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Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Some days ago I read in a blog  (Matthew Bennet/ Let’s talk about the future of Spain) an article telling about many of the Spanish typical stereotypes. And I thought it would be of some interest to post it here.

- Spanish people eat lots of tortilla: Spanish people eat quite a lot of tortilla. A good great tortilla is one of the staples of every Spanish mother’s cooking inventory and everybody’s mum always makes the tastiest one. Tortilla is definitely very tasty and worth getting to know properly. Tortilla is not something that people eat every day though, or at every meal, and not everybody likes it.

- Spain is sun, sea and sand: depends on the part of Spain. There are beautiful parts of the north of Spain which could easily be in Wales or England due to the greeness and quantity of rainfall and cloud. There are big differences between the north of Spain, the south and Mediterranean coast. In the north and many parts of the Spanish countryside which are inland, in winter it can get very, very cold. In the south it’s sunny, clear blue skies just about all day every day, all year round. Clouds rarely appear. Rain appears even less frequently. From May until November, it’s very hot and it will try and rain a couple of times during the summer. There are, indeed, many beautiful beaches in Spain. You shouldn’t think this is all of Spain, however, not even half. There are hundreds thousands of beautiful places to visit all over Spain, whether it’s sunny, raining or covered with snow. And it’s even more fun if you get to know the people, traditions and history of the places you visit.

- All Spaniards are bullfighters or go every week to a bullfight: of course not. Bullfighting is half sport, half art, half barbarity, depending on who you ask. Bullfights are normally held in ferias or festival periods. It is incredibly complicated and understanding bullfighting (whether you’re Spanish or foreign) requires time. Recently there were news on the press about Spanish villages doing referendum to choose between spending some spare Money in smaller bulls in the ferias or investing it in creating some temporary jobs for the villages, and I have to say that the bulls option won (I am Spaniard and I admit I am not proud of that villages taking those decisions, I admit it!). The business of bullfighting moves a lot of money. It reaches across social classes. It’s been around for ages and is not going anywhere. Many Spanish people compare it to the recently banned English ’sport’ of fox-hunting. Not everybody goes to the bulls, fewer people understand it and the only people who fight bulls are the professional bullfighters. (this assumes we’re talking about proper bullfights and not smaller bulls in the many village ferias).

- All Spaniards like flamenco (and all Spanish women know how to dance flamenco): not true (not true at all, I admit it again!). Many Spanish people hate flamenco, in fact. English people think all Spanish girls know how to dance flamenco: this is because to the untrained eye it’s very easy to move around a bit and look like you’re dancing flamenco with a few swirls of your hands and hips. There are many different types of flamenco (the dance most people associate with the flamenco stereotype is called ‘sevillanas‘). Flamenco is a whole sub-culture, composed of song, dance and instrumentals, sometimes all together and sometimes individually. It’s an art. It has more followers in the south of the country where it originates from. There is traditional flamenco and there are new waves of pop-flamenco. There are many different rhythms within flamenco and most traditional flamenco songs, lyrics, dances and instrumental solos fit into one of those subtypes. It’s incredibly difficult to tell the difference between the subtypes if you’re not practiced.

- Spanish people are good at that salsa dance: nope, not at all. Many Spanish people go to salsa and other dance classes though, just like people in other countries. Most Spanish blokes have two left feet just like most English blokes and most Spanish girls love at least trying to dance a lot. Salsa was created in New York and the influences were all Caribbean and Latin American.

- Is Shakira Spanish? Nope, she’s from Colombia.

- And Ricky Martin? no, he’s from Puerto Rico.

- Everybody eats paella in Spain: No, of course not. Everybody enjoys a good one though. It’s very difficult to make well. There are many variants on what a foreigner might think is paella but which is actually a different type of rice dish.

- All Spaniards drink sangría: No, Spanish people sometimes drink sangría. The most popular drinks at meals are wine, beer and water.

- Spanish food is tapas. Some Spanish food is tapas. The idea of tapas being free is mainly a southern thing (especially in places like Granada and Almeria, where you buy a beer and basically eat for free if you go to the right places). There are hundreds of different types of tapas. Apart from tapas, there is some fantastic Spanish food which is nothing to do with tapas. Every region has its own specialities. Spain could easily be a gourmet’s paradise but don’t limit your ideas of Spanish food to tapas and paella.

- Mexico, donkeys, dusty roads and big hats: no, no, no. These are ridiculous cartoon assumptions that foreigners mix up with Spain from watching Speedy Gonzalez. There are of course, a few dusty roads and a few Mexicans in Spain. I have yet to see anybody wearing a big hat (apart from English tourists on tourist beaches and in airport waiting lounges);

- Spanish people are the same as Latin American people: no. They speak the same language, with differences (with quite differences, I should say) and of course have historical and cultural roots, but don’t mix them up: many different national cultures which all share (apart from indigenoues Latin American communities) certain common features (language, history, religion). Although this would be very debatable, a comparison with the idea of the British Commonwealth or the more general concept of ‘the English speaking world’ would not be a bad one.

