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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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DISCOVER SPAIN

Following the Dalí trail around Spain’s Costa Brava

Catalonia-based travel writer Esme Fox embarks on a voyage into the mind of Salvador Dalí, visiting various locations and landmarks that the Spanish surrealist created or made his own around Spain's Costa Brava.

Following the Dalí trail around Spain's Costa Brava

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí is perhaps one of Spain’s most famous and loved 20th-century artists. He is known for his quirky images of melting clocks, elephants with long spindly legs and the portraits of his wife, Gala.

Dalí was born in the town of Figueres in 1904, which is located in northern Catalonia, approximately 50km north of the city of Girona. This is the best place to begin your Dalí tour of the region.

Figueres Day 1  

Arriving in Figueres your first stop should be the Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum, this is where some of the artist’s most important works are held. The museum was in fact created by Dalí himself when he was still alive and was inaugurated in 1974. It’s housed in an old theatre, hence the name. Everything in it was designed by Dalí to offer visitors a real experience and draw them into his world.

It’s eye-catching even from the outside – pink in colour and studded with yellow plaster croissants, and on the walls sit golden statues and his iconic large white eggs – a symbol which you’ll see repeated on your journey.

Salvador Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres. Photo: Julia Casado / Pixabay

The museum is filled with 1,500 pieces including his sketches, paintings and sculptures. It also houses the remains of Dalí himself, down in the crypt, where you can pay your respects to the artist.

Next door to the museum is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the exquisite jewellery Dalí designed, which shouldn’t be missed. 

Afterward, you can go and see the house where Dalí was born at number 6 on Carrer Monturiol. It’s not currently an attraction, however there are renovation works underway to turn it into a new museum about the artist’s childhood. It was due to open in 2020, but there were significant delays because of the pandemic and it is still nowhere near finished.

Spend the night at the Hotel Duran, where Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala in fact lived while they were renovating the theatre. The hotel restaurant even has a special Dalí room, filled with images of Dalí and all his friends, as well as objects belonging to the artist.

Cadaqués Days 2 and 3

After a winding and hairpin turn journey west, you’ll find yourself at one of the eastern-most points in Spain – the town of Cadaqués. One of the most attractive towns on the Costa Brava, its white-washed buildings gleam against the cerulean blue bay and pink bougainvillea decorates its tiny interior cobbled streets.

In summer in particular, this place gets very busy, so make sure you’ve booked well in advance for your accommodation.

Dalí loved this area in summer too and built his summer house in the tiny neighbouring village of Portlligat. The house is now a museum, but as it’s quite small, booking tickets several weeks or even months ahead of time is essential.

Dalí’s house in Portlligat. Photo: Esme Fox

Dalí designed the house himself, which was created from several fisherman’s cottages joined together and is topped with his iconic white eggs.

Inside, you’ll see the artist’s studio, where many of his most famous works were created, including two unfinished pieces which still sit on the easels. You can also see Dalí and Gala’s bedroom where they kept canaries to wake them up in the morning and crickets to send them off to sleep at night. There’s also an angled mirror ready to catch the sun, ensuring that Dalí was one of the first people in the whole of Spain to see the sunrise each morning.

The highlight of the visit however is the vast garden, which even features a replica of the lion fountain in Granada’s Alhambra palace as well as his famous sofa in the shape of a pair of pink lips. The views from the top part of his garden above the olive grove are so stunning that it’s no wonder Dalí was inspired by the landscapes here.

There’s a replica of Alhambra’s lion fountain in Dalí’s garden. Photo: Esme Fox

On your second day in Cadaqués, head north to Paratge de Tudela located in the Cap de Creus Natural Park. You’ll need a car or taxi to get here. Here, you can hike among the very same landscape that Dalí painted in some of his most celebrated works. Look carefully or take a tour to see the same rock formations featured in his paintings.

For dinner, book a table at El Barroco, a traditional Lebanese restaurant and one of Dalí’s favourites when he lived there. He ate there at least twice a week in summer and it’s said that whenever he had famous guests he would meet them there instead of inviting them into his home. Dalí’s face adorns the door and inside it’s just as surreal with colourful plants, quirky statues and mirrors hanging in the courtyard. And inside it’s like a museum itself, filled with glass cases of bizarre objects and old musical instruments. There are even some photos of Dalí and Gala.

Book a table at El Barroco in Cadaqués. Photo: Esme Fox

Day 4

Make your way 60km south of Cadaques to the tiny charming villages of inland Costa Brava and specifically the village of Púbol. It’s here that Dalí bought an old castle in 1969 and renovated it from 1982 to 1984 for his wife Gala to live in.

Although the castle dates back to the 12th century, Dalí modernised it and added his creative and whimsical touches. It was a kind of love letter to his wife.

Dalí said of the castle: “Everything celebrates the cult of Gala, even the round room, with its perfect echo that crowns the building as a whole and which is like a dome of this Galactic cathedral… I needed to offer Gala a case more solemnly worthy of our love. That is why I gave her a mansion built on the remains of a 12th-century castle: the old castle of Púbol in La Bisbal, where she would reign like an absolute sovereign, right up to the point that I could visit her only by hand-written invitation from her. I limited myself to the pleasure of decorating her ceilings so that when she raised her eyes, she would always find me in her sky”.

Visit Gala’s castle in Púbol. Photo: Enric / WikiCommons

When Gala died in 1982, the castle became her mausoleum and she is still buried there today.

The castle is now a museum where you can tour each of the grand rooms, serene gardens, as well as spot Dalí’s whacky touches. Gala for example asked Dalí to cover up the radiators because she didn’t like to look at them, so as a joke, Dalí covered them with paintings of yet more radiators. 

Day four completes your Dalí trail around the Costa Brava. Go ahead and immerse yourself in the whimsical world of Dalí. 

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