Perception vs. Reality: Busting Common Stereotypes of Spain and the Modern Spaniard…

O.K., so having been here for a month, I’ve gotten to know quite a few españoles…Now, I’m not saying that there’s a “typical” Spaniard–after all, there’s no one who’s truly “typical” from any culture…However, it has to be said that many of the perceptions people have about Spaniards tend to be untrue for many of them–And here’s where I’ll try to bust some of the common cultural myths that surround los españoles (and España, itself)…

1) All Spaniards have dark hair, skin, and eyes–Granted, there are a good deal of people here who have this genetic make-up…


…Paz Vega–A gorgeous brunette española

However, keep in mind that Spain is a country with people of countless phenotypes–Take, for instance, my intercambio partner, Patricia…


…Blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin–I rest my case…

2) Spain is a very Catholic country–Granted, while there has been a very lengthy and strong tradition of Catholicism here, and while there are still people who go to Mass, most people here are either nominally Catholic (having only been to Mass barely enough times to count on one hand), don’t follow that faith, or don’t really believe in anything–Case in point: My host mom’s Buddhist…

3) Spaniards are lazy–This is an understandable stereotype, given that this is the birthplace of the siesta…However, the Spaniards that I’ve met here are very hard-working, always out-and-about, studying, putting in hours at work (if they have a job [I’m not saying that to be funny–the unemployment rate of Spain is 27 % {the population is 47 million–do the math}]), doing whatever needs to be done…


4) Spaniards love flamenco–This is not necessarily true for all of Spain–moreso with Andalucía, the birthplace of flamenco…In fact, I’ve heard more English-speaking music here than anything else…


5) Spain’s the land of constant sun–Again, really only true about the South…Further up where I live, The Plain (The rain in Spain falls mainly in The Plain), the climate is extreme–really cold in the winter (there have been few days where I’ve stepped outside and it hasn’t been cold and/or raining), yet blisteringly hot in the summer…And up further North, it’s rainy like England all the time…So, yeah…


6) Spanish food/culture is similar to those of Mexican–O.K., I get really irritated with this one, because 1) Spain is in Europe, and 2) Spanish cuisine is not spicy, at all…And just because two cultures share a language, does not mean their culture’s are identical (at all)…


…This, compared to…


…this (hello)

7) All the men here are tall, sophisticated, and handsome–While I have seen/met my fair share of well-educated, comely young Spaniards, I’ve seen a lot more who are your Jersey-Shore (or Gandia Shore)-type tool…Also, ladies, sorry to break this to you, but a great deal of the men here are deplorably short (lo siento, Javi(s), si lo estás(áis) leyendo, pero sabes(éis) que es la verdad)…So if your ideal man is a tall, cultured European, you’d have better luck looking elsewhere in Europe (like Scandinavia)…


…Alas–Not all Spaniards look like Jon Kortajarena…

8) Spaniards enjoy bullfighting–While it is acknowledged as a cultural tradition, only 1/3 of Spaniards today actually enjoy it, and many would like to see it banned completely, viewing it as unnecessary cruelty…


On a final note, while not everything you hear about Spain and it’s people, it’s still a fabulous country, with plenty of interesting people with their own amazing histories and stories, :-)…


16 thoughts on “Perception vs. Reality: Busting Common Stereotypes of Spain and the Modern Spaniard…

  1. splooge

    The female model on top(Paz Vega) and the male model(Jon Kortajarena) on the bottom are considered fair skinned under indian standards.
    So curious are they considered swarthy people by european standards(like the ideal complexion)?
    Because they look light skinned to me, Varga espically(I’d shes white then brown).

    1. …Well, in regard to the stereotype that people have of the “dark, brooding Spaniard”, Sra. Vega and Sr. Kortajarena definitely fit that image better than my friend Patricia, who, as you can see, is rather fair in comparison…And compared to people from other parts of Europe (i.e. the UK, Scandanavia, Eastern Europe), many Southern Europeans (like the Spaniards) are a bit darker in color–but like I said, not everyone in Spain is very “Moorish”, as they would say…And I haven’t been to India (yet), but I would imagine that they would be considered “fair-skinned” by that culture’s standards…Hope that clears some things!!!!

      1. splooge

        ok I was just wondering what they meant by tall dark and handsome. Well the “dark” in particular since what they considered “dark” is fair to us. I was just wondering what their ideal complexion was.

        1. …Well, of course the idea of the “ideal” complexion varies from person to person…However, in the eyes of many Westerners, someone with a “dark” complexion is considered very exotic–just food for thought!!…

  2. Artaxerxes

    Thanks for the good points on Spain. It is a very interesting country, which is reputed to emit a very ‘warm’ ambience to visitors.

    Speaking of the physical appearance of people – though – how would you compare the people of the ‘Upper’ Middle-East (Syria, Upper Palestine, Northern Jordan, Northern Iraq, North Western Iran) to Spaniards ?

    I always thought many Nothern Middle-Easterners are pretty close to the Southern European appearance.

  3. Loved your observations Betty. I had heard so much about the tall and handsome men of Spain but perhaps my bad luck did not come across even single one when I was there 🙂

  4. Alex

    The rest are valid but point No.6? That is more coming from an average American!

    As for the lazy factor, Spain is typically mediterrnean european, so this means they aren’t necessarily lazy but they just know how to relax and they know their body and feeling. However, when they work, they work smartly and with quality. This is a very latin approach, what you find within latin culture and people. Sometimes the old, traditional ways are actually what should be done, and what we could learn from. You don’t mess with some of it. It’s the Anglo/American world that doesn’t understand this latin or even European approach and mentality. They just point fingers and judge. Meanwhile, if there’s anyone to blame for how France’s lunch breaks are more rushed these days, or how there is more business in say, Southern European countries (especially latin culture countries), then blame the Anglo/American world for forcing some of their (incorrect) ways and saying that this is the way how things should be done. Respect other cultures, modes and paces.

    As for the looks and characteristics, overall Spain and their people are olive-skinned with different degrees of it, and darker hair – as in not blonde. Some have black hair but overall, many are in the browns. But just like some other countries situation, the more north you go, the more lighter and lighter hair colour and eyes you will find. It has to do with the history and tribes/invaders as well. But once again, it doesn’t mean you won’t encounter a person (with roots there) in Southern Spain who is fairer and dirty-blond with blue eyes. You can find a few people like this even in the south of Spain. Overall, Spain is just under “mediterranean europe” of people and characteristics. This includes being shorter, but that is compared to the Northern Europeans. Again, southern europeans are shorter, but as usual, not 100% are like this. The Iberians (Spanish/Portuguese) are known to have smaller builds/bones despite what their height is. But there are also those who are big-boned of whatever height. But yes, it is only when you compare Southern Europeans with the Northern Europeans, then they are overall shorter and smaller.

    1. Alex

      The Southern Europeans being more relaxed and “lazy” also comes naturally with the geography. The summers are very long and hot, and it makes sense for them to stay inside during the peak of the heat of the day and continue their day after this has passed. Being closer to the equator and having hotter temperatures also causes people to feel sapped and tired, naturally. As for the bullfighting, you have to see what kind of eyes and viewpoint you have, because it’s a part of culture, that’s all. Which is worse, leaving bullfighting as is……or……having a hand in wiping it out completely? That would be the tragedy. It’s all about the fine line and respect for other cultures and modes.

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