“What is the Spanish like?
Hispanic Women: My brother and my partner both insist that Hispanic women are very ugly. With Brezhnev eyebrows and a mustache and an unflattering dress sense. Oh, and their faces are a Penelope Cruz shape that they don’t find beautiful. On the other hand, according to my partner, over 40 something happens to Spanish women and they start to become dignified and attractive.
And in my experience? Hispanic women have very shapely figures. Seriously, the number of slender, svelte women per square meter has got to be the highest in the world here, in my opinion. And they usually have very beautiful, thick, real Mediterranean hair. True, there is some room for improvement in terms of eyebrow and mustache waxing, but I don’t see Spanish women that ugly at all. It’s well-known that they like to talk a lot, but this is true of Spanish people generally. It is also true that they don’t have an attractive dress sense: they wear clothes in any combination, which is astonishing because in terms of fashion there isn’t much you can’t buy in Madrid, and at a good price. The city has everything necessary to make you look good at little cost. And it’s also true that their voices are often rather masculine, but to be honest, it’s only really noticeable (or ear-splitting) at first, and not disturbing at all. Another thing that speaks even more favorably of Spanish women is that they don’t buy counterfeit goods. So if you see someone with a Luis Vuitton bag, you can be sure it’s original. Immigrants are exceptions in this regard: you can pick them out at once in 90% of cases. Not only because of their physical appearance (skin tone, hair type, etc.) but also because of their style. In most cases, you cannot exactly describe them as attractive, but there are exceptions.
Spanish men: Anyone who thinks they will meet a hundred and a hundred Antonio Banderas counterparts here will be very disappointed. Spanish men, though they consider themselves demigods, are unfortunately quite some distance from the ideal. Let’s start with the fact that most of them are under 5”6. Most start to let themselves go in their twenties, and it can generally be said that there are more unkempt men than groomed ones. And the same is true for them: they could dress both cheaply and well. The exception here are gay men, who dress very attractively, and the majority are very well groomed as well. Some Spanish men treat women extremely badly, these are the ‘machos’ – many women have been killed in the last year by their own partners, and domestic abuse is not, so to speak, an unknown phenomenon. (obviously, some women can and do perpetrate abuse themselves, but that’s a subject for another post). There is, however, a Spanish type (I call it the "Urdangarin type" after the Prince of Mallorca) who are tall, well-proportioned, and look after themselves. Fortunately, you also encounter them. And luckily there are also cops – the minimum height requirement to enter the Spanish police is 170cm, so they can look around. The good news is that today more and more men play sports regularly, dress attractively, and pay some attention to grooming.
Character: The Spaniards are extremely open and very helpful. They can talk for hours with anyone, about anything, and if you need help with anything, feel free to just ask. They are not the sort of people who expect something in return for a favor, or who would say one thing to your face, then stab you in the back. If there’s something about you they don’t like, they’ll tell it to your face. Do also be aware that there is a certain level of reserve in Spanish society: you have to be very good friends with someone for them to invite you to their apartment, and they are reluctant to make their private sphere public. but they are always ready to sit down with you for a drink, a cup of coffee, or lunch. Their sense of humor is not very developed: anyone who likes that British style of humor, or something more off-the-wall, or even satire or sarcasm, will have a hard time finding a person here who ‘gets it'. They are no champions in terms of punctuality, and nor is it expected of you. It’s natural for people to be five or ten minutes late here, and no one ever complains. It’s also true, especially of Madriders, that they’re rather lazy.
Nationalism: honesty isn’t always the best policy – better to say that Spanish food is the best, Spanish wines are the best, Spanish olive oil is the best, Spanish women are the most beautiful, not to mention football (well, here they might have a point...), etc., etc. What is shocking to me is that they always prefer local products. So people buy Spanish goods even they’re more expensive because they trust the Spanish brand. It’s an extremely respectable characteristic, and I don’t think it would hurt to learn from them... but they still prefer the domestic brand if it doesn’t happen to be the best.
Tolerance: Everything I’ve described above? Well, I’ve left out the most important part. This is because the Spanish are not at all interested in how you dress, how your hair or skin looks, or what your sexual orientation is. I think the greatest virtue of the Spanish is tolerance. Here, they are simply accepted as you are, no matter how you look or how you dress. That’s why these people are so lovable. Because they don't want to change you.
P.S.: I was in Barcelona for a few days as a tourist, and I didn't even see any beautiful Spanish woman there. Even more surprisingly, we didn’t see any young woman at all – by which I mean, say, about 30 or under – (the few young and beautiful exceptions were all foreign tourists – mainly Italian, French, or Latin American). Of course, the paradox, as in Latin America, is that on TV and in video clips you can see almost only beautiful white women. It’s really interesting that most Spanish women have a deep, hoarse voice, but this is not true of Latin Americans. I’d be very interested to know the reason for this, but I didn't find an explanation for it anywhere (I read somewhere that it’s ‘because they smoke’, but that’s true in many other parts of Europe, and there most women still have a ‘normal’ voice, so that doesn’t explain it. I think it’s much more likely to have a genetic-climatic cause).
Sense of humor: Hispanics generally don’t. They don't understand jokes, and their own jokes are pretty primitive (about the level that our first- and second-grade kids tell each other and us) – that's my experience, at least.”
“Life here revolves around eating. The famous hora de comer, or time to eat, is a precise hour, and it doesn't matter whether a Spaniard is hungry or not, has time, or even wishes to eat, he or she will sit down at the table. Between about two and three in the afternoon, then between nine and ten in the evening. God forbid that someone should organize a get-together at 8 in the evening! If you do, you’ll have to say whether there will be dinner, because if there won’t be, then that throws everything off – so should we eat now, before going out? Goodness gracious, what to do? OK, let's eat first. But that’s impossible, it completely upsets the rhythm of life here.
