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.
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.
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)
- What is the worst possible insult you can say to a Spanish person?
- Why do Spaniards find it ‘shameful’ to eat the last bite?
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.