance.
By now a large crowd had gathered around our two cars. With unemployment being so high in the village, there was no shortage of spectators, together with offers of help and advice; after all, Canarians are very friendly and gregarious people. I began to wonder if this situation could get difficult but, to my surprise, several members of the gathered crowd were urging the flustered woman to give me her details, although she could not find the insurance document in the car. Eventually, I could see that there was no point in pressing her further, took her name and address, car registration company, as well as the name of the insurance company that she thought she was insured with. I also took several photos of the damage with my phone, and went on my way.
A quick telephone call to my own insurance company later made me grateful for selecting a Spanish company that had an English-speaking department to assist me. Although now relatively confident in speaking Spanish, I always urge expats that in matters, medical, legal and financial, and unless one is totally confident in the language, it is wise to involve a professional translator; it was for this reason that I had selected a company that could communicate with me in perfect English. Within minutes, all the details had been confirmed, I was directed to a local car body repairer and reassured that whatever the situation with the other driver’s insurance, that I would be fully covered at no cost to myself. I could not have wished for better service.
One week later and I have now collected my vehicle from the body repair shop, and it looks almost as good as new. The strange thing was that two weeks earlier, someone else had crashed into the wing on the other side of my car. Maybe someone just wanted me to have a matching pair?