A Melting Pot in Palma

by farrah on July 3, 2015 · 4 comments

One of the things I do before I go somewhere new is check my American privilege and open my mind to the fact that things ARE going to be different. I don’t belittle, prejudge or otherwise come up with ways to insult the new place that I’m visiting. I know people who do that and it speaks volumes about them rather than who they’re criticizing. One of the reasons why is that we’re all ambassadors when we travel. Whether we like it or not we represent the people and the place where we’re coming from.

spainArrow pointing to Mallorca

My example this time comes from my quick beach trip to Mallorca. I went as an observer- and think in all honesty I spoke under 100 words the entire time I was there. I lazed at the beach for hours at a time and watched people, felt the breeze, and swam in the sea. Funny that I learned a lot while I was pretty much doing nothing.

For starters, this big strip of beach in Palma is divided up into sections. Europeans know that’s how things work- but visiting Americans are probably oblivious. The strip of beach I hung out on was divided up like this:

palma beachArrow pointing at the mile or so stretch. S’ Arenal to Playa de Palma

Where the white arrow is located above I explored about a 1.5 mile stretch of beach. In that stretch, there is a clear segregation of nationalities hanging out on the beach. No, you don’t have to sit where you’re ‘people’ are, but it exists. At the top of where I was the first day (S’Arenal) there were the locals, other Spanish, a few Brits and me. At this point I didn’t realize there were these other areas.

The next day I took a different bus to the beach and was dropped off about a mile and a half up from the day prior. I noticed that there were German flags, restaurants, and, well, all Germans. Down a bit from them were the Dutch, then the Brits, and the last section (where I started the first day) was the mishmash bordered by a marina.

mallorca beachArea the first day- I’ll go back here please.

Of course now I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of the signage on the beach cafes. They make it very, very clear as to what ‘type’ of restaurant you’re dealing with: brats & beer? croquettes? maybe a ‘proper brew’ (not beer- tea), but everyone seemed to have sangria. The cafes are all in a row- and all in order. They’re very clear: German, Dutch, British, Spanish.

I thought this was really strange on many levels- but hey. The people who live here know what they’re doing, as tourism is their top industry. Catering to the people who come to them is how they make money. It might not be how *I* want to do things when I travel- but again-check that white American privilege, girl. It’s not about me.

Thus, I spent my time, sitting (for hours) watching the people around me and wandering up and down the beach. I have to say I was happier where I was the first day- since the German group I was around was simply put, awful.

What was so bad about it?

For starters it was pretty dirty. Not with papers or food- but the cigarette butts. I was shocked at how littered the sand was everywhere in this section vs. the other places I was up on the beach. I couldn’t understand what they were doing- around my chair alone there were 10 or so butts. I stayed there because it was closer to the cafes- I didn’t like being so far away from my stuff on the beach. I figured that if I stayed here I could keep an eye on everything- that’s that.

Next up I’ll complain about the chanting groups of guys. I don’t know what the deal was- but there were large groups of men wearing matching tee-shirts who liked to chant all.day.long. They walked down the sidewalks in groups that pushed other people into the street. They were crass, insanely loud, and obnoxious spitting on the sidewalk.

Then there were the people in front of me. Late in the afternoon two young guys took up residence. They hassled the beach staff charging for the seats and at first refused to pay. They played their chanting German music, drank their beer. These things didn’t bother me. I didn’t give these guys much of a thought until I walked by them coming back up from the water and noticed they were snorting cocaine. Afterward they tossed the rolled up paper on the ground.

Now- I’m not a prude. Since we’ve been abroad I have grown tolerant to smoking in public places (it happens- if you let it stress you out you’ll never make it), and even smelling a whiff of marijuana in the air. I don’t get worked up over these things. But doing hard drugs openly on the beach I really took issue with.

I thought for sure the other people around them would say something, or at least show their disgust. At the other end of the spectrum they became super social with these two- and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. There weren’t any families or young kids around us- but an older crowd (which ironically was why I chose to sit there that day! Old people= quiet, right? No.). I was confused.

Why didn’t I move?

Well, I’m not really complaining. To be honest, none of this bothered me to the extent that I was going to pull up my camp and leave. I didn’t like it- but I wasn’t exactly going to make a big stink about it. Additionally I was alone- which is huge. If I was with the boys- we would have been gone. I would have sat where I did the first day since it was a safe bet. You do that sometimes with kids- go with what you know. I wanted to give this ‘section’ a chance and well- ended up pretty bummed out by these ambassadors of Germany.

Plus- I had already paid for my spot and I didn’t want to pay again.

So I’ll be working on a ‘traveling to Mallorca’ post which will include a hotel/beach review (nothing sponsored) and what I thought overall of Mallorca. Even with everything I gripe about above- I still want to go back with the boys because it really is awesome. Just know what areas to avoid. Interestingly, I found this article talking about the ‘Ballermanns’ which is basically who I describe above. The article is from 2013 and unfortunately they’re still there.

I’m sure if I’ve offended you you’ll let me know- but I’m curious, have you experienced a similar experience? Did you let that roll off or did you then adopt that generalization to all of that nationality?

Apparently I like to rant about tourists- here’s  a post I wrote after France.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clare July 3, 2015 at 10:57 am

I found this so interesting! After your Facebook post I’d assumed it would be us Brits who were the problem in Majorca. I know some of the young crowd can be loud. That said, I’ve come across the same sort of things you’ve talked about as with the same nationality. The cigarette stump on the beach problem also winds me up – I’ve seen alot of that over the years. Hard drugs though? Never. I’m totally appalled by that.


2 Ann July 3, 2015 at 11:32 am

Interesting. There’s a section of beach in the Philippines that’s so filled with Americans and Germans that there are more schnitzel and burger restaurants than Filipino. Never saw cocaine there, thank goodness. I’m glad the Spanish government seems to want to do something about the issue. It seems like it’s gotten so far out of hand.
What’s interesting is years ago I read an article about how german travelers tend to be the best at blending into their local environment. Which, now that I think of it is kind of funny considering how many socks and sandals Germans I saw in Florida. I wonder if Mallorca is to Germans what the worst of cancun is to Americans.


3 Ross November 7, 2015 at 10:12 am

I am an American expat living in Mallorca since 2012 and just want to say that your blog about Mallorca doesn’t really give a perspective of the island as a whole, and I did not find it very interesting. As a avid traveller you probably should have researched a little more beforehand about the beaches, if that’s all you intended to visit during your stay. But you chose one of the worst stretches of beach on the island for lazily bathing and watching the time go by. You went to spring break in Cancun. If you ever wish to return and write a more representative blog about Mallorca, contact me and I can direct you to not only the best beaches, but the best kid friendly ones as well. Cheers, Ross


4 farrah December 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Hi Ross, and I totally agree with you! I only had a snapshot- at a rather unfortunate time of year to visit- AND visit a beach that was probably one of the worst around. Truth is, I booked a trip days before (deal alert) and left without much research indeed. The two other times we’ve gone to Spain I’ve loved it- I didn’t’ expect Mallorca to be like this. In fact, I was totally shocked at how wonderful Ibiza turned out to be- as I was expecting the ‘full Cancun experience’ and wasn’t looking forward to it.

We’re currently exploring our May vacation options in Spain- and I’d love to hear your thoughts- we’re bringing the boys this time (ages 5, 5 & 7) and would love to hear about where we should stay/beaches/etc in Mallorca. We’re looking at Ibiza, Tossa de Mar and Nerja but so far flights aren’t too flexible. I promise to do a more representative blog about Mallorca too if we go 🙂 Thanks!


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