April 22, 2024


Caro is a Canadian who believes that the key to not looking like a “megatourist” while you walk the bull skin is to “not order sangria in bars” (she suggests alternatives with more local roots, such as the clear one or the tinto de verano). Don’t be shocked if they charge you for water or bread and naturally assume “it’s not that the waiters hate you, it’s that they don’t get paid to smile at you”. Amstervan, a New Zealander “on tour around the world”, believes that the most disconcerting things about our country are “the long cushions to share on the double beds”, the potatoes sold in jars (excuse me?) or the 37 degrees in the shade of southern summers.

For Miriam, who presents herself as an expert in Spanish and British stereotypes, it is “rare” that we Spaniards have the nerve to “mix mayonnaise and ketchup and call it pink sauce”, that nine at night seems too early for dinner or our unconditional devotion to olive oil. Filipina April is baffled by the ability of the average Spaniard to party for seven consecutive days without dying in the attempt, and she believes that our country has invented the most joyous and delirious of ways to test the limits of the human body: the town festivals.

Viktoria and Tamara, two well-travelled Russian twins, find deplorable the tendency of young people from Madrid to shop in the same stores and, consequently, “all wear the exact same dresses, jackets, pants or shoes”. The aesthetics are also horrible. grunge which he attributes to the people of Barcelona. damien, foreigner insightful of indeterminate origin, he has found in Spain a country where clothes are hung on the facades because dryers are conspicuous by their absence, electronic devices “do not fit” in sockets, milk is sold hot and supermarket trolleys are absurd and dysfunctional.

The invention of the mezzanine

The list could be extended to infinity. The fact is that social networks, especially TikTok, have found a real gold mine in the (alleged) peculiarities of Spain. There are those who deplore the fact that it “never” rains in the Iