9 Misconceptions the World Has About Spain

Alright everyone. It’s time to clear some things up. Two years into my life in Spain, and I can’t even begin to tell you HOW MANY people have said to me “You’re so lucky it’s hot all year round over there!” or “do you ever get sick of paella?” or “Is the food really spicy?…”

NEWSFLASH AMIGOS: Spain is not Mexico, nor is it South America. It’s a European country. Let’s take a peak at a map, shall we?

World map
Via flickr @Nicolas Raymond

Hmm, that might explain some things! But no fret, kids. I’m going to debunk the worlds most ridiculously popular and reoccurring misconceptions about Spain. Confuse flamenco and salsa no more! Ready to get your Spanish mind blown?

9 Misconceptions the World Has About Spain

1. All Spaniards Drink is Sangriaspanish sangria

Prepared to get mind blown? Spaniards almost never drink Sangria. Unless it’s a special at-home party where someone decided to go all-out and make it homemade, don’t hold your breath. What they do drink is a concoction called Tinto de Verano, which is red wine mixed with soda. Sound crazy? It is! Until you try it. The most typical sodas are Fanta Naranja or Limon (orange or lemon soda), or Casera, which is a clear lightly sweetened fizzy drink. It might sound counterintuitive for a country known for their fabulous wines to add sugary shi*filled soda…and it is. But lemme tell ya’, it’s damn refreshing when that scorching Spanish sun makes an appearance.

THE TRUTH: If you are drinking Sangria in Spain, you might as well wear a huge sign on your forehead saying “I’M A TOURIST.” You’re better off making your own sangria at home. Recipe here!

2. The National Dish is Paella. And it’s made of seafood.spanish paella

NO. NO NO NO. In fact, in many regions of Spain, they don’t even eat paella! Paella is actually a dish typical from Valencia. While Valencia might be a coastal region, the most traditional paella Valenciana is actually made with veggies, chicken and rabbit! Yes, rabbit…sorry bugs bunny! Of course, you can get many variation of paella: with seafood, vegetarian, or mixed with meat and seafood. However, if you ask any Valenciana how to eat real paella…they’ll tell you one word: MEAT.

THE TRUTH: The national dish is actually tortilla de patatas, or Spanish omelette, as it’s the only dish eaten in every single region of Spain! Read more about paella and where to find zee best in Madrid!

3. When Spaniard’s aren’t eating paella, they are eating Gazpacho.Gazpacho

Actually, Gazpacho is only eaten in the summer. It’s a cold, refreshing summer soup that is often drank in a glass, like tomato juice! Determined to get your Gazpacho fix in the winter? Good luck! You might get some pretty funny looks if you waltz into a restaurant and ask for Gazpacho in the midst of December…

THE TRUTH: Gazpacho = summertimeeee. Check out these amazingly creative Gazpacho recipes here!

4. Tapas are trendy and elaboratespanish olives

Actually, traditional tapas are quite the opposite! In NYC, any Spanish “tapas” restaurant you go into will feature fancy shmancy, beautifully constructed mini dishes, which the US world considers “tapas”. However, the most traditional tapas are simple hot or cold little plates meant to be shared, like cured chorizo or Manchego cheese. 

THE TRUTH: If you’re broke and just want to munch on some yummy grub while drinkin’ a beer with yo’ amigos, it’s tapaaaa time. PS- if you’re super broke, go to Granada, where tapas are F-R-E-E.

5. Spanish food is spicyhot sauce

Remember when I said Spain isn’t Mexico? Spanish food is the FARTHEST thing from spicy. Spaniards think black pepper is spicy…lol. Just imagine the looks I got when I whipped out my pocket size Tabasco in a restaurant! Here are some typical non-spicy but full o’ flavor dishes, so you’re prepared to leave that picante behind when you come to Spain: Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and chickpeas seasoned with cumin), and Setas con Ajillo (mushrooms with a garlic sauce- or any mushroom dish, really. They kill it with the mushrooms here). Fun fact? All these ingredients that the Spanish diet incorporates have proven to keep you looking young! Explains why everyone’s so damn beautiful here…

THE TRUTH: You whip out hot sauce in public, the Spanish police might start questioning your sanity.

