Stereotypes are a prevalent part of our every day lives. The definition of a stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Stereotypes are a simple generalization of a group of people based off of characteristics. Hafez Adul refers to stereotypes as a “shortcut to understanding complex matters.” The problem with stereotypes is that they can either be positive or negative and, more often than not, people focus too much on stereotypes and fail to form their own opinions.
Coming to Spain, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of stereotypes. Many people I talked to relayed to me that Spanish people were often slow and lazy, so I had that stereotype in the back of my mind. After living in Spain for over two months, I understand where the stereotype comes from, but I don’t think it should portrayed in a negative way. Spain is famous for “siesta” which is a time where many restaurants and shops close from two until five so they can have a big meal and nap. Although I understand from the outside why that could be seen as lazy, it is a huge part of their culture. They take that time to really enjoy their meal and socialize with family and friends. It is not that they don’t want to work, it’s simply a tradition. This concept might seem unusual from the American perspective. I won’t discount the fact that it took some getting used to as an American, but now I understand its purpose and value.
Another common stereotype of Spanish people is that two huge forms of entertainment are bullfighting and soccer. The stereotype of bullfighting was not true for Barcelona. They outlawed bullfighting and all their bullfighting arenas were turned into shopping malls. In other places in Spain, such as Madrid, bullfighting is still common, but not all Spanish people enjoy it. The stereotype about Spanish people enjoying soccer as a form of entertainment is an understatement. They absolutely love it and it is a huge part of the culture here. When FC Barcelona is playing, the bars are packed and everyone is in their jerseys. It is impossible to get tickets for games even far in advance. It is something that they all unite over and take pride in.
After living in Spain for 2 months, I have gotten to evaluate and understand the stereotypes for myself. It has changed my perspective on so many generalizations that I had prior to living here. Because the majority of residents from my host-culture have not lived in America, they have many stereotypes of us. At my university in Barcelona, my classes are comprised of students from all over the world. In my cross-cultural management class in particular we have talked about stereotypes of all of our home countries in regard to business. Many students in my class have expressed that they believe many Americans are very fast-paced, hard-working, and arrogant. Although it is strange to hear students from Spain, Brazil, Taiwan, Germany, France, and Italy stereotype Americans by these things, I can see some validity in them. In contrast to Spain, America is fast-paced and our lives often revolve around work. This is not necessarily a negative stereotype, it is just a difference. When they first said that Americans were arrogant I was offended, but they explained this by saying that we don’t encourage learning other languages in schools and expect everyone to speak English because we do. In most other countries, especially in Europe, people speak multiple languages. Although I still don’t see my home-country as arrogant, I understand their reasoning. It is difficult to overcome generalizations and stereotypes unless you take the time to dig a little deeper and find out the root of the stereotype and attempt to understand it from the host-culture’s point of view.