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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