Since I have been studying abroad, I have seen that there are certain stereotypes that travelers have often come across with. If you are American, like all of the students in my program, people perceive you to be loud, shallow, ignorant of the values of the different cultures. Stereotypes are generalizations that are placed on a group of people, a population, or country based on misconstrued perceptions. Some stereotypes may be true but others are false because they are based on the wrong concepts. One major stereotype that are perceived about the Spanish people is that they are perceived to be like those on the Spanish opera. American students may stereotype Spanish women as overly expressive in communication, very direct, dramatic, and always having lower class jobs. However, these stereotypes are not true at all. This comes from the theory that we learn culture through society and the values it teaches through lessons and exposure from the Media. Since studying in Barcelona, there are significant differences between Catalans and Castilians. The actresses and actors on Spanish television only portrays the minority of Spanish speaking people, which perceives them in a negative way.
I always held the idea that Spanish people are very hospitable. Back at home, my Spanish friends family would treat me like their own and was very charitable to me. However , Latino American culture is different from Castillian culture and Catalan culture entirely. Since I thought Spaniards would be very hospitable, friendly, and open; I thought people in the host country might accept me with open arms more. Since being here, people have been helpful if I am in need but most Catalan people are reserved and may come off cold. However, this may not be the case at all since stereotypes do influence our judgment about others. I am realizing that highly collective cultures have a strong group oriented culture, and it is hard to establish a relationship at first. Since being abroad having stereotypes about the host country has decreased because I learn more about being with first-hand contact with the locals, observations, and from what I learn in class.
There are even stereotypes that exist amongst different ethnic groups here in Barcelona. The Catalans have always wanted independence because they think their region is highly different from Spain in general. However, Castillians perceive Catalans as Spaniards just as they are, and those who are for pro-separatist and independence is seen as highly individualistic and not collective. Castillians base this stereotype on all the Catalans and have very negative opinions about them and vice versa. People who are Muslim or middle east may be looked at a bit differently in the streets than other residents as well because of the history of the Moors invasion of Spain. Online there are signs and posters that condemn Muslims and people from the Middle East to live in Spain. Stereotypes are everywhere from every group, but they do more damage to the person who is assuming the stereotype than the group or country that person is judging.
When I talked to some of the people from my program who are of Spanish and Catalan descent, they stereotyped Americans as very self -centered, too cautious of time, and not inviting or welcoming of new people. They perceived Americans this way because Spaniards like to get to know people on a deeper level, and because Americans are very time -worried or individualistic, the Spaniards or foreigners would think they were rude. People in the host country also think Americans are fat because we advertise fast food a lot. While some of these stereotypes may be true, they limit us from seeing that every individual is different. Since we judge so harshly, we don’t make the time to question and interact as often. The validity of the stereotype is that Americans are individualistic, but is that Catalans are very casual and are more reserved. The point is that all stereotypes are valid, but whether we choose to apply it to a group resurfaces our real character. Stereotypes are white and black depictions of people, but culture is colorful. As Slimbach says we can only really understand each other ” By generously serving alongside people of different faiths but like passion, we share in the difficult but deeply rewarding task of making the world a better place to live. This shared commitment also provides the context for thinking much more clearly about ourselves in relation to other people and the root issues affecting their lives.”
Below is a picture of me in London from several weeks ago. I am posting this because to me this is what a stereotypical American would look like: a show-off, proud, superficial to an extent. I believe that Americans get this bad rep because when we travel we only show the highlights of our adventures. We never show the struggles of others, the local news of girls who were assaulted or raped, or the opinions of locals who dislike a new law. It gives others the impression we don’t care, which is a negative stereotype of America. In my defense, Americans want to use travel as a sense of fun and liberation which is true. This is because we are individualists, but when a disaster forms or a big event comes about we do come together. During the events of Hurrican Katrina, the Tsunami in Japan, and Haiti happened many American volunteers use travel to help others out. Americans are misunderstood at times, but they do come together when needed, and that is a stereotype dispelled.
Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 1790-1792). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.