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CULTURE

The good, the bad and the ugly: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain? 

Spaniards often have to deal with stereotypes from abroad which misrepresent them as just party-loving and lazy, but even among the inhabitants of the country’s 17 regions there are clichés that live on to this day which paint people from certain areas all with the same brush.

Spain regional stereotypes
Basques, Andalusians, Riojans and Catalans are all subject to regional stereotypes, as are people from all of Spain's other regions. Photos: Ander Guillenea, Cristina Quicler, Josep Lago, Oscar del Pozo/AFP

If you’ve lived in Spain long enough, you may have heard a joke that kicks off with “the curtain rises and an Andalusian, a Catalan and a Basque walk into a bar”. 

The chiste (joke) then proceeds towards a punchline that will mock one or all of the subjects based on regional stereotypes, usually ones that aren’t positive. 

It may seem like harmless fun but the last time the Spanish Centre of Social Studies (CIS) decided to carry out a survey among the general population asking them about regional stereotypes was back in 1994, perhaps because not everyone was happy with the outcome of the results. 

This pigeonholing based on people’s region of origin has lived on nonetheless, as is the case in pretty much any country around the world.

The huge box office success of Spanish comedies Ocho Apellidos Vascos (Eight Basque Surnames) and Ocho Apellidos Catalanes (Eight Catalan Surnames), which deal heavily with regional stereotypes, is testament to these enduring clichés.

Sometimes stereotypes used in Spain can be due to admiration or affection, other times it’s light joshing, but on occasions it can be prejudiced and offensive.

stereotypes spain

Thousands of people in Gijón (Asturias) try to beat the world record of most people simultaneously pouring cider. But do Asturians really deserve their reputation for being heavy drinkers? Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP

More often than not it’s people from the southern half of Spain who get crossed off as lazy and frivolous, sometimes just because they have a southern Spanish accent, whereas those from the wealthier north may instead be regarded as brutish or rude right off the bat. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that a stereotype is simply a generalisation about how a group of people behaves and although it may be true to some extent, it’s not universally valid and defining of a person’s character.

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So without further ado, and with the purpose of our foreign readership in Spain and abroad understanding the idiosyncrasies of Spanish society, here are the main stereotypes Spaniards resort to depending on the region they’re talking about.

Andalusian people: happy, funny, party-loving, lazy 

Aragonese people: noble, stubborn, uncouth 

Asturian people: patriotic, heavy drinkers

Balearic people: friendly, reserved, untrusting

Basque people: separatist, strong, honest, stubborn

Canarian people: friendly, happy, lazy 

Cantabrian people: proud, dry character

Castellano-Leonese people: generous, serious, unassuming

Castellano-Manchego people: pure-blooded Spaniards, brutish

Catalan people: stingy, independent-minded, hard-working, proud 

Extremeñan people: village-minded, lazy

Galician people: closed-minded, superstitious, untrusting, affectionate

Madrileño people: cocky, open-minded, proud

Murcian people: fun-loving, crude  

Navarran people: noble, brutish

Riojan people: welcoming, heavy-drinking 

Valencian people: party-loving, well-groomed, corrupt (mainly their politicians)

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So overall people from southern regions are considered lazy but friendly and fun by their northern countrymen, whereas southerners see people from colder northern Spain as having a drier character and more uncouth manner. 

However, even though Spain and its people’s characters, priorities and language are clearly diverse, it doesn’t take long to see that in most cases a Basque or Catalan person has more in common with an Andalusian than with a Brit or German, even though they might not always like to admit it.

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Many foreigners in Spain complain that the streets are full of dog faeces, but is that actually true and what, if anything, is being done to address it?

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Spain is a nation of dog lovers.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), 40 percent of Spanish households have a dog.

In fact, believe it or not, the Spanish have more dogs than they do children.

While there are a little over 6 million children under the age of 14 in Spain, there are over 7 million registered dogs in the country. 

But one bugbear of many foreigners in Spain is that there’s often a lot of dog mess in the streets, squares and parks.

The latest estimates suggest it’s as much as 675,000 tonnes of doodoo that has to be cleaned up every year in Spain.

Many dog owners in Spain carry around a bottle of water mixed with detergent or vinegar to clean up their dog’s urine and small plastic bags to pick up number twos.

And yet, many owners seem to either turn a blind eye to their pooches’ poo or somehow miss that their pets have just pooed, judging by the frequency with which dog sh*t smears Spanish pavements. 

So how true is it that Spain has a dog poo problem? Is there actually more dog mess in Spain than in other countries, and if not, why does it seem that way?

One contextual factor worth considering when understanding the quantity of caca in Spain’s calles is how Spaniards themselves actually live.

When one remembers that Spaniards mostly live in apartments without their own gardens, it becomes less surprising that it feels as though there’s a lot of dog mess in the streets. Whereas around 87 percent of households in Britain have a garden, the number in Spain is below 30 percent.

Simply put, a nation of dog lovers without gardens could mean more mess in the streets. 

Whereas Britons often just let their dogs out into their garden to do their business, or when they can’t be bothered to take them for a walk even, Spaniards have to take them out into the street, unless they’re okay with their pooches soiling their homes. 

There aren’t many dog-friendly beaches in Spain, and the fact that on those that do exist, some owners don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, doesn’t strengthen the case for more ‘playas para perros‘ to be added. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

Doggy dirt left in the streets is most certainly not a Spain-specific problem either, but rather an urban one found around the world.

In recent years, there have been complaints about the sheer abundance of canine faecal matter left in public spaces in Paris, Naples, Rome, Jerusalem, Glasgow, Toronto, London, San Francisco and so on.

READ ALSO: Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a worldwide study to shed light on which cities and countries have the biggest ‘poo-blem’, with the available investigations mainly centred on individual nations, such as this one by Protect my Paws in the US and UK

And while it may be more noticeable in Spain than in some countries, it doesn’t mean the Spanish are doing nothing about it.

In fact, Barcelona has been named the third best city in Europe for dealing with the problem, according to a study by pet brand Tails.com.

Although Barcelona’s score of 53/80 was significantly lower than many British cities (Newcastle scored 68/80 and Manchester 66/80, for example) its hefty fines of 1,500 for dog owners caught not cleaning up after their canine friends might be a reason. 

And some parts of Spain take it even more seriously than that.

In many Spanish regions doggy databases have been created to catch the culprits. Over 35 Spanish municipalities require dog owners to register their pets’ saliva or blood sample on a genetic database so they can be traced and fined, if necessary. 

In Madrid, you are twice as likely to come across someone walking a dog than with a baby’s stroller. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

This DNA trick started earlier in Spain than in many other countries; the town of Brunete outside of Madrid kicked off the trend in 2013 by mailing the ‘forgotten’ poo to neglectful owners’ addresses. Some municipalities have also hired detectives to catch wrongdoers.

So it’s not as if dog poo doesn’t bother Spaniards, with a 2021 survey by consumer watchdog OCU finding that it’s the type of dirt or litter found in the streets than bothers most people.

READ ALSO: Clean or dirty? How does your city rank on Spain’s cleanliness scale? 

It’s therefore not a part of Spanish culture not to clean up after dogs, but rather a combination of Spain’s propensity for outdoor and urban living, the sheer number of dogs, and of course the lack of civic duty on the part of a select few. Every country has them. 

On a final note, not all dog owners in Spain who don’t clean up after their pooches can be blamed for doing it deliberately, but it’s certainly true that looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with your dog, or walking with your dog off the leash (also illegal except for in designated areas) isn’t going to help you spot when your pooch has done its business.

Article by Conor Faulkner and Alex Dunham

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