One stereotype that many American students may have is that all homeless of jobless people are lazy/bums. Through conversation with many of the locals especially youth and some internet research you can see that Spain has almost a 30% unemployment rate and 50% of youths are unemployed. Many of these people have families and must do odd jobs to make ends meet. Seeing someone on the street selling FCBarcelona shirts of beers on the beach or even begging for change shouldn’t be looked down upon but understood that their situation is immensely different than anything we as Americans can imagine.
There have been dozens of locals that I have met that immediately assume that because I am American I am wealthy and in addition on a more comical note Donald Trump jokes have been very common. Multiple locals have assumed because I took advantage of this opportunity to study abroad that I am wealthy which I believe is a view that many countries have of America, we are flashy, loud, and everywhere which gives the appearance of money. This is quite an aggravating assumption as the majority of us are on a “college student budget” and are scraping up every last penny we have to spend on our travels/food/studies. I find the Donald Trump jokes to be quite funny and have seen groups of Spanish locals chanting “Trump for president” after my friends say we are from America.
Probably the largest and most prevalent stereotype of Spain is that they are lazy and unmotivated people. At first hearing of their incredible unemployment rate and lack of business savvyness I was in complete agreement, and 4 months ago when I landed I saw lots of people not working and just sitting so I thought of them as lazy. These last 4 months here have changed my opinion of this in not just Spain but all of Europe in that they are not lazy but they are relaxed. People in Europe and especially Spain do not feel the need to work all the time and make incredible amounts of money, if they can work and then sit on the beach the rest of the day they are content. Having enough money to sit at a restaurant with your friends for 3 hours and drink beer in a plaza all night is all they need. I feel this is one of the biggest things that has changed about me, I am able to enjoy the little things more and not be so busy all the time. I can enjoy someones presence more, and conversation is more entertaining, watching a sunset is better than a movie, and climbing a mountain is better than going to a gym. This mindset is seen to others especially Americans as being lazy as our main cultural aspiration is to make as much money as possible and enjoy it later in life, while Spain feels they can enjoy their mediocre income throughout their life without the need to pursue wealth and fame.
I am very glad that I was able to experience my mindset at the beginning and knowledge through writing this travelogue that studying abroad has truly changed who I am.