Spanish Stereotypes: the most common

Tuesday January 30, 2024 | Spanish Language | Posted by studyspanishinspain

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    Spanish Stereotypes: the most common

    Spanish Stereotypes: like any other, Spain has them too. Whether accurate or not, they shape foreigners’ perceptions about the Spanish culture even if they have never stepped foot in Spain itself! Funny, offensive, true, or just downright false, let’s look at Spanish stereotypes, which are the most common. Are Spanish stereotypes still relevant to the culture today? So get ready for some stereotype validation and stereotype-busting.

    If you ask a group of strangers who have never visited Spain about what first comes to mind when they think of Spain and Spanish culture, what would they say? We talked with some Spanish teachers and host families about their relationship with these Spanish stereotypes and whether they represent their daily life and culture.

    Here we go!

    Spanish Stereotypes: the most common

    Stereotype 1: all Spanish eat Paella (every day)

    Despite common conception, Spaniards only eat Paella sometimes! In fact, Paella is more common in Valencia. You are probably thinking about the Paella full of shellfish and other seafood. Well, the Paella Valenciana, which was invented in the fields of Valencia, where there are not too many shrimp and squid, is made with chicken, pork, rabbit, and, in the past, snails. If you are going to eat Paella, make sure it’s in Valencia because the Paella in the tourist centers of Madrid and Barcelona are full of terrible paella dishes, much of which are pre-cooked, frozen, and finished off to order. They are not the real deal!

    Also, Spaniards do not eat Paella at night! Paella is a bit heavy for dinner. Spanish people save their heaviest dishes for lunch and the lighter eating for the evening. So get your Paella when the sun shines and not when the moon is out.

    There are thousands of famous dishes from Spain, and every region has its own specialties and cuisine. You could argue that the Spanish tortilla is a much more popular dish in every region of Spain. If you want to learn more about Spanish food, please read our blog about our 10 favorite Spanish tapas.

    Stereotype 2: all Spaniards love Bull flights

    Although bullfighting has deep roots in the Spanish culture, the tradition dating back to A.D. 711, many Spaniards have mixed feelings about bullfighting. Some Spaniards find the act an art form, while others find it an act of animal abuse.

    It’s actually quite unpopular amongst younger people. A national survey from Encuesta de Hábitos y Prácticas Culturales en España shows that 65% of Spaniards are interested in bullfighting between 0 and 2 out of 10. This figure rises to 72.1% for people aged 15 to 19 and 76,4% for those aged 20 to 24. Only 5.9% of the population claims an interest between 9 and 10 in the spectacle (2018-2019 statistics). Bullfighting is already illegal in the autonomous region of Catalonia and in the Canary Islands. So, the tradition is undoubtedly fading, and there have been drops in the number of bullfights yearly.
      Bullfight Spanish stereotype  

    Stereotype 3: every Spaniard plays Flamenco music

    Are you ready to hear Spanish guitar being played from every beautiful courtyard in Spain? We wish, but that’s not what you should expect.

    Spain is undoubtedly famous for the flamenco dance that originated in Andalusia and Murcia in southern Spain. UNESCO even recognized flamenco as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. In the U.S. and elsewhere, flamenco is a massive marker of Spanish national identity that can be seen in pop culture every day, even in movies like Toy Story 3, where Buzz Lightyear is accidentally set to Spanish mode, and he becomes a passionate flamenco dancer. But not every Spaniard knows how to dance flamenco.

    However, Inside Spain, the relationship between flamenco and Spanish national identity has been tense for over a century. Indeed, the world’s love of flamenco has long created troubles within Spain, where the performance was once seen as an offensive and pornographic show, especially among the elite. Today, there is a bit of a divided perception about the dance and art form. Some people still believe that the dance is a bit backward and low-class.

    If you go to a flamenco show, you will likely see other tourists around you because these world-class artists need tourism to survive. After all, flamenco venues are not filling up with locals. There are just not enough fans. Some locals may know a few moves but don’t know anything about the singing aspect of the dance.

    To top it off, there are other regional dances: In Madrid, it’s the chotis; in Galicia, the muiñeira; the jota in Aragón; and the sardana in Catalonia, just to give a few examples.

    Read more: What’s the Fuzz about flamenco?
      Flamenc Music Spain  

    Stereotype 4: Spanish are lazy

    Spaniards definitely work, and they work hard!

