DISCLAIMER: What I’ve written below is a personal account, and rather than to be assumed as fact, was meant to be a fun way of debunking popular myths for my readers intending to travel to Spain. So before anyone gets all hot and bothered, please remember that I am well aware there are exceptions to everything; some Spaniards do indeed like sangria after all!
Probably. But have no fear, I’m here to dispel some rather common misconceptions about Spain, and provide some insight along the way!
The drink of choice is sangría.
Correction: The tourist’s drink of choice is sangría. And nothing is wrong with that, except it will pin you automatically as a tourist, and may result in you being charged more. Most Spaniards sticks to wine, since Spanish wine is cheap AND delicious, beer, and simple mixed drinks; like rum and coke, as cocktails aren’t as popular here as in other places. Some of my favorite drinks I’ve discovered in Spain? Kalimotxos from the Basque Country, Cava from Catalunya and Claras/Tinto de Verano from Andalucía.
Bullfighting is the national sport.
Correction: Fútbol is the national sport, and even then, not everyone is a fervid, bleed-your-team’s colors fan; or a fan at all even.
Everyone dances flamenco.
Correction: Flamenco is the collective word for the guitars, singing, dancing and clapping that make up Flamenco. One dancing style is actually called sevillanas, as it originates from Sevilla. And Flamenco is really only celebrated in Madrid and in Andalucía.
Spanish food is spicy.
Correction: Spanish food is hearty. Spanish food is uncomplicated. But it is not in the slightest spicy, like Mexican food. In fact, there is almost no relation between Spanish and Mexican cuisine minus dulce de leche for dessert and a heavy use of beans in many dishes. Probably the spiciest things you can order in Spain are patatas bravas pimientos de padrón, spicy chorizo, or guindilla peppers.
Tapas/Pintxos are a type of food.
Correction: Tapas describe the small portions of food, not the type of food. Tapas and pintxos are a way of eating, not food in itself. The word “tapa” comes from the Spanish word, “tapar”, which means “to cover”. Way back when, bartenders would place a piece of bread with ham or other goodies on top to keep flies out of drinks. Now tapas are known as the small bar snacks that are a pillar of Spanish cuisine. Pintxos are their Basque counterparts, varying in size (slightly larger) and are almost always accompanied by a slice of bread underneath, whereas tapas are normally small plates.
Since Spain is a Catholic country, the people are devout Catholics.
Correction: Ha! Or more appropriately: ¡JA! Though the elaborate, serious ceremonies of Semana Santa may lead you to believe differently, the majority of the younger generation in Spain aren’t highly religious. While most had a Catholic upbringing, including the all-important first communion, and if married, a Catholic ceremony in The Church, you won’t see anyone younger than 60 in church most of the time. But of course, there are exceptions, not to mention the people of other religions living in Spain. Spain is also quite liberal for being a traditionally Catholic country, as abortion and gay marriage are both legal here, however Roman Catholicism no longer has official status by law.
Spanish people are very patriotic. ¡Vivá España!
Correction: Have you ever watched a F.C. Barcelona game on TV and seen someone in the crowd holding a “Catalunya is not Spain” sign? Well, I have. Spain is a wonderfully diverse country, featuring nearly 20 different provinces with unique food, cultures and even languages. Some provinces, like País Vasco and Catalunya oftentimes feel more strongly for their respective cultures than for the Spanish culture as a whole, and practice their region’s traditions and may even choose to speak the region’s language over Spanish. Read up on Franco’s dictatorship, and you’ll understand clearly why they’re so proud of their regional culture!
They only speak Spanish in Spain.
Correction: Spanish is the official language of Spain, but Euskera of Basque Country, Catalan/Valenciana, and Galician are co-official languages of Spain. If that wasn’t enough already, Asuturian and Aragonese are recognized as languages by Spain, and Leonese, Extremaduran and Fala are unofficial languages. Though most of the co-official, recognized and unofficial languages listed are more linguistically close to Spanish, Euskera, or Basque from the Basque Country in the north has no linguistic ties to any European language. For this reason, it is believed the Basques are the original Europeans, and though their language was threatened during the Franco dictatorship, has survived the test of time.