The truth about the stereotypes

After two exciting weekends of travelling, this week has been a quieter one for me – although a quiet week in Spain is never quite as quiet as a quiet week in England (might use that as a tongue twister)! My two goals for this weekend were to descansar (rest – literally “de-tire”; what a fab word) and save some money, but I failed in them both because I treated myself in the sales here, celebrated my friend’s birthday with her and had to complete some uni work for a deadline …definitely worth it, there’s always next weekend to relax!

laras birthdayhappy birthday, Lara!

Faux-pas of the week: I met my language-exchange partner in a different cafe this week. There were two toilets with no male/female signs on them, so I turned to the lady behind me. The word for gentleman is caballero but I confused it with cabrón. I was 50/50 but decided to take my chances … and asked her which toilet was for ladies and which was for b*****ds!

Last week I mentioned we’d been discussing stereotypes in my classes; this has been inspiration for the rest of this week’s post. It got me thinking  about what we Brits think of Spain and how true I’ve found them to be. The stereotypes I’m going to discuss come from asking non-Spanish student friends (don’t worry, the uni work was better researched!).

1. “Spanish people are lazy and sleep all the time”  – FALSE

I think this stereotype comes from the siesta. Most people I speak to don’t actually go to bed all afternoon – they just chill in front of the TV for an hour or two after lunch. People who do nap go to bed (MUCH) later and sleep less at night, so they still average the 7-8 hours per night we do. At the weekend, clubs open at about the same time they close in England, so I think that anyone who does sleep a little longer in the week is completely justified and probably does so to make up for this!

Shops and services resume business after the siesta from 5-8pm so, far from being lazy, people work very long days. No one complains about this; people are happy to have jobs given the economic situation here. I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a bad work ethic!

2. “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains” – FALSE

I live in a mountain valley and it rains here. Often. Sevilla, Huelva and Cadiz are in the plains and it almost never rains in those cities!

3. “Spaniards are loud” – TRUE

When I first came to Spain I couldn’t decide whether I, or the Spanish people here, had a hearing problem! Generally, people here speak noticeably louder than people in England. They also stand closer when they talk, which makes them seem even louder! Another thing that adds to the volume is the different conversation style; here, people tend to make monologues, which someone else interrupts, talks over for a while, and then continues!

However, I ask some of my loudest students questions in English and they reply almost in whispers!

4. “Spaniards love to party!” – TRUE

See above for comments about really long nights out! Also, it’s not unusual to go out for drinks any night of the week.
There are also more public holidays, which are called fiestas/parties! We have at least one, and often two, every month!

5. “Bull-fighting is the national sport” – SORT OF

Bull-fighting did originate in Spain, and it’s certainly more popular than it is at home. There are several bull rings in La Rioja which host regular fights, and one of the boys in my class is training to be a matador. But, while some people are very proud of bull-fighting and want to keep the tradition alive, there also campaigns to ban it on the grounds of cruelty and some autonomous regions have already done so.

However, as far as national sports go, people don’t love it even nearly as much as we do cricket or rugby. Football is surely the notion’s favourite sport – it’s everywhere. I can’t think of a cafe or bar that doesn’t show it, and the radio station played on the bus is always reporting scores. There is a free channel on the television dedicated solely to football, and a whole section of on of the news programmes on another! I’ve started to avoid bringing it up in classes because discussions get uncontrollably passionate!

6. “The Spanish are really open and friendly” – FALSE

 I think people imagine this. No one is like this.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some lovely, friendly people, but in general I don’t think that people  are any more or less friendly than people in the UK. Many people are very effusive and enthusiastic, whereas others can be quite cold and standoffish. My Spanish flatmate couldn’t have been much less welcoming and had a tight-knit and closed group of friends she’d known since childhood, as do many people – especially those from the pueblos (villages and small towns in the countryside). As in any work place, some people at work are quite standoffish, whereas I’m really grateful to others who were incredibly welcoming and have become lovely friends.

Noone has ever been “too open” and shared anything that’s made me feel uncomfortable (other than the constipada misunderstanding!).

7. “All of the men look like Antonio Banderas/ Enrique Iglesias” – FALSE

Disappointingly not.

enriqueHola Enrique

In case you were wondering, my students think that the British are emotionless, overly polite and aggressive drunks (…is there a contradiction there!?). They think that we eat a full English breakfast every day (I would if I could get away with that and stay a size 10!), drink a lot of tea and  that we’re all royalists.

Earlier in the year, someone told me I was one of the most stereotypically English people he’d ever met …”except for the football hooliganism!” I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, now!


2 thoughts on “The truth about the stereotypes

  1. Maddie!!! I didn’t know about your blog!! We have to do some typical-Rioja activity!!!

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