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?

43 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

  5. I will miss you very much how you explain our current life seen by the eyes of a foreign girl who fell in love with Spain. Not really so many Americans discover what is real Spain. Thanks for your time making me discover my country with different eyes.

  6. I have to say that a LOT of people know how to dance Salsa. Actually, we have had world champions. Again, Spain is a nation of nations, and there are regions of Spain where the Latin influence is huge. For example, the Canary Islands (+2 million people living there) has a huge Salsa and other latin dances fanbase. Almost everybody knows the basics of these dances. Furthermore, there are a lot of people practicing this in every big city, but not in the same proportion as in here. You only have to take a look at Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival. So yeah, I would say that we dance way more salsa than any other European country!.

    Best regards,


    PS: Spanish people from the mainland generally don’t know sh*t about latin culture haha. But remember, not all the Spanish people live in the mainland.

    1. Hi Jorge, thanks for that enlightening info! It’s certainly not very common on the mainland, except for a few salsa clubs here and there that you can find in some of the bigger cities. It’s good to learn that it’s more popular in the Canaries! I loooove salsa and latin music, so now I have (another) excuse to visit the Canary Islands 🙂

  7. Like Jorge, I am from the Canary islands as well (living in the U.S.A.) In Spain, there are too many different accents (it varies by regions/cities). Here in the U.S. a lot of people think I am either Cuban or Puerto Rican (because the accent similarity). When I tell them that I am a Spaniard they immediately ask me why I don’t pronounce the “Spanish Z or C” 🙂

    [In fact, Spanish in Spain sounds completelyyyy different than that of Latin American countries]

  8. What a pity you didn’t taste “Calimocho” (maybe you did it!), one of our popular crazy mix: Coca-cola with wine and a lot of glasses….delicious and refreshing. Good luck!

  9. As a German in Spain (residence since 1988) you’ve forgotten the most important misconception about Spain: what tourists and other people think we do, when we have a lunch break at work – we sleep…SIESTA!! E-VERY-BODY siesta all the time and when you tell them “I will call you back later, I’m on lunchtime now and can’t reach anybody”..the answer is ” 😉 siesta time eeehhh???” Yep F>)=()=(/7** LOL

  10. Thanks for this post. I suppose it’s the same as when I discovered not all the US people wear weapons on a daily basis, wear a white hat with some pretty cowboy boots while riding a horse, eat only hamburgers with french fries and root beer, they only (ONLY!!) speak and understand english, and hate everybody without blond hair…

    1. Hi Enrique! hahah that’s totally true…Over here in the East Coast, I actually don’t know one single person who owns a gun (thank god). However, I have family in Colorado and friends from Texas, and almost EVERY family owns a gun, although they don’t carry it around with them to the supermarket or to do daily errands, haha. Oh, and I’m really glad they don’t hate people without blonde hair cause I’d have a pretty hard time here 😉

  11. you also could mention that Spanish is not the native language of all Spaniards. There are different “regional” languages such as Catalan, Basque, Galician, etc… In addition, many people doesn’t know that Catalan is the first language not only of many people from Catalonia, but also people from Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

  12. Although I do believe you have an all-round knowledge of the Spanish culture, you have to realize that many of your assertions are not very accurate. Your writing is still full of mainstream trivia with some errors here and there.

    I don’t blame you though, 3 years is not quite enough time to wholly learn, take in and embrace the Spanish lore.

  13. Hi Casie

    I loved to read a lot of your blog’s posts; specially how much effort you put explaining other people real life experiences about Spain out of the “tourist topics”. You make me cry and smile at the same time with the sangria one and that’s why finally I’ve wrote you a message here.

    I really, really, really hope someday the most of the tourist that visit our country don’t be conned with that shitty fraud they are almost all “sangrias” they drink (and payed at a price of fine champagne). If they could taste real sangria I’m sure we will be no more the third more visited country of the world, definitely the first one forever (but maybe then there will be no space for Spaniards to live here XD). Your link to a sangria recipe doesn’t work anymore so I’ll let you here mi father’s one (truly a real “master” of it, even there’s not exist a single and “real” sangria recipe).

    Fisrt part ingredients:
    – One liter of young and refreshing “tinto” wine. Not necessary a great wine, just a true simple and decent one “vino de batalla” (buy it from the source, not cheap crap of supermarket!)
    – One fresh lemon, two oranges and two peaches at their point of ripening
    – Cut them into irregular pieces not too small (near 1″ side)
    – One piece of cinnamon stick (NEVER powder one)
    – One glass of lemon juice or lemon-tasted refresh (but without soda carbonic bubbles then), used to temper the strength of the wine’s taste
    – Mix it all gently on a ceramic jar (better than glass one) and put it on the fridge for a few hours with a FEW ice cubes (just to kep it fresh, you don’t wanna drink water!)
    – STATEMENT: this is not a sophisticated cosmopolitan mix, the proportions aren’t fixed, it’s up to you to experiment and find your exact point of taste.

    Second part ingredients
    – A hot dry summer day
    – A place to sit down under a shadow
    – A bunch of good friends
    – NOTHING TO DO in a few hours (caaaaaaaaalma)
    – Serve the jar mixed on the first part
    – Drink and enjoy life

    First part ingredients almost never found on “sangrias” on touristic places (mostly bad wine, lot of water in form of ice, almost no fruit…). Second part of ingredients also hard to find, people have too much rush when visiting us. Come on, you are on holidays when you are here! Relax, sit down, caaaaaaaalma. 🙂

    Greetings from Catalonia

    PS: Come to visit us too when you want, Catalonia is also a lot different of other Spain places (we are a country of contrasts like yours, but fitted in a lot less space 😛 ). Here we have other “embutidos” (jamón is good, but not the only one!), escalivades, esqueixades and the mother of all simple but delicious things: “pa amb tomàquet” (ideal as a companion of any embutido or tortilla de patatas). You could also check your improved Spanish skills against another challenging accent (derived that the fact here we speak 2 different languages). What more could you desire! 🙂

    1. Hi Xavier! Omg, thank you so much for sharing your sangria recipe. It sounds AMAZING!!! I am going to try it the first chance I have, and impress all my American friends over here 😉 I have been to Catalonia, but want to explore SO much more! It’s truly a beautiful region, with so much to be discovered beyond Barcelona. It’s definitely on my list of places to explore deeper when I return one day to Spain 🙂 Un saludo desde New York. I hope you keep following along my adventures! -Casie

      1. OMG I noticed just now that i forget one detail about the recipe. O_O Things that happens when writing so much too late at night. ^_^U

        It’s easy, just to add a small size (one to two chupito sizes) of cognac/brandy to “spice up” a bit the mix. And in your case, living on the USA I suppose there will be easy to buy California’s wine. All the wine i tasted of that state are smooth, tasteful and “fruity”; a young one (not reserve, as I said, not expensive wines just decent ones are enough) of this kind will be perfect to that sagria recipe.

        Hope you enjoy it when you taste it. Just remember that “entra fácil” but “pega fuerte”. That’s the point to have nothing to do in a few hours after drinking it. 😀

Let's Chat! Whattya think?