Our experience of camping sur la continent is reaching moderate proportions so we may feel entitled to discuss the behavioural patterns of the average camper with mild authority if not a litle humour. In fact I was totting it up and in all we have now spent a total of a shade under 40 weeks in about 30 camp sites in France, Spain and Italy. Not exhaustive if at times ezhausting. I have not counted rented accommodation which would total well over 60 weeks as the exchange with the host environment is very different.
To begin I shall attack the home front. Brits abroad do indeed speak ENG---LISH; that is very loud and slowly. There are some like us who essay a little French (Janet's is rather good actually) but for most of us it would not even have graced our French essays! Franglais and Spanglish is the usual fare; in Itay we tend to fall back on ENG-LISH. This is in contrast to our Dutch and Germand travellers who stick to Dutch and German for the residents and English when they see our registration.. They seem all to speak quite decent, even good English. They seem also to assume this will be true of the French and Spanish but are quickly disillusioned if not dissuaded. But if you greet them as I do on a French site with Bonjour or Buenos Dias in Spain you get a very odd reaction, as if you had somehow committed a great sin and needed to be re-trained immediately. Indeed, some German visitors will not forgive me if I suggest they are positively uncouth when addressed in anything other than English, or a tentative Guten Morgen or whetever.
Arrival on site is also revealing. In general the English are close to unique in accepting the pitch to which they are directed without comment. I admit we do not but with this van? No choice - I choose! The Dutch and Germans will allow themselves to be shown round but will then choose their own spot. The French in France of course will tend to do their own thing and why not. Ditto the Spanish in Spain although we did not see so many of them - they seem to prefer their self-constructed, semi-permanent, not-even-vaguely-mobile mobile units with huge awnings or solid sun shades, terraces, and various garden storage kit. All wired, all drained.
Spanish sites can be a bit tight for space compared to French and especially English sites. Italian are somewhere between but, like Spain are full of permanents. But Spanish sites have, as I said elsewhere, the best loos, indeed entire servicios, of all.
The continentals prefer their motor homes, especially the Dutch but they rarely stay long anywhere but on the Med so they arrive late p.m., set up, gather together, talk endlessly, eat sparingly, sleep early and disappear soon after the morning dew. The Germans are similar but less inclined to group up so the chat is quieter. Sadly neither language is very pretty to listen to and, like us, they laugh too loudly and not often. The French and Spanish do not group at all but they tend to be cheery, laughing a lot especially the Spanish in Spain - don't see enough of them out of their own country to comment. The English of course do tend to congregate but converse? That English reserve seems to forbid more than a hello and a wave. Dogs of course are great ice breakers but the usual limit of exchange is - where you been; where you going; when you going; where you live. That's about it really.
Life long campsite friendships are unlikely on the sort of tour we take as for most of the time our campsites are either other people transit camps (sun-seeking southboud/ sun-drenched northbound) or too far off the beaten track anyway out of season. Usually it is the Dutch who want to exchange email addresses, aklthough I have exchanged recently weith a Brit. And there was the charming couple from Warrington on their first tour who asked and got help and advice but then suddenly left without warning. They were so worried about tripping over their (huge UK like mine) satellite dish that they ringed it with the empty 5 litre water bottles that I assume they had gathered on their trip. By the time we met up at Haro in la Rioja they had seven of the ruddy things round this dish! They must have entirely filled the inside of their motor home when they travelled!
Many of our fellow campers don't seem to go anywhere much. Obj=viously those who only stop the night have no time. But whenever I talk to them it turns out that either they have often stopped one night on this site or it is their first time in this area. How can they just pass through? The whol point of a caravan or a camper is freedom to explore. So why don't they explore? We have begun to notice that the Germans seem always to shop in Lidll - that's about as barren as seeking out a Tesco when in France! We have been in a Lidly over here and it is EXACTKY the same as in the UK. same layout, same stock, same tedious set up and same total lack of chech out staff howvere busy it is. Mind you, we coukld save a bob or two and it would make a change - it is Greman and we hardkly ever use them at home!