6. Everyone dances Flamenco. And salsa…flamenco dance

For one: SALSA IS LATIN AMERICAN. Spain is in Europe. Remember? So, that’s right…nobody dances salsa here, nor knows how. As for Flamenco, it’s an Andalucian tradition. In southern Spanish fiestas, you’ll often find party animals with a wee too much Tinto de Verano starting to dance and sing Flamenco (as seen in the pic above, from a fiesta in my pueblo). However, in the north of the country, you might as well ask them to start Irish step dancing.

THE TRUTH: Salsa doesn’t exist in Spain, unless you’re talkin’ “sauce” for your food.

7. It’s Always Warm and Sunny in Spainmalaga beach

I wish, I wish, I wish this were true! I wish someone told me this two years ago when packing my suitcase … Winter is REAL in Spain. Sure, it doesn’t reach the cold, frosty depths of NYC, but it gets cold. The average winter temperature is 10° C (50° F). Not frigid, but when most buildings don’t utilize modern day heating, it ain’t pleasant. As for the sun? Southern Spain in Andalucia is where the sun hangs out. In the north, finding the sun is like playing hide N’ seek. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it.

THE TRUTH: If you’re in search of that scorching hot Spanish sun, come in the summer.

8. Spanish guys are not what you think.spanish men

Yea, yea, I speak from experience. Every foreign girl comes to Spain all dreamy eyed, hoping to find their hot Rico Suave Spanish love. Well ladies, Ricky Martin forgot to leave a bunch of his clones here. Oh, wait…Ricky Martin is from Puerto Rico.

THE TRUTH: If you’re looking to get swept away on a white horse by a tall, dark, handsome Spaniard with a rose petal in his mouth…go to Puerto Rico!

9. Spanish people are Europeans.european

One of the guests on my food tour said to me, “I’m surprised how light skinned everyone is here!” I then explained to the group that Spanish people are Europeans, who essentially speak Spanish (or Castilian, if ya’ wanna get technical). Let’s look at our map again, shall we? While Spaniards speak the same language as Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, etc., they are on the other side of the world…in Europe. In fact, Spanish in Spain sounds completelyyyy different than that of Latin American countries.

THE TRUTH: Just ’cause Spain speaks Spanish, doesn’t change the fact that they like drinking fine wines on terraces, eating sharp cheese and crusty bread in parks, and just generally…being really, really European.

If you didn’t know, now you know! You’re ready to travel to Spain. So, leave that hot sauce at home (or, take it if you just can’t resist), and come see this beautiful, vivacious, often sunny country for yo’self!

Now, I wanna know! What misconceptions did you have of Spain?

15 thoughts on “9 Misconceptions the World Has About Spain

  1. I wanna cry reading this. A pity your countrymen will not read it, or at least only an infinitesimal part of them; and we will continue seeing American tourists strolling along Paseo del Prado street, proudly wearing implausible huge mexican sombreros that some clever shopkeeper has sold them in his souvenir shop …

    1. I hope as many people share this as possible so people from outside of Spain are made aware! The best thing we can do is try our best to inform them of the truths :) The power of internet is strong… Please help me share!

  2. Great post (especially about Spain being warm and sunny). By the way, tinto de verano is not popular in all regions of Spain. We do drink that here (Euskadi), but not as often as you say. What almost everyone gets is kalimotxo (or caña or mosto or sidra, in order of popularity). Gin Kas is also popular… And Pika (Beer + Kas Limon)

  3. Agree with all of these except maybe the points on the men – I think I’ve been swept away a few times by some Spaniards (but not with man-buns!)

  4. Oh My God!! Thank you, thank you, thank you :) As a Spaniard I couldn’t be happier :)

    As to point 7 – what I usually try to say is that Spain is a very diverse country when it comes to wheather, unlike Germany or other similar sized countries. On the same day you can freeze to death in one city while people are enjoying a summer day in another.

    Thanks agian

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