    But, the Spanish “work to live” rather than “live to work.” Spaniards also talk about their work less. A widespread small-talk question in other countries is, “What do you do?” But, if you ask in Spain, people might be confused as to why you are asking about work when you should be trying to enjoy yourself. It may feel weird to ask, “how is work?” to a group of Spaniards. Spaniards are much more conscious about maintaining their work-life balance than in other countries and greatly appreciate their differences.

    Another fact to bust the stereotype that Spaniards are all lazy is that they actually work very long hours, and it’s normal for people to work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. These extended hours result from the idea when employees must be present when their boss is in the office. Instead of focusing on being productive or getting the stuff done, it’s more like, “My boss is here; I better be here too.” So if the boss is sitting at his desk, you have to show that you are sitting at your desk too, even if you have finished your work for the day! And, there are also longer lunch breaks in Spain as well.

    And remember, every culture and country has its own perception of time. If you use the word “inefficient” to describe another culture, you should ask yourself, “inefficient as compared to what?” Coming to the meeting on time? Making a certain amount of money in a day? But if you are talking about the efficiency of making personal relationships, Spain’s got you beat. What is your priority, and what do you want to be efficient at? Just because your culture has specific priorities doesn’t mean others are lazy.

    Stereotype 5: Late dinners and late nights

    Spain is a country where people stay up very late. Spaniards actually sleep about 1 hour less on average than the rest of the European Union because they are getting home so late from work; then they have to squeeze in family time, have dinner and when you finally do lay down for bed it’s about 1 a.m. There are even TV shows for kids that go well past midnight. If you are an early riser you may find it difficult to balance your social life here in Spain. Children go to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

    There is also the concept of “sobremesa,” when you finish your dinner, you may have desserts and coffee followed by mix drinks like a Cubata or perhaps a digestivo and the conversation continues. The drinks and conversation can last for one to two hours even after the meal. So if you go to Spain be prepared to eat and sit for hours just talking and talking with family and friends. If you would like to learn more about Spanish words that do not exist in English, like the word, “sobremesa,” then check out this blog with common Spanish words.

    Stereotype 6: Catholicism in Spain

    Are most Spaniards good church going Catholics? Religion in Spain is more of a generational thing. According to the Spanish Center for Sociological Research, 60.2% of Spanish citizens self-identify as Catholics, (40.5% define themselves as not practicing, while 19.7% as practicing, down from 90% in 1978. So, Catholicism may be strong as a tradition or a social club, but not as a practice.

    Stereotype 7: Spaniards are Passionate

    Spain is the country of Picasso, Dalí and Penelope Cruz, so of course there is passion!

    This passion really converts into openness, friendliness, and warmth. The bars are very loud because people love to talk in Spain! There is great sincerity and directness when starting and having a conversation here, even with strangers.
      Salvador Dali Spain  

    Stereotype 8: The Spanish lisp

    You hear right from the Spaniards when they say, “Once and for all we don’t speak with a lisp!”

    In the central and northern parts of Spain, when you see the letters “Za,” “Zo,” “Zu,” “Ce,” and “Ci, ” they are pronounced “th,” but that is not a lisp; that is just the accent, the way you pronounce those letters in Spanish.

    In some southern parts of Spain, there is the “ceceo” phenomenon. This means that the “s” sound is pronounced “th.” So, these people can pronounce the “s” sound; they just choose not to.

    In Andalucía and the Canary Islands there is the “seseo” phenomena where instead of using the “th” sound they use the “s” sound. Again, they can use the sound “th,” but they just choose not to.

    Stereotype 9: Spain = Mexico?

    We find the concept of Spain being the same as Mexico a bit confusing as they are in very different parts of the world. However, people that don’t know much or are not very involved in the Latin or Spanish-speaking culture, apparently, do get confused.

    So, no – Spaniards do not eat spicy food and tacos as a staple, but they can get them at Mexican restaurants. If you Google, “Are Spain and Mexico the same?” there are a worrying number of results complete with articles helping people understand the difference between the two countries.

    Spain did colonize Mexico so there is some cultural overlap, including that the two countries share the same language, but apart from that there are huge differences, which we will not get into in this article. But, investigate independently or even visit these two unique and stunning countries.

    Spanish Stereotypes: the most common

    Stereotype 10: Spaniards sleep during the afternoons (Siesta)

    Another stereotype is that Spaniards have really long lunches with wine every day. The truth is that many Spaniards do not have this opportunity, especially during the week. But some may find some time to enjoy this practice on the weekend.

