Travel Log 9: Exploring Stereotypes

Since coming abroad I have tried to be very mindful of stereotypes, whether they be about me or the people I encounter.  Very clearly I am American, by the way I talk, dress, and act, but yet I try to be a part of the culture in which I call home.  Barcelona is definitely a different place to live then I have ever been used to, and after 2 months I can safely call it home.  However, I speak somewhat minimal Spanish and I still stick out on the metro and walking around the city.  The stereotypes that I brought with me to Spain were that the people here are very relaxed and, for lack of a better word, lazy.  Now having been here for 2 months, I hardly think about stereotypes, in fact I completely ignore them.  I will have had to live in another country basically on my own for almost 4 full months, so for me to actively use stereotypes to guide my life here would be doing myself a disservice.  Upon each country I visit, the only information I look for is where I should visit and what I need to see.  I have never allowed what others have told me about a place, influence my thoughts on it.  I want to really experience a place without having any preconceived notions about the place and especially the people.  I want to form my own opinions about a place because that is how you truly appreciate it.  Hafez Adel says, ““Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Talking with my roommates, classmates and strangers on the streets of Spain dispelled many of the stereotypes I held, while studying and hearing stories about Spanish history dispelled my misconceptions even more…” (Adel 26-28).  Stereotypes are easy and quick ways to understanding a culture and at first glance, many of them seem true.  My misconceptions were just that; misconceptions.  I can’t be a foreigner living in this country and actively use stereotypes to guide my time here, it would be too hypocritical.  We called the Spanish lazy because they appreciate social constructs more than they appreciate working all the time.  The Spanish take advantage of the time that the day offers and live a very laid back lifestyle.  I have time to do everything I want here because there is no sense of rushing to get things done, which on the surface seems like a way of saying they are lazy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  I wake up at 9:30 and go to bed at the earliest 1:30 in the morning and in those 16 hours I accomplish more than I have ever accomplished back in America.  I have had 2 to 3 full meals, gone to all of my classes, hung out with my friends, did my school work, taken a nap, and gone out for some drinks.  My time here is precious and the Spanish use their time very wisely and it has rubbed off on me.  If I had let my misconceptions run how I lived my life here then I may never have enjoyed the Spanish way of life like I do.  I would be the stereotypical American and that isn’t something I want to be.  I have spent so much time purposely trying to not live up to American stereotypes and by doing so, I have removed myself from stereotyping any other culture, especially not before I visit new places.

 

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