Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Holiday in Tarifa

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Maella, 29, France

That's an unusual name. Where does it come from?
It's a Celtic name, from Brittany, in France.

Is that where you're from?
No, I'm from a town in the Alps. I came here in 2005 for a job. My friend was opening a shop and he asked me to come and work there. I came for one summer and ended up staying. I couldn't speak Spanish. That summer was chaos. We were a French staff in Spain selling Indian stuff. It was mad.

So why did you stay?
I had a great set-up. I spent six months of the year here in Tarifa and six months in Thailand, where I had a business on the beach, selling French crepes. The first time I went to Thailand, I was nineteen. I had an amazing house, an amazing boyfriend, and a great job there. But I just decided the time was right to focus on Europe. Thailand didn't feel real. Tarifa reminds me a lot of India. The streets are messy; there are no rules. I like the feeling of living outside the system.

So you left behind your Thai boyfriend?
Yes, and it still makes me sad. He was wonderful, ten years older than me and so diplomatic. He always encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do, so when it was time to leave he just accepted that. We're still in contact though.

Sounds like a tough decision.
In a way I felt like I found paradise too easily. I felt I still had something to fight for. I wanted to travel, see New York. I was twenty-four and I felt settled. It was time to move on.

Was it difficult to settle in Tarifa?
Yes, because I had to adapt to the European way of thinking, and much of the mentality of Tarifa doesn't suit me. You know, when I came here, I had the fantasy of the Latin lover. That dark hair, olive skin. Also I love the passion of the language. I don't want to generalize, but for me, the reality did not live up the fantasy.

So what do you think about the Spanish passion now?
It's not real. To me, the North and South Europeans have very different attitudes to life. The South is more superficial. The North has more depth, is more loyal. The Spanish way of life is like watching a movie with Antonio Banderas; it's great fun to watch, but it's not real.

Have you dated guys from other countries?
My last boyfriend was Moroccan. We were together for four years, but in the end, he turned out to be a lot like the Spanish men. They are too jealous. They play by rules that are not mine. And they are too connected to their families. My Moroccan boyfriend told me he loved me every day, but when it came down to making plans for us, concessions for our relationship, he wasn't ready. This is important to me in a relationship. Don't tell me you love me. Show me.

So Tarifa is a tough place to date?
There are people here from so many places with so many different needs, so it's hard to compare. Tarifa's all about the fun, nice clothes, cool bars, coke. But what happens when reality hits? And there are so many beautiful women here — sex is everywhere. But sometimes where there are too many possibilities, it kills all the choices.

Can you find love in Tarifa?
The thing is to be open to everything. I am the kind of person who can change my plans in an instant. With Tarifa, you just never know who is going to arrive in town and what's going to happen.

Is that a yes?
It's still early days, but yes. I have met someone really nice. He makes me feel exclusive, so right now I'm very optimistic about love.


Alex, 24, Austria

What are you doing in Tarifa?
I'm here to kite.

What's your job?
I have a part-time job but I'm also in University, studying for a master's.

How's the university dating scene treating you?
It's a small university, so it's pretty quiet, but it's where I met my girlfriend, so I have to say it's good.

How long have you two been together?
Since April.

So it's a pretty new relationship? How's it going?
Great. She's fantastic. It's like we are the same person. She always knows what I'm thinking. If I look at another girl, she'll say, "She has nice boobs, doesn't she?" and that makes me laugh. She really understands me, and I'm a difficult person. I'd have to say, she's like me but with boobs.

I'm getting the feeling you're a boob man. 

Is that what you first noticed about your girlfriend?
Yes and no. It was probably her attitude. She's really relaxed and very funny. But she does have great boobs.

Do you have any good hookup stories from before you started dating?
A girl came up to me once and said, "I haven't had an internal massage for ages." I'd never heard that one before.

And you said, "No worries, I can fix that."
Pretty much.

Do you like it when girls are upfront?
Well, if it's just sex, yes. But if I like the girl, then no. It puts me off.

Because you like to feel in control?
Of course. I'm a guy.

Public sex: yes or no?
I once had sex with a girl in an airport toilet. so I'd have to say yes.

What about monogamy? Is it possible?
That's a difficult question. For some time yes, but who knows. I am young and anything is possible. But I would never cheat on a girl.

Is that your dealbreaker?
Yes. If a girl cheated on me, I'd be gone.

So would you say you are in love?
It's funny. I always wanted to be free. This girl is the first girl I've ever been serious about. Before, I always wanted to take chances. Now I just want to take a chance with her.


Renata, 28, Argentina

What are you doing in Tarifa?
I'm here for the summer, to work and travel. I'm traveling with my cousin in a van around Andalucia. A friend mentioned Tarifa to us, so we decided to come check it out. I like it, because we live from day to day, from moment to moment. I never know what's going to happen next.

Is it easy to meet guys living in a van?
Well, it's the same as living in a house, except that when you live in a van you make more time for people and can make friends more easily.

With other van dwellers?
Mostly, yes. Compared to cities like Madrid or Barcelona, Tarifa is a really friendly place. I like it a lot.

Is it better than Argentina?
Well, back in Rosario, my hometown, I had a boyfriend, so it was different. But Argentina is different because there everyone is obsessed with body image which makes the men difficult to approach. For me, Europe is more open, and Andalucia in particular. Plus in Argentina it's normal to have three or four dates before going to bed with someone. Here, no one bats an eye if you end up in bed on the first night.

Have you met any nice guys here?
Yes, some lovely tourists. I met a beautiful boy from Finland. So beautiful. He gave me his contact name on Facebook but I lost the piece of paper.

So now you can't contact him?
No. I can't remember his name. This is the problem of Tarifa. You can't meet people and think that it ever might be something serious because you never know how you're going to maintain contact. This actually makes things more complicated.