    Lunch is the main meal in Spain, so it is quite an important time for eating with family, just as dinner would be in other countries. For example, rapidly eating a sandwich for lunch while slumping over your keyboard at work may seem quite depressing for the average Spaniard. Spaniards who do not go home for lunch may take the time to bring leftovers to heat up at work and sit with their co-workers talking and conversing while they eat.

    So yes, taking a nice siesta here and there for lunch is important to the Spanish culture, but it is not as exaggerated as people think.

    Stereotype 11: Tapas all day long

    Do Spaniards go out for tapas every night? No, not everyone hits the tapas bars every night of the week. But in Spanish culture, people do not sit at home so much. That is why many foreigners may think the bars are always full!

    Spaniards love to go out into the squares, to be in the street, at the bar and generally walking around while socializing. You will even see many elderly people talking and chatting in the squares. Inviting someone over to your home in Spain is a huge deal. The beauty of tapas is that it is very fluid. You go out, you have your “paseo,” and maybe you will just stop in a bar, have a beer, nibble on something delicious, and then continue in the next bar.
      Spanish Tapas  

    Stereotype 12: Spanish people love to drink wine

    Another cliché is that Spain is a wine country. Well this stereotype is a yes regarding production; but more a ‘no’ regarding drinking. Spain has the largest covering of vines in the world and is one of the world’s top three producers. However, they are not even in the world’s top 5, 10 or twenty of wine drinkers. Here is a list of countries that drink more wine than Spain: Germany, Sweden, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, etc. But, wine consumption is increasing!

    So what are Spaniards drinking? They are drinking a lot of beer. If you go into the bars you will see people drinking little cañas or glasses of beer. Spain is a beer country.

    Stereotype 13: Spaniards are always late

    If you are going to meet someone in Spain at 3:00 p.m. and I am running 5-10 minutes late you don’t feel the need to say you are running late. If you say you are running two minutes late to a Spaniard they might think you are a psychopath, whereas this might be completely normal and polite in your country.

    On the other hand, they might be there on time, but they are flexible. Not all Spaniards are so unpunctual; there might be a little wiggle room on timing, but it’s not like, “Hey! I am a half hour late and no one will care!”

    Stereotype 14: It is always hot in Spain

    Another common misconception is that all of Spain is hot all year round! If you are looking to move to Spain because of its hot climate, get ready for disappointment. Spain is not hot all year, and not all of Spain is hot.

    Historically, Spain has advertised itself as a sun and sand destination for tourism purposes, so we can see where the confusion arises. But it can get quite cold in winter. There are actually 17 different regions (aka “comunidades”) that are subdivided into 50 provinces in Spain, each with their own, unique climate. But, Spain is blessed with some pretty amazing weather. Malaga is one of the sunniest cities in Europe. But the country’s various regions mean that the weather can be quite different.
      Spain's Climate Zones  

    Stereotype 15: my host family will serve Sangria for lunch

    The truth is that Spaniards do drink sangria. A bunch of friends might get together at the bar and order a couple of jugs because it’s fun, boozy and cheap. Or, someone might make a bowl for a birthday party.. But the tourists guzzle down gallons more than the locals ever do. Actually, many bars don’t make sangria with brandy and soaking the fruit overnight. In Spain, sangria might be red wine, slightly sweetened soda water and some fruit.

    But the locals love to drink tinto de verano, which just means a summer red wine. It’s red wine, slightly sweetened with soda water or lemon Fanta, ice, and a slice of lemon. You should order that in a Spanish bar if you do not want to look like a total Spanish newbie!

    Stereotype 16: Spanish food is spicy

    So many people think that Spanish food is spicy, and while they do use a lot of spices like saffron, paprika, and garlic, it’s not the kind of cuisine that will set your mouth on fire. You will find spicy food in… Mexico (and elsewhere, of course).

    While there are so many other Spanish stereotypes, these Spanish Stereotypes: the most common. f you want to break free from the stereotypes you have of Spaniards and the Spanish culture, the best way to do that is to visit the country for a Spanish immersion course in Spain yourself – and even better if you study, work or live there! Nothing is better than a Spanish language course in Spain with a homestay, where you can make new local friends and get out into the real Spanish culture, far away from the tourist traps.

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