Spend some time on any English language travel forum concerning Tenerife and the same perceptions of parts of the island will raise their misguided heads at some point.
The north of Tenerife is usually cool, cloudy and damp. The south of Tenerife is Britain in the sun with Playa de las Américas a tacky hell hole of drunken young bucks (clearly if you’re a young buck who likes to drink it won’t be a hell hole at all, it will be Nirvana).
Generally speaking, these perceptions often come from people who don’t regularly spend a lot of time outside of the parts of the island they know.
Take Playa de las Américas. The resort is bad mouthed by many people as being all that’s not good about mass tourism on Tenerife – cheap, tacky and maybe even dangerous. I’ve even heard this view from people who live not that far from the resort.
And yet it’s not accurate. The Safari Centre area is as stylish a resort area as you’ll find on Tenerife – modern, chic, upmarket, quite sophisticated and does what it does extremely well.
The point is that opinions are often either not always based on first hand experience or are based on extremely limited experience and can therefore be not wholly accurate at best and completely and utterly wrong at worst. I could go onto a UGC (user generated content) site any day of the week and pick out answers to travellers’ questions that make me cringe they are so way off the mark.
But maybe that’s for another post.
For a long time I believed it was mainly some expats and visitors who were responsible for stoking the misconceptions relating to various parts of Tenerife. But over the years I’ve come to realise that the culprits stretch beyond incomers. The local Canarian population can be just as guilty.
The first time I thought this was at a tiny festival in the hills in the upper Orotava Valley. A man in colourful traditional costume latched on to us. He’d been drinking solid for two days and was as drunk as a skunk. It was amusing to hear his perceptions of a place that bordered on the quasi-mythical as far as he was concerned. A place he’d never visited as it was full of drunken British people and the mafia. He was talking about the resorts in the south of Tenerife.
It wasn’t too difficult to figure out where a campesino who rarely left his hillside got this ridiculous picture of life in the south. I remember a newspaper article where his outspoken mayor had a go at Tenerife’s southern resorts, saying all the money there arrived in suitcases.
A lot of the time it hasn’t been quite as extreme as that, usually it’s comments that the south wasn’t really Tenerife. On one occasion a northern based guide dismissed it as such to a visiting travel writer as we drove through the main resorts.
When it comes to southern locals’ views of the north, the weather has been the subject that comes up most in conversations.
Recently when we arrived in a cool, damp south, the Canarian owner of a hotel’s mouth almost hit the ground when we told him we’d left warm, sunny weather in the north. In fact he simply refused to believe the weather in the north could ever be warmer and sunnier than the weather in the south.
That view seems relatively common. There have been many times on our stays in southern parts when it’s come up in conversation that we live in the north, a local will make a comment along the lines of ‘it must be nice to come to the warmth and sunshine’. Replies of ‘actually it’s sunny and warm over that side as well,’ are usually met with a widening of eyes, a half smile and a Canarian version of ‘get out of here’.
It’s interesting that, in our experiences, the views of locals haven’t really been that different from anyone else who has limited experience of the areas of Tenerife outside of where they stay – whether as a resident or visitor.
What is equally interesting is that generally locals we’ve spoken to who grew up or lived on one side of the island but have worked on the other haven’t generally had the same misconceptions about either side. The difference being they had first hand knowledge of the reality of living/working/spending a lot of time in both areas.
Finally, one of the oddest summings up came from a friend talking about people in a specific area. It was so outrageous, we burst out laughing when he said it even though he was deadly serious.
“They’re all ugly… really, really ugly.”
My lips are sealed as to where he was talking about.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+