Do you want a boyfriend?
Right now, no. I decided when we started travelling that I wanted to be free. So this is my time for me.

Any funny hook-up stories from Tarifa?
One night I met a guy and he invited me out. We went dancing and at one point he said that I could crash at his. It was closer to where we were, but I wasn't into it because he was staying with five guys. But he said not to worry because he was gay and I would be safe with him. We stayed out some more and then went back to his. We were crashing out when his boyfriend came home and started getting undressed in the bedroom. Then the boyfriend turned round to me and said that they always wanted to do it with a woman and asked if I'd be up for it. It was never a fantasy of mine to sleep with a gay guy, never mind two, so I said no thanks!

Are you against threesomes?
Yes and no. It would have to be with two guys I trusted. Plus it would have to be two guys because I have no desire to be with a woman.

What kind of guys do you like?
I like artistic men. Physically, I have no specific type. I don't mind how they look.

If you found love in Tarifa, would you stay?
No, I have a plan and I plan to stick to it.

If you had the chance would you go to Finland?

So you have no interest in changing your life for a guy?
Well, there is this guy in Majorca that I really like. I spoke to him yesterday and we have plans to meet in October. Who knows? Right now, it's all day by day.

Kiara, 41

Are you on holiday here?
No, I live here. I've lived here for about six years.

Why did you move here?
To live the beach life! I lived in Madrid for years before here and I was sick of city life. Here it's plaza cultura, which means everyone sits out on terraces drinking wine till dusk, as opposed to getting fall-down drunk at midnight and dancing into the wee hours. Mind you, you can do that here too.

What's the Tarifa dating scene like?
Lots of single people here, lots of alternative people. You've got different scenes here. Los Lances beach is full of beautiful people. Then you've got lots of chiringuitos — beach bars — so people come off the beach and chill out there. They're great for meeting people.

What's the most daring place you've had sex?
In a field. Although it was not so daring as impulsive. We were waiting to catch a ferry to England. We missed that, so we had sex in the field next to the port. Oh, and I once had sex with a guy while there was another guy in the bed beside us. That didn't really do it for me.

A kind of threesome, huh?
Yeah. And he was twenty-one — I was thirty-five!

So do you like younger men?
To look at, sure. But relationship-wise, I prefer someone my own age.

Are you dating right now?
Not so much. I have a three-year-old daughter, which means I don't get the time. But she's getting older now and I'm about to move into a new, bigger apartment, so I'll have time and space. Can't wait!

Have you ever had your heart broken?

What's the best way to recover from a broken heart?
Suffer it.


Antony, 39, England

What are you doing in Tarifa?
I'm looking for DJ work.

Being a DJ must be a good way to meet women.
Not for me. I think it works for ugly men.

I see. How'd you end up in Tarifa?
I was here before. This time I planned to cycle from France, but I'm a lazy bastard, so instead I got a flight to Gibraltar, and here I am.

How's the Tarifa dating scene treating you?
Well, I was staying in a hotel. That was bad because I spent a lot of time in my room on the computer. Now I've moved to a campsite, so I feel more free.

What's the trick to hooking up with women when you're travelling?
Don't go anywhere with a girl.

You sound angry. Is there a story there?
The last time I was here I was with my ex. We were going through a bad time, actually — we were just about to split up — so I wanted to come back here single.

How's that going for you?
Like I said, I've just moved to the camp site and now I'm trying to organise some gigs. It's still early days.

What do you look for in a woman?
Tall, dark, not English. I like foreign women.

You don't like English women?
I can't stand English girls. English girls have an attitude. You start talking to them and they look you up and down as if you're dirt. They make up their minds before they even get to know you.

So you're looking for a Spanish woman?
Spanish women are amazing. I am definitely open to the idea. I'm half Spanish, on my Dad's side, but my Spanish is terrible so communicating could be a problem. Or maybe not.

What's your dealbreaker?
If they can understand me, I don't want to talk to them. I mean, if they speak English.

I'm getting the feeling that you might be unlucky in love.
No, just unlucky in lovers.

What do you think about phone sex?
It's expensive.

How about monogamy do you believe in it?
I'd say it's quite wooden. Does everyone say that?

So far you're the first. Is that your phone number written on your arm?
Yes, it is.

Is that so it's easy to give it to the ladies?
Ha! No, it's for work. Honestly.


Emma, 22, England

How long have you been in Tarifa?
Just one month now. We'll be here for five months.

What brought you to Tarifa?
We passed by here last year. Actually, our car broke down and we got stuck here. But we liked it so much that we decided to come back this year.

What do you do?
I'm a singer, and I also teach English.

Do you meet lots of guys working as a singer?
Well, that's how I met my boyfriend — at a gig in France. Actually I started talking to the drummer in his band, who's also his best friend. Then I started talking to him and found out that we were neighbors, and things went from there. He plays guitar and sings.

Does he get lots of action at gigs?
Lots of girls do come up to him, yes. But I'm not the jealous type. I don't see it as a threat. When you're in a band, that's what happens. It's kind of funny.

Are you guys in an open relationship?
Oh God, no, it's not like that.

You believe in monogamy then?
Yes, definitely.

What was about him that caught your attention?
Probably his Afro.

Would you say it was love at first sight?
I would like to say yes but really no, because we were both in other relationships at the time, but they were both going badly. It took some time before those relationships ended. But you know how it is — when you are not looking for something, it comes along.

Where do you stand on public sex?
I say yes, bring it on. Last year we were travelling in a van, and so anytime we had sex, it was pretty obvious because the van would shake. We had a washing line hanging from it and it would start rocking. No one was in any doubt as to what we were doing. There's no room for shyness when you live in a van.

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