- Spanish people are very lazy: no (I have met British lazy people too, for instance!). Spanish people work some of the longest hours in Europe (although have lower productivity levels) and one of the biggest problems here is lack of sleep due to noise, timetables and a general desire to live life to the full as much as possible (not now because of the crisis!). The work timetable combined with the daily-chores timetable combined with a well-filled social life means that many people don’t sleep as much as they would like to. In the south in the summer (and in many other parts of the country), it’s very, very hot and between about one o’clock and seven or eight in the evening, there’s not much point in trying to do anything, especially after lunch: it’s too hot. Life shifts a few hours at night and takes a break during the day.

- The waiter doesn’t speak English very well: of course not. The idea that everybody does or should speak English is a myth. Waiters in many countries know enough to bring you a beer and, on the other end of the jobs scale, people working in multinational companies tend to have very good English if their job involves communicating with English speakers. Learning a language properly takes years of continuous effort and practice.

- Spanish people are very rude and loud: this is something that many foreigners will notice on arriving in Spain. It’s a tricky one: the noise level is definitely higher and people shout a lot when they should be speaking normally. It doesn’t however, mean that people are being rude. It’s just the way it is most of the time.

- Spanish people drink a lot of coffeYes, lots and lots. If you like coffee, you’ll like Spain.

- Spanish people don’t know how to make a cup of tea:True. Not a clue, unless they’ve lived in England and taken a liking to tea.

- Spanish people have wierd timetables:Spanish people have a different timetable to most of the rest of Europe, althought with shifts in globalisation, this is changing in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Most things related to timetable differences are related to the weather and heat in the summer. The traditional Spanish timetable is: morning until 14:00, midday/lunchtime 14:00-17:00, afternoon from 17:00 until 21:00, followed by dinner.

- Spanish beers are very small: Yes they are, compared to English pints, but this is absolutely the best way to drink them in the summer when it’s very hot or as a refreshing slurp in winter. Imagine trying to enjoy a few pints of stout in 45ºC heat, or mixing Guiness with seafood.

- Ibiza, parties, Benicassim and Spanish music: Spain has some great parties. There is also some great Spanish music.

Have you ever been to Spain? What do you think of the post? Any more topics to add to the list or even to change? Would you like to tell your experience here?


  1. I knew some of the stuff and I learned something new, too. It may make a big difference that I'm from Europe and I've been to Spain twice ;)

  2. Ivanhoe, if you have been twice to Spain, probably you had not chance to get to know just a little bit to Spaniards, I am afraid! Have a lovely week,

  3. Oh I LOVE this post!!! You did such a great job posting all these stereotypes and it's true, some people think that these are true... I think another stereotype is that all Spaniards have a siesta. In American culture, this does not exist; some days, I wish it did ;)

  4. Señorita, I am glad you liked it, since you have been living here for a long period of time and probably you have known some of these things or perhaps not! Really the siesta is a nice thing to export, is not it hahaha? Have a nice week ahead!

  5. Excellent! You know I love wrecking stereotypes. This is a great entry. I'll share it widely on facebook and twitter. It amazes me whenever I come across journalism about Spain in the UK or US (of which this crisis has invited a lot) where they let drop any or all of these stereotypes. I think it will be a never-ending task trying to break them in the imagination of Anglophones. But we have to keep trying!

  6. Thanks for your comment Expat in Spain, I am very glad you liked and you thought it was of interest to share it. I agree with you it is so difficult to break whatever stereotypes, I suppose because it is easier to follow them than to think by ourselves and honestly think if there is something real in them. But as you say, at least, we have to make a try! Have a nice weekend,

  7. I'm way behind in my blog reading, but I still had to comment! I love your list! Spaniards are definitely not rude. Loud, yes, but not rude! ;)
    And yes, lots and lots of coffee!! I thought it was funny that you mentioned Spaniards don't know how to make tea!!! Ha!
    Oh how I miss our home of one year!!

  8. Tina, in the first place, sorry for not replying before, but I have been to Lisbon on holidays during the last days.

    Related to the post, I am glad you liked (and agreed) with the list. Thanks for leaving your comment, it is so nice hearing from you again, I hope everything is going soft in your new home for your and your family. Have a lovely summer, wherever you go and stay!

  9. Just to let you know, I wouldn't compare the British commonwealth with the Spanish America, the spanish people mixed with the natives in the americas and built a civilization in which still remain essential things such as the language (which Spain left there and evolved differently with the acquisition of a rich local vocabulary) the culture (which Spain didn´t impose it, that´s why still exists the major indigenous communities in the whole continent and when you visit any city of Spain or South America you can still see indian features everywhere or mixed with black people (mulato)) and the religion (which catholicism is still the major religion in the America). Spanish people from Spain and The Hispanic/Iberian people from america see each other as brothers, the term "Latino" is incorrect, because it was a "colonialist" term created by Napoleon III to "eliminate" the Spanish roots of México when the French unsuccessfully tried to invade them. Many of the people of South America have taken that name wrongly without knowing that "Latino" means "A person who is from Lacio" "from Rome" and Italy as far as I know as professor of History, didn´t built the Spanish Empire. However others have taken the name by the fruitful propaganda created by the protestant northern european countries known as "Black Legend" which the United Kingdom spreaded everywhere jelous that the Spanish empire became the first global empire in the world. Apart from history, you have a nice and beautiful blog, I encourage you to continue loving and enjoying Spain. All the best!


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