Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Take On 9 Myths About Spain

There are myths about most countries, aren't there? Things that people believe to be true without even having been there to check for themselves? During all my time in Spain, I have been collecting a few myths about Spain and Spaniards and would like to share how I have experienced these.

To start with the most obvious ones...

Spaniards love bull fights. To this day- I have yet to meet a Spaniard who like this 'sport'. This is of course probably related to the fact that where I have spent the most time- in Catalunya and Gran Canaria, it is forbidden. (Or there are some disagreements whether it's forbidden or not in Canary Islands, but at least it is not performed.) In the south of Spain this is still deep in the culture, but it doesn't mean everyone loves it. There are loads and loads of Spaniards with the same opinion as 'the rest of us' who can't stand this unfair fight where the bull has no chance. 


Sangria is 'the drink'. Again, I have yet to see Spanish people ordering Sangria at a bar. The tourists yes. You see them with their sunburnt noses sipping away at their copas de sangria. Nothing wrong with that, simply it seems like it's a lot more popular for people visiting this country than for the people from here.

Although Sangria isn't very usual/typical, tapas certainly is. I will never forget the Basque version of tapas, the pintxos.

Flamenco is super popular. Hmm, not where I have been living anyway. Again, much like the bull fights, real Flamenco is mostly found in the south of Spain, in Andalucía. Most big cities will have a tablao de Flamenco or two, but mostly for tourists. I have seen a couple Flamenco shows, some authentic, some -although still somehow authentic, all for the tourist. The difference is in the passion, the atmosphere and the feeling that penetrates your skin when watching the real stuff. I contacted a Flamenco school here in Las Palmas to see if they could recommend a good place I could see/hear a Flamenco show, and they told me that unfortunately only in some tourist resorts will you find a Flamenco show here. The feel of this island is closer to South America than Spain in many ways, and I guess this is one of them. 

From a Flamenco competition in Málaga
Ok, so I got those out of the way. I couldn't really make a 'myth-list' without them now could I? Moving on...

Spaniards arrive late for appointments. Oh yes most do. It used to drive me crazy, but I have actually gotten used to that too. In Norway, arriving late is seen as rude and very annoying, as if you're not respecting the other person and stealing their time, but here it's just one of those things that is perfectly normal. And OK. And no big deal at all. In my adaptation to life in Spain I have written about this on various occasions, wondering what time I should arrive as it seemed I was the only one who ever arrived at the time we had decided, wondering if the Spanish simply have a different concept of time altogether, and I found it amusing to see a concert announced with a side note "The concert will start totally punctual".

It's always sunny and beach weather all year. This is a typical misconception from people in Norway. Up there, the winter is long and hard, and people tend to think that Spain is always warm and lovely weather wise. Actually the only place in Spain where you have nice temperatures and beach weather all year around is the Canary Islands. (Some of them, not all of them, but Gran Canaria where I live now is one.) Mainland Spain gets winters. The north has cold gray and humid, rainy winters, the interior dry and cold winters, and the Mediterranean coast milder, but still chilly weather in winter. And winter can go from +- October/November to March/April. The south has warmer winters than the north, but to think that you can hop on a plane to mainland Spain during winter to be guaranteed to find hot beach weather is just wrong. The difference is that when the sun is out it normally heats up (while in Norway in winter, it only illuminates in winter) and it can get quite nice. 

The Financial Crisis is still strong. Unfortunately this is very true. It seems like every week I hear of someone I know either lost their job, had a salary decrease (as a way of saving their job - for now), and people are struggling. It's the conversation topic in most social settings and it seems sort of hopeless.

Spaniards are lazy. The image of groups of Spaniards enjoying long lunches, trips to the beach and long siestas may give an impression that Spaniards don't really work a lot. But Spain has longer working hours than many other European countries. In many work places, they have split shifts, with a long siesta break in the middle, making the work day start at 8-9 in the morning and stop at 8-9 at night. I am very very grateful for my freelance work, where I decide my work hours!