I don’t recommend eating in any restaurant across the whole of Spain at either lunchtime or at dinnertime! What else should a regular Spaniard concern him or herself with, if not what they’re going to have for lunch today, what to buy at the market, whether the fish is fresh and the tomatoes are ripe enough for the gazpacho, and whether Angela Merkel is eating our cucumbers yet?
They are familiar with my homeland – Hungary. Sure, that’s just personal experience, and others have reported less success, but I like to comfort myself in this belief. So far, everyone I have met has brought up the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and I have even been described as an ‘Austro-Hungarian’. Most people I’ve met have either been to Budapest and loved it or want to go because they think they would love it. Two things are possible: Spaniards are either very good liars or they’re really telling the truth. I don’t want to know the truth!
They love to chat. Standing on the street, in the market, in the cafe, on the bus, in the elevator, or at the red light – it doesn't matter, they just like to interact. Here, if people want someone to make some room on the bus, they don’t say ‘pardon’ or ‘excuse me’ but ‘sorry to bother you, but there’s only one seat there, and I’ll be getting off in three stops. Goodness, but I have a big bag, I see you were shopping too. Thanks!’ (Now imagine old Maria, 80, who doesn't talk to anyone all day, so she's taking a bus and looking for a way to chat to anyone – and literally, anyone will do). They chat about the heat, about how hard it is to shut the bus door, whether this is the longest red light in town, how they’ve had the same wallet for 20 years… Oh, and do you have a boyfriend? They love to flirt.
No man, whether he is 15 or 95 years old, would ever pass up the opportunity to look at a women’s buttocks/other/etc... If the opportunity arises, he also whispers guapa (beautiful). it doesn't matter if you have way over a zebra crossing, or holding your boyfriend's hand, or just won first place in a minesweeper race. Girls/women don't have to be afraid either, most men lay their cards on the table pretty quickly, and if they really like someone, they don’t beat about the bush.
Courtesy: This is mainly for people who have already experienced life in a Scandinavian country. Because here if they accidentally bump into you or knock you off balance at a party (very rare, even though there are eight times as many in the nightclubs), they immediately apologize, looking you straight in the eye. If you go somewhere and greet their neighbors they greet you back, also looking you in the eye, and even throw in a qué tal? which they don't expect an answer to, but it’s something. It’s sad, but in two years in Denmark, I almost forgot to say hello, and I found it awfully awkward when I realized it. You never get stuck with two people trying to go through the same door, either, but rather linger there for five minutes, both saying ‘no please, after you…’ that's almost funny. On the bus or the train, they help old ladies with their bags and don’t ignore you if you fall down the subway steps.
They love spontaneity. Sobre la marcha (we’ll see how it turns out / cross that bridge when we come to it) is a common expression here. We'll figure out where we're going, what we're doing, where we're staying… Until then, let’s just be here and not worry.
They often put sugar in hot chocolate for breakfast. Or sprinkle it on the churros (an elongated donut-like sweet) and spread jam on the magdalena which is a bit like a muffin, but twice as sweet, while our breakfast of ‘buttered bread with a slice of cheese and ham and maybe a couple of slices of tomato’ would make them grimace. If I mentioned that for breakfast I’m partial to scrambled eggs with sausage and bacon, they’d definitely call for a doctor. Though they can handle heavy food too, for breakfast they only snack on some sweets with their latte. The most remarkable thing about this is that, if possible, they also do it in a cafe.
They are not ashamed to laugh out loud. They let it out where and when they feel like it, and no one looks askance, or ask what’s so funny. So, instead of getting dirty looks for laughing and giggling with my friends back home, I’ll come to Spain instead.”
“It’s perfectly acceptable here for people to sniff or spit. And they sneeze, cough, and yawn without putting their hands over their mouths. It’s interesting to see a lot of yawning people in the morning – a dentist would definitely enjoy it ... of course, it’s natural for both men and women. My colleague told me that until a few years ago, public urination was also allowed, and men did their number ones wherever the urge took them. Today it is forbidden, but in parks, it is best not to be surprised by anything. Speaking of women, the paper fan is practically a must-have here. Its color and size are incidental, but even in the full air-conditioned subway women fan themselves. I also bought one for myself, a white one, and I’m going to test it today :)
Good habits include order. On the escalator out of the subway station, everyone stands to the right side, to let those in a rush climb quicker. There are no exceptions. Either you stand to the right and don’t climb, or you climb the escalator steps on the left. If you stop, the person behind you will ask you to step aside. Many people are prepared to queue for minutes at the bottom to get on the right side, so as not to have to climb…
Their other very good habit is providing free newspapers on the subway or train. If you’ve finished reading them you can either leave them in the empty seat next to you or put them in the hat rack above your head. If you do neither of these, leave it in the papelero (paper holder) when you disembark, so others can read the newspaper. I think it's a very good thing. One less good thing is that kids can do whatever they like: they can yell, run anywhere anytime ... do what they want, and don’t ask anyone’s permission. they are the emperors of life. TRANQUILITO – just calm down: here there’s always plenty of time for everything, and nobody ever hurries. This is the hardest thing to get used to.”
“The Spanish are really stupid. No, not like ‘crazy Spaniards’, just plain stupid. Every single cliché you hear about the Spanish – that they’re lazy, unreliable, stick-in-the-mud dopes, is absolutely true. And it just makes them all the more lovable. I always find it funny, when my undereducated friends watch their show about a Torrente detective and think that this xenophobic, endlessly nationalist, Franco-fanatic idiot is just a sort of exaggerated caricature of the Spanish character. Oh, sure it is. And what about the approximately seven million Catalans, who resent that this nation, which has just sunk ever lower since the days of Cortés and Pizarro, has ruled over them for half a millennium?”