Is this all Spain really is?
Often, Americans relate the Spanish language to spicy food, sombreros, and a certain speedy mouse that shouts ‘arriba arriba, andale andale!‘. Who can blame us? We certainly aren’t educated about anything actually Spanish in school. We learn about European history, but Spanish history is conveniently left out. We are too busy learning about how America was awesome during World War II, to realize that there was also a major civil war in Spain, as well. I am ashamed to say that I grew up as one of those kids. I literally knew nothing about Spain. In fact, the first time I learned about Franco and the civil war was my first year of college. Luckily now I am catching up for lost time, and learning all I can about this country. It is no wonder that Americans know practically nothing about Spain, in spite of language classes…we are too busy learning about our own culture, and short history.
So, in response to that, I would like to debunk a few myths about Spain, as it were.
1. It is always hot here.
I can attest to the fact that this is definitely not true. Especially since the electricity is wonky in my apartment, and I cant plug in my space heater without blowing a fuse. Sure, in the summer time its blazing. However, these houses are equipped for unimaginable heat during the summer, which leaves them unprepared for the winter, and it is actually quite cold. The houses have thick brick walls, with little insulation. In the south especially, it is not uncommon to have no central heating. Families rely on braseros, tiny disk shaped space heaters that they put under a table and cover with a thick table cloth. Everyone gathers around the brasero, and puts their legs under the cloth to keep warm. This works surprisingly well. Really heat isn’t necessary My only complaint? The worst moment of my day is waking up and getting dressed. I have now mastered a form of getting completely dressed without taking my sweatshirt off.
2. Spanish from Latin America is the same as Spanish from Spain.
I have read of numerous accounts of travelers that speak Spanish arriving here and not understanding a thing…especially in Andalucía. The truth is, Spanish is like English, and there are several dialects all over the world. In some places in Latin America, the word for car is carro. The word here is coche. Sounds a lot like the difference between English from England and English from the US, right? Another shocker? The Spanish lisp. Spaniards lisp their words in a way that I haven’t fully figured out yet. Here, Cadiz becomes Cadith, chorizo becomes choritho….in a way that isn’t done in other hispanohablante countries. In reality, every country has it’s own dialects and colloquialisms so this is to be expected.
3. The Spanish spend all their time lounging about, siesta style.
While one will find that the siesta tradition is alive and well here, they might in fact be surprised that not all Spaniards go back to bed during this time. There is this negative stereotype floating around that Spanish people are lazy, when in fact that isn’t the case…they just have a different schedule than Americans and English people. The tradition stems from different factors, but one is the broiling summer heat. Spanish people close up shop and eat lunch during the hottest time of day, around 2:00. No one is in the street at this time, and it is more lucrative for them to close, take some time to eat and relax, and then open their shops for the late evening hours. Spanish shops are open until 9 or 10:00 at night, but they are usually closed from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. See? They work just as many hours, they just break it up into sections, whereas Americans tend to do all their work in one go.
There is a tendency to ‘exoticize’ a culture that one doesn’t know about. The French become romantics in berets at the foot at the Eiffel Tower. All Italians ride their motos to the gelato shop. The fact is everyone is pretty similar. With the onset of cheap flights and globalization, this world is becoming a clearer, more truthful place. Yet this type of thinking isn’t always true. Spaniards…they’re just like us.