Before my move to Madrid, Spain there were a couple of things that I was certain happened here. These were the images I had of Spain based on hearsay, television, and novels. Boy, was I in for a shock when I found out how untrue most of these stereotypes were. The funny thing is that I’m not the only culprit here. Most of these are Spanish myths we usually associate with Spain mostly because of the media. But, the reality is that you never know the truth about a country until you live or at least visit there.
Spanish Myth 1 – Shorter working hours
When I think of Spaniards, I think of people that love to live life to the fullest. The motto: “Work less and play hard” comes to mind. During my time in a Spanish office, I had business clients tell me they came in at 8 or 9 am and stayed up to 9 pm most days. In addition, they explained that Spain is actually one of the European countries with the longest working hours. I would say this was the biggest shock for me.
Spanish Myth 2 – La Siesta
La Siesta or taking a nap is one of the most popular Spanish myths out there. When I was in high school during my first Spanish class, my teacher told us about her study abroad experience. How everyone would have a hearty lunch, take a nap from 2 pm-5 pm (the typical siesta time in Spain) and then continue working during the rest of the day. This idea of a siesta was a new concept for me then and I thought it was pretty cool. 7 years later, now in Madrid, I don’t know any Spaniard here that does this. Especially if they have a full-time job. Whenever I mention siesta to them, they scoff like it was a fairy tale they wish they could experience. Siestas are actually more common in the southern parts of Spain than in busy cities like Madrid, Barcelona etc. It might also interest you to know that La Siesta isn’t only practiced in Spain. Check out what other countries have siestas!
Spanish Myth 3 – Bullfighting
French kissing is to France as Bullfighting is to Spain. This is the top Spanish myth about Spain. Every year in the U.S. a news outlet shows the running of the bulls and how many Americans are gored. My parents being very apprehensive, called me during my first week in Spain and said this, verbatim “Be careful with the bulls on the street. Try and avoid their pathway”. After laughing for a good 10 minutes, I explained to them that it only happened in Pamplona, Spain on special occasions.
Spanish Myth 4 – Spanish Guys look like Antonio Banderas
There was just one look I thought when it came to Spanish guys or Spanish men; Antonio Banderas *Spanish guitar strung*. I have come to learn that the Spanish come in a variety of looks. In the north of Spain, many possess western/northern European features while in the south many are more tan, dark-haired and so forth. Madrileños didn’t look too different from the Caucasians back home in America.
Spanish Myth 5 – Everyone is a football fanatic
The whole world knows how crazy the Spanish are when it comes to football (soccer). Two teams are well known worldwide: Real Madrid & Fc Barcelona. In my mind, every single Spanish ate, breathe, slept, or at least thought football. Right now, I have met so many Spaniards that couldn’t give a hoot about this popular sport.
Spanish 6 -Flamenco, Flamenco, Flamenco shows everywhere!
The number one cultural symbol about Spain is Flamenco, it’s one of the Spanish myths the Spanish wish could go away. Naturally, when I initially came here, I had to make it a duty to watch a flamenco show. I couldn’t stop talking about how I looked forward to seeing one. I quickly realized that most Spanish didn’t care for flamenco and it could even be a sensitive or awkward topic to discuss. Flamenco shows are mostly catered to tourists. I still think they are unique and awesome. If you are interested in experiencing at least one Flamenco show before leaving Spain, visit these flamenco spots in Madrid: Casa Patas, Tablao Flamenco, and Cardamomo. You can also find a ton of cool spots in the Andalusian region (where they were originated).
Spanish Myth 7 – Zara is cheap
Zara Zara Zara. Shopaholics can’t get enough of Zara. In the U.S. shopping at Zara is seen as classy and chic. When I used to do my intercambio (language exchange) online with a Valencian, he told me how Zara is like the forever 21 of Spain and how cheap it was. I was excited to hear this because it meant I could buy a lot of clothes from there for a good amount.
Upon my arrival, I felt slapped on the face when I saw how expensive (for an English teacher) it was for me. Ain’t nobody paying €50 for a blouse! In addition, many fashionable Spaniards shopped there. I don’t think I can compare Zara to forever 21. #nowayjosé
Spanish Myth 8 – All schools wear uniforms.
Lastly, I always had the idea that all schools in Europe wore uniforms private or public. This was not the case during my stay here.
Those were the few Spanish Myths that were debunked once I moved to Spain. Traveling has broadened my knowledge and has given me the ability to separate facts from opinions/myths. Check out my posts on why you should visit Spain.
What are a few myths you’ve had about Spain or another country?
I hope you felt inspired!
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Very true! I’ve been to Spain and did notice a “siesta” down time in the afternoons and it was hard to find a place for a snack. Maybe it only happens in smaller towns?
Yes in smaller towns and in the south, it’s more likely however in major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao etc it’s only in a few places.
My first international trip was in Spain and I think I had the same ideas as you about it! I think debunking myths is one of my favorite things about traveling. Great post! 😊
Excatly! Thanks for your comment
I love this post. Have to admit I also had some of these prejudices about Spain and Spanish people so it was nice reading about what you experienced :)
Thank You :)
It’s so easy to have preconceived notions of places before we visit and it’s exciting to see how our perceptions change. As a Francophile, I’m not well versed in Spanish culture, so this was a great topic to learn about!
As a Francophile blogger, it’s fun to read more about preconceived notions of Spanish culture. Thanks for sharing your insight, I’ll make sure not to make point of asking for flamenco dancers when I visit this summer!
Hi Mia! Thanks for your comment. Yeah the flamenco topic is a hit or miss with some Spanish, but for the majority of the Spanish people I spoke to, they didn’t seem so excited to discuss it. I would like to know some debunked myths about France :)
I loved this post as it brought back such great memories from 2011 when I did an Erasmus semester in Madrid. I can totally relate to the siesta culture and in general, I miss so many things about the sunny country. Great post
I know! I love Spain so much especially Madrid and I already miss it. Thanks for your comment
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed not all Spaniards look like Antonio </3.
hahaha. I was disappointed too but I’ve seen some rare gems. I couldn’t stop staring haha
Darn It, I was really hoping to meet an Antonio Banderas looks alike! J/K I loved your post. I didn’t’ realize there were that many misconceptions, but i’ve heard them all.
It was interesting to read about these myths. I learned the same thing about flamenco when I was in Barcelona. I am glad to hear that you don’t have to take a siesta to live in Spain. I hate naps!
haha yeah. I’m the opposite though, I love naps even before I moved to Spain
This was an interesting read! I thought Spanish people had short working hours and took siestas too.
I saw a flamenco show in Madrid. I didn’t know it could be a sensitive or awkward topic for Spanish people.
Thank You! Yes I based on my encounters with many Spanish people it felt uncomfortable talking about flamenco with them. except very very few people that actually loved the dance or danced it. Did you enjoy the flamenco show?
Yes, I did! The costumes were beautiful too. :)
Not all Spaniards like football? Shocking. It’s like saying not all Canadians like hockey but truly, some just do not care. Lol. This was fun to read and thanks for debunking these myths as I really thought Spaniards loved their siestas way too much.
Thanks, loved it!!!
Hahah yes! I thought everyone breathe football in Spain but I was so wrong. Lovely site you’ve got. Following you :)
Maybe siestas don’t exist in large cities but where I lived in San Sebastián omggggggg like the longest siesta in LIFE! Also Zara was significantly cheaper! Like everything under $20. Interesting to see the diff between big city and small towns.
Yes, I think siestas are more of a thing in smaller cities.And Zara changed. It used to be cheap in Spain but not anymore