Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are the Spanish Thin-Skinned?

Ben over at Notes From Spain has a post expounding on something he brought up earlier in several versions, “Are the Spanish Rude”? This kind of post never ceases to elicit tons of responses. Am I alone in noticing that posts that are even remotely critical of the Spanish – just drives them crazy?

Ben is the most diplomatic dude writing about Spanish stuff in blog-land. He is running a site that is trying to make a buck – so he HAS to be nice. Couple that with the fact that he is married to a Spanish gal (got to keep her happy), and that he clearly loves his adopted country, and yet Spanish people still get nuts, offended, pissed off, etc.

I have noticed this phenomenon many times reading around the web. I remember when The New York Times featured some travel article that stated something like, “ Madrid is no longer the provincial sleepy town, blah, blahh”. How innocuous can you get! It was a throw away line in some stupid travel piece – and people (Spanish) were pissed! There were comentarios galore on about how dare those Sons of Bitches talk shit about us! And there was this other filler NPR radio piece on the Madrid Barajas parking lot bombings. The poor NPR reporter got reamed for saying something negative about the fact that he couldn’t get his car out of the lot or something .... nothing really important. Or the time Notes From Spain linked to a pretty funny piece on “A Day in the Life of a Spaniard” that humorously skewered a fictitious daily routine of a typical Spaniard. Man, were some pissed off!

Why is this? I know that when I am in Madrid or some region of Spain, the people there want to hear that their food is the best, their women the best looking, and that it is much better than in my sorry-ass country. I am happy to oblige. I have been trained to respond along the “anti-Ugly American” line. I say that they are great and we are clearly lacking in many respects… Just to keep them happy.

I wonder if the Spanish have any clue what it is like being an American in Spain. How would they like to hear constantly that your food sucks, you really have no culture (as they head off to an American Movie), that most of you are stupid, etc. etc…. We listen to this, read this, watch TV with this, and yes, even agree to it - so as not to seem like “rude pushy arrogant Americans”.

I’m afraid I don’t think they would last “Twenty Minutos” hearing this stuff like we do - with their thin skins...


spanishben said...

"Ben is the most diplomatic dude writing about Spanish stuff in blog-land." Wow, what an accolade, thanks!

"He is running a site that is trying to make a buck – so he HAS to be nice." No no, not true, I just really like being nice about Spain because for the most part I really like it! You're right though, I have to be careful of the wife too :)

- Ben

EuroMadrid said...

You betcha the Spanish are thin-skinned! I remember that 20Minutos public stoning of the NYTimes travel piece and there were like over 300 comments!!!! There were like one or two people who commented who had actually READ the Times piece and commented that it was in no way a criticism of Madrid, in fact, just the opposite, but the rabid mob mentality had already taken over. What was clear to me from reading many of those comments was how few 20Minutos readers could read English. Anyone who had cared to, could've clicked on the link inside the body of the 20Minutos article and be taken directly to the full story on the NYTimes web site. Obviously, very few did because they can't read/understand English. Sad.

Anyway, love your blog when you express your opinions about Spain. I enjoy Ben and Notes from Spain too, but like you said, he's too much of a diplomat to really be a fun, provocative read. Keep up the good work!!

Carl said...

Ben, Thanks for the mention. We like that you are nice!

euromadrid, I'll try to be more nasty - Ha!

Katie of "A Day in the Life of a Spaniard" said...

Yay! Someone who doesn't think I am a horrible person!

But seriously, one of the (few) reliefs of coming back from Spain was the extreme decrease in conversations about things that are wrong in America. They get old, even though I might agree with most of them.

And about the Spanish seeing lots of our culturally un-rich TV and movies... when I asked some Spaniards (I did this a few times with different people just to be sure) why they loved the Simpsons so much, especially when so many of the jokes depend on an understanding of living in America, the general response that I got was that they "see so much of our culture on TV and in movies that they understand it."

I didn't dare question that though ;)

Carl said...

I'm afraid I have to say, "They understand it my ass." Just like I will never understand many Spanish things.

Anonymous said...

Yes Carl, we are thin-skinned, just like you. It's always hard being a foreigner, you should try being a Spaniard in's very educative.

Now on 20minutos, what can you expect from the readers of newspaper?

It seems to me that you love being scandalized. I say this because, if you are looking for anti-americans in Spain (and in Europe in general) you are going to find lots of them, we all know that. So what? , get over it

If you are looking for articulate intelligent people, no matter their
opinions, you are also going to find quite a lot of them. It's your choice, choose!

Ayse said...

I asked exactly the same question about "Friends" and they said they understood the jokes. I don't know...

To the Anonymous: during my short stay in Spain, I met many wonderful people, made most of them my friends and invited them to my hometown to see how we live. In fact, genuinely warm people would be one of my favorite things in Spain - but even they are misinformed about many aspects of USA. You are right that we find all sorts of people with different opinions wherever we go. However, some of the biases formed about the Americans by Europeans are not well-founded and unfairly disseminated - uneducated and stupid are a few to mention.

I lived in and traveled to many different countries and I became a US citizen in 2002. USA is the place I felt most at home.

My kids and I are here for a limited time and this was the very reason we are here: to immerse in another culture - whether thick or thin-skinned we are throughly enjoying it. It would have been even better if there were a bit more differences; unfortunately, the globalization spoiled it for us.