Have you ever met in some travel with some compatriot who seems to be entirely devoted in body and soul to perpetuate the stereotypes of your country when they are abroad? I mean those who won’t miss a chance to trap someone in a conversation and then dedicate themselves with special emphasis to “instruct” them on –in my case my country is Spain- how special Spaniards are, of course insisting every 5 seconds en each and every stereotype and cliché, specially those that don’t seem very flattering.
Because, just by listening to them, one would say that this is a country where absolutely everyone, no matter which region we are from, go out every night to party, flamenco party of course, we don’t stop drinking wine and cocktails, we never sleep and just get to work directly from partying the morning after –I guess we must be all addicted to some kind of drug in order to follow this rhythm- we have lunch for two and a half hours, then have siesta for another two –perhaps that is the explanation to those sleepless night- we have dinner at 11 at the earliest –nobody understands then why we are in general slim people- we never ever have breakfast, we are always late no matter where we go, we are very passionate, open, unorganised, fun, noisy and cunning –if we can get a profit of something, we don’t hesitate to do it- we speak very loudly, we dance sevillanas since we are born –it must be in our genes- we attend every bullfighting “corrida” and of course, we are all very short, very dark, and what else?? Oh, yes, we all have dark eyes –in fact, if you ever find a Spaniard who does not fit in this description it would seem he/she must have a foreign origin, because, as these experts who have never opened a book will quickly tell you, apparently we are almost an isolated race, and no, never ever in history have there been any different peoples with their different features in the Iberian peninsula.
Sometimes I have a feeling that I am listening to a strange update in the 21st century of those travel diaries from the 19th one that other travellers wrote. Indeed, they used to highlight and idealise all those aspects that were strange or foreign to them, without insisting in what was common. Of course, it is logic since we are talking of diaries with the Romantic taste of the time, when there was an interest in finding out or “rescuing” popular folklore and those popular characteristics that would define a people or a nation.
Well, it seems that these people I am talking about would have decided to dive deep into every possible cliché and started to believe in them more than anyone else. Sometimes I feel pity, sometimes anger. It is clear that we can not know everything and everywhere in the world and that in our vision of other countries we will always be at least a bit influenced by the ideas we have received over the years, but when you are talking about your own country, it is hard to understand that someone can be so interested in being perceived in a specific way by others, at least for me. I sometimes feel that others might take us for small representatives of our own country when we are abroad. When you meet someone it is usually unavoidable to wonder if their costumes and the way they behave, talk, think, etc. are just their own ways or if they are more or less common in their countries. Just as sometimes and unfortunately, we tend to associate a person’s behaviour with the one of everyone in the country, specially if we don’t know much about the country or if we are not open-minded in general ;)
Regardless of this, and in the Spanish case, I think it is very important to convey abroad how diverse the country is, how many and how different are the regions and places to visit, languages, customes, etc. Many times I have been surprised by the large interest the country raises and also by how many clichés still persist in general culture- just like, we must say, almost every country. There are always people that don’t want to go any deeper into what they think they already know and are not willing to let anyone shatter their preconceptions, but for most of the people –perhaps this is what I think because I tend to talk to people who also like travelling- love to be able to know what is less known and less publicised and get their own impression of the reality of a specific place.
What do you think? Have you also met or put up with someone like this from your countries?