3 Magic Things

22 March 2006

What are the 3 magic things that define the Spanish? The Cheat gives us his take after a run-in with the Italians.

One of my more recent clients is Italian, and a few months ago when we sat down to nail down the brief for his project we got into a discussion about what constituted “Italian design” and “Italian culture”.  Needless to say this was not a light matter, being for most Italians a theme requiring continuous discussion, in the never ending struggle for definition and identity.  We waxed on for about an hour, beginning with the kind of stereotypes we all imagine, then moved on to ever more esoteric themes before reaching any sort of conclusions. 

“There are three things in which we Italians are untouchable,” he pronounced.  I loved the confidence with which he formulated his statement, like there was absolutely no disputing its validity, as if it were a foregone and obvious conclusion.  “food, aesthetic sensibility, and beautiful women.”  I won’t go as far as to state whether or not I agree with his sentiments (mostly as to avoid the litany of angry letters that would/should flood the gates at SpainExpat.com) but suffice it to say, he and his partners nodded their heads in unison.  The Italians seem to think they know who they are and what they value.

This lead me to wonder about what magic three qualities Spain possesses, three things in which they are untouchable.  I spent some time thinking about it this week, and after some pleasant memories and interesting debates with my flock, we came up with these:

Parties.  This one is so painfully (cheerfully?) obvious, it may define this culture.  Who else but the Spaniards can turn entire islands into continental playgrounds of hedonism, sex, drinking and good times?  Not only that, but they participate in it all themselves, unlike island resorts elsewhere which cater (and prey) almost exclusively to foreign visitors.  And let’s not forget Faias and Tomatina in Valencia.  A whole city erupting (literally) in explosives and high octane chaos all day long; or whipping over ripe tomatoes at anyone silly enough to be around.  And the running of the bulls in Pamplona?  Buddy, these folks are professionals about fun.

Noise.  In Germany with some Spanish friends of mine last week we noticed a pattern to Spanish conversation: it starts out loud but ostensibly normal, then as several groups break off and continue on their own, they all increase their volume to be overheard by the others until they are literally screaming at each other, three feet away and no one understands a thing.  Then there’s a pause, everything’s quiet and it all starts over again.  Two people are just as capable of creating this ambient at 47.

Machismo.  Pride, honour, “macho Iberico” call it what you will but buddy, “we” are the best.  I know more than you, my team wins more games, and women can’t resist me.  At least that’s what a lot of Spanish men I meet seem to feel, and judging by the plethora of over styled hair, white sport coats and open shirts I see, it seems to correlate nicely.  I’m also amazed to see it work on women, time and time again.  Lots of cultures are known for male hubris, but I am pretty certain the Spanish own it (and it may explain the parties).

Awfully judgemental stuff this, but I was curious what other Spain expats see in our hosts in reference to the self confidence displayed by my Italian friends.  I shudder to think what they would list as three magic defining things for the rest of us. 

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