Traveling abroad has caused me to reconsider stereotypes that I hold for Europeans but also the stereotypes I judged the Europeans for having towards Americans. The most obvious stereotypes of course revolve around partying for most study abroad students. The typical American study abroad student is looked at as a loud, drunken idiot. Basically the stereotype any American is given. This stereotype bothered me at first because I figured everyone has their moments and I am sure the Spaniards get that way too and the Americans can’t be that bad. I was wrong. There are clear reasons that I now see for why this stereotype has emerged with very valid points. On nights out, American study abroad students love to fulfill this stereotype it seems. There is always the loud, shouting guys slapping each others backs grabbing attention or the group of American girls hugging each other shouting how much love they have for one another. It is pretty typical, and oddly accurate. While studying abroad I have even known of kids falling off of balconies while drunk and shouting off balconies that then cause people in the streets to shatter their door as revenge for the annoyance. There is no end to the American Idiot stories I have accumulated studying abroad here in Barcelona; the city is filled with international students. What I found in Slimbach’s book to be rather quite funny and contradictory is his quote, “Travel is a school for life, one that generates fresh insights and unforgettable memories. Nevertheless, it primarily enrolls a class of wandering elites. The explorer of the Amazon, the collegian studying abroad in Spain, and the religiously inspired volunteer to Haiti” (Slimbach 75). Traveling has been an amazing tool for learning in life, I must admit. However, it definitely generates fresh insights in the heads of some students studying abroad in Spain that yes in fact they the American stereotype perfectly. There are some students where I question if they are learning anything at all. They cannot speak the language, they don’t care to, and they are drunk a large majority of the time. However, I am not here to judge, it is just a mere realization I have had.
Another stereotype that my host culture holds towards Americans that does not surprise me at all is that money is all we care about. I’ve heard this before but Mireia, the local I interviewed (you’ll realize that I speak about her a lot since our conversation was so insightful, also brought up the stereotype when I was speaking with her. She said that the stereotype is viewed so strongly in her culture, that Americans are materialistic, it has begun to catch on to the teenagers in her culture in Spain. The teenagers want to imitate the American culture so they have begun to demonstrate materialistic aspects and judge each other by what they own. The more American, the cooler. Being abroad I recognize the materialism that many study abroad students here display after our conversation we had together. I personally believe this is an embarrassing stereotype to have.
Living abroad, as Hafez Adel perfectly put it while studying in Barcelona himself, “taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge.” Coming to Spain I heard plenty of the stereotypes that stated Spaniards were lazy (siesta), loved to be outside, loved drinking, and living a simple lifestyle. After living here for 3 months these stereotypes have either been dispelled, validated, or emerged to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Siestas are a real thing here, shutting everything down in the middle of the day, however, it has a valid reason behind it. Spain has the most amount of sunlight in Europe and very hot days. Therefore, they need to shut down mid-day when it is most hot for health reasons. Spaniards are actually very hard workers considering they have a 25% unemployment so they must work hard to prove themselves and make a living. Considering the weather is so nice here, they love to spend their free time outside. I never realized this until it was pointed out in one of my urban classes that a lot of the public space and architecture is utilized to provide outdoor use. The photo I attached conveys the public space where every block there is a placa to Spaniards to hang out in the shade in a beautiful space during their siesta time to take a break from hard one. This photo is one of the most famous ones in Barcelona that also shows the typical fountain that creates cool air in each.