Spain is noisy. Or rather Spaniards are noisy. Yes yes yes! Haha, I have gotten used to it and it doesn't bother me anymore, but I remember it was a little annoying at first. We Norwegians are quite quiet you see. Generally, we don't like to talk about personal problems so that other people can hear us, or talking on the phone loud and personal on public transport etc. Here it seems no pasa nada. Problem is that if you're in a bar, and people around you speak so loud that you have to speak louder for your friends to hear you, in the end everyone is speaking ridiculously loud. Where I live now, there is a restaurant just below my windows, and I can easily hear discussions about all of life's subjects from the people enjoying their meal out in the sun. (With the windows open or closed!) Another thing is that I think sound isolation is something Spain has not heard of, cause most everyone I know complain about neighbour noise. And although it's probably maybe a coincidences, wherever I have lived, there has been some construction work going on close by and it can get really noisy. So yes, there can be quite a lot of noise! 

Spain is so cheap. Not really! Some things are. But many things are not. People always think that Norway is so expensive, but if you compare the price levele here in Spain and in Norway according to average salaries, Norway is cheaper than Spain in many areas. 

Thankfully wine at awesome old bars is quite cheap!
Did I forget any obvious myths about Spain?


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  2. Love the post! Some of these things, as you say, depend on the region. I was surprised this past March to discover that in Sevilla Spaniards do really like flamenco, because in Valencia they don't. (Flamenco-fusión being an entirely different subject.) On the "Spain is cheap", it definitely depends on where you are. Barcelona is ridiculously expensive. Valencia is more mid-range, and I suspect in "la España profunda" things are much cheaper. And thank you for the sangría comment! There was a moment about 10 years ago when Spaniards did suddenly get into drinking it, but that moment has passed. The latest fad is pinchos (which are Basque, but now found everywhere). Something tells me that in 10 years time Spaniards will have moved on, but guiris will be visiting Spain, "because you have to have the pinchos, which are so typical in Ibiza!"

    Still, overall your entry here is spot on!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I love going to Andalucía, after time spent in Barcelona it almost feel like another country, (and well according to many Catalans it is...) -traditions and culture are so different. I personally love the quality of many street musicians with their Spanish guitar in the south of Spain.

      I don't know inland Spain very well, but Andalucía is definitely cheaper than Barcelona, and so is Las Palmas. But still there are many things that are ridiculously expensive compared to average salary! I love pinchos, my eating experience throughout La Rioja and Pais Basco was extraordinary! Your comment about typical pinchos in Ibiza made me smile :)

  3. Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing this! It is always so interesting to hear about other cultures. I am glad to hear that not everybody supports bull fights! You see so many horrible things about that and it really makes me sad and angry.

    1. I respect that it's part of the culture, but I can't support it and I wouldn't be able to see a bull fight. It's just such an unfair match, and what's the point of that? Not good.

  4. I feel like the alternative title to this article could be, "How to not stand out as a tourist". Oh! Write that one! Please? "How to Blend in in Spain" GO!

    1. Thank's for the tip! I'll try to see if I can come up with some ideas for that :)

  5. Great post this. Original and funny! And I agree with pretty much everything you've said! Bull fighting here in Granada is more or less 50/50 in terms of for an against; nobody drinks sangria; flamenco is very difficult to find; everybody talks about the crisis because unfortunately it is very much the root of everyone's problems and the winters are FREEZING!

    I'd agree with you that Spain is relatively expensive with regards to clothes and especially shoes, but providing you don't do you shopping at supersol, supermarkets are generally very crisis friendly I find.

    And Spanish time will always be annoying, no matter how long I end up staying here!

    1. I have been to Granada two times (and look forward to the next, I looove Granada!) - once in September and once in March. September was very hot and March quite chilly!

      I was also thinking about prices on services such as adsl, gym memberships, 'electrodomesticos' and I know I have thought about it with many other things I don't remember right now :) But food isn't too bad (just that it's more expensive here on Gran Canaria than mainland Spain since it's an island and sort of far away from 'everything') Oh well! Thanks for reading!