1) Paella is the national dish
|Seafood paella in Valencia|
But I need to emphasize that paella is a regional thing; it wouldn’t be correct to label it “the” national dish at all. While folks across Spain will order it for dinner or make it themselves every once in a while, there are other dishes that you can find all over the country that are dear to every Spaniard’s heart. I suggest as more appropriate national dishes the tortilla de patatas—a potato omelet eaten hot or cold—and the many varieties of jamón—whole cured ham legs, the meat of which is sliced super-thin and served on its own or in sandwiches, with cheese, etc.
2) Everyone loves bullfighting—¡olé!
While el toreo still commands a large, devoted following, it’s still understandably controversial. Movements to ban it have succeeded in Cataluña and the Canary Islands, and you would be hard-pressed to attend a fight in Galicia, where only a single bullring exists. I personally know a handful of Spaniards who refuse to patronize bars and restaurants decorated with bullfighting memorabilia and stuffed bull heads.
There was an article published last week on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown blog that claims “Spain has at least one common thread: bulls.” Ha! Hardly. Want to know the real national sport? ¡FÚTBOL!
3) Sangría is the national drink
|(Source: Mitchell Bartlett)|
It’s the mark of a green tourist, though, to order sangría at every meal; although many places do, indeed, make pitchers of the stuff, it’s as weird as ordering fruit punch with your hamburger in America.
Instead of sangría, Spaniards tend to imbibe a similar refreshing wine-based drink called tinto de verano, “red (wine) of summer.” They add some ice cubes and lemon slices into a glass before they fill it halfway with gaseosa (sweetened carbonated water) and top it off with a few glugs of red wine. It’s also called vino con casera (“wine with Casera,” a brand of carbonated water). This isn’t the national drink by any means—wine from Rioja will cover that—but it’s a more authentic beverage than touristy sangría.
4) Everyone can dance flamenco
|(Source: Peter Johnen)|
However, flamenco—be it the dance of the accompaniment—is an art form that people have to study and practice all their lives, mainly people from the southern half of the country. Your average Spaniard walking on the streets of Córdoba or Sevilla, while probably very familiar with all things flamenco, wouldn’t be able to break out in claps and fancy footwork on cue unless they’ve been trained. You’d have a much better chance of running into somebody who knows the fancy footwork to the traditional jota dance or a Catalan who can join in on a sardana.
5) It’s always sunny
|San Sebastián, seen from Mount Urgull|
Additionally, the entire northern coast of the country, famous for being lush and green, is equally famous among Spaniards because llueve mucho there, it rains a lot. Regions like Galicia and Asturias are called the Irelands of Spain because the climate there isn’t Mediterranean Paradise™ but temperate rainforest—much different from the stereotypical sun and heat!
6) Everybody takes a siesta
|(Source: Manuel Romero)|
A custom that a majority of Spaniards partake in, however, is the paseo, or afternoon stroll that immediately follows the siesta. The contrast outside can be rather jolting for first-time visitors to Spain, as the previously-deserted streets are now full and bustling with people going for a walk, meeting up with friends, walking the dog, or getting a pick-me-up cup of coffee. The paseo lasts anywhere from 5pm until suppertime.
Do you agree with how I’ve torn down these stereotypes about Spain? What would you add to this list? Talk about it below in the comments!