Like all nations of the world, there are many popular stereotypes about Spain. Flamenco is everywhere, isn’t it? It’s always sunny! Spanish people don’t really work, do they?
I’d like to challenge some of those falsely-held beliefs.
1. Flamenco is a popular Spanish dance; everyone knows how to perform it
When people envisage Spain, they think classical guitar, maracas and red silk dresses; elegant women fanning their faces; old men playing for them to dance. This is, of course, the unmistakable image of the illustrious Flamenco tradition. Known the world over, this art-form actually originated in Andalusia. Its real home is Seville and it’s not true that it’s popular all over Spain. To dance the Flamenco requires real discipline, years of tutelage and lots of practice. The average Spanish person doesn’t know how to and probably doesn’t want to learn!
2. Bullfighting is their national sport
Wrong! Bullfighting isn’t even considered a sport in Spain. Instead, it is viewed as a cultural tradition and only 25% of people support it. In fact, due to growing concerns from animal rights groups, some regions, like Catalonia, have banned it completely. Today, the bullfighting tradition is in crisis. Less and less people go to watch it every year because they don’t believe it is suited to modern-day life. Seemingly, it is only a matter of years until it disappears altogether.
3. Spanish people have dark hair, skin and eyes
Not, strictly speaking, true. Though many people from the southern regions may be more bronzed in complexion, Spain actually has a fairly high diversity when it comes to physical characteristics. This is due to its rich cultural heritage. Germanic tribes, such as the Visigoths and Vandals, are among modern-day Spaniards’ distant ancestors. Therefore, many Spanish people are fair skinned with blue eyes and blonde hair. Just like the UK, having tanned skin is a symbol of social status; it denotes that someone has the disposable income to go on holiday and sunbathe on the beach.
4. All Spanish people are lazy; they always take siestas and they hardly ever work
This is probably the most inaccurate of them all. When I arrived in Spain I was surprised at how long the working hours were. Instead of the 9-5 routine – with which we are accustomed – a typical working day here is from 8am to 8pm. According to EU statistics, Spanish employees work for 38.5 hours per week, whereas in the UK they work 36.3. Spanish people actually sleep less than the average European and, more importantly, only around 20% of them observe the siesta. This group largely consists of elderly and retired people living in rural areas; those who live in the city are unlikely to take a midday nap.
5. Spain is the land of sun, sea and sand
It is true that, due to its position on the extreme south of the continent, Spain enjoys more sunny days than the rest of Europe. However, the country’s geography and climate are very varied. In the north, for example, it is less sunny than the south and the central regions can get very chilly in winter. The majority of the hot weather is found along the Mediterranean coast and in the south. The countless holiday destinations along these stretches of land have doubtless informed this stereotype.
6. Paella usually contains seafood
Undoubtedly one of Spain’s most famous dishes, many people associate paella with seafood. However, in its original Valencian form, it is actually served with meat from the land, such as rabbit, chicken and occasionally snails! As is often the case with traditional cuisine, paella derives from the homogenous need of the proletariat to eat sufficiently but as frugally as possible.
7. Spaniards love eating and drinking for hours upon end in bars and restaurants
This one is at least partially valid. For Spanish people, like most Europeans, eating is a highly social activity. It’s a time to come together with family and friends, relax, maintain relationships and enjoy one another’s company. Therefore, it is not uncommon for mealtimes to last up to two hours. It is normal to meet family and friends outside of the home (in bars or restaurants). Also, it’s very typical to meet with colleagues after work to drink a beer or two. (Not unlike most of us Europeans, then!)
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