Today we live in a world where everyone and everything has to fit into a category or else you are considered abnormal or an outsider. These categories can be defined as stereotypes, or ways people are grouped through other people’s eyes. Ed Koch once said, “Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the stereotype then it begins to fall apart.” Some people choose to fit into the stereotype that was given to them and others choose to rip off the label that was given to them and become their own person.
When I first arrived to Barcelona, Spain I only knew about three stereotypes about Catalonians. My first one I knew was that they they are very similar to people from the lower half in New York, in layman’s terms: rude. I do not mean rude in the sense of being outright mean and in your face, but more in the sense of they are not the type of people to go out of their way to say “Buenas dias” or smile as you walk past them. I also heard that they live for the siestas here. Siesta is a break during the day from about 4pm -7pm where people close their shops, to maybe go run errand, pick up their kids from school or take a break. This means that their stores will open from about 11am -3pm followed by a siesta then reopen at 7 and close about 11pm or midnight. This is very different from your typical American work day, where we are used to working about nine hours a day with about an hour for lunch in between.
I realized that Americans are stereotyped in Spanish culture as well. My first encounter with being stereotyped really shocked me because it sort of came off as ignorant. My third day in Barcelona my friend Nadia and I decided to go do a little bit of shopping to fit in with fashion sense over here. We were in line at Zara just talking about our day and our lives back home to understand each other better. Someone behind us asked if we were from “the states” and we politely smiled and said yes then introduced ourselves. He immediately said that he can tell and said that we sound like either people from Silicone Valley or different type of New Yorkers. I personally could not help but laugh in his face due to his stereotype being so ignorant and just making himself look so weird. He could tell my friend and I were not too amused and tried to fix what he said, but at that point it was a little too late.
After speaking to some locals that I have met around my neighborhood they think Americans were born with a gold spoon in their mouths. At first I was shocked, but then again I honestly saw both how and why they thought this. Barcelona is a big hub for not only tourist but study abroad students. Many times I hear students get frustrated and while they are in Barcelona and yell, “Why don’t they speak English here, that is a main language everyone should know.” Things like this shock me because they should have known the main language of Spain was Spanish, and specifically the main language of Catalonia was Catalan. When people say things such as this is what helps form the ignorant and entitled views of Americans.
The image I chose really stood out to me because it lets people immediately know what the people holding the sign are not, before they even develop them into a stereotype. This helps with immediately breaking down the barriers that may begin to form against them. Eva Mendes said, “ People are incapable of stereotyping you; you stereotype yourself because you’re the one who accepts the roles that put you in the rut or in this stereotype.” In this picture these people refuse to be in the rut of their stereotype and show people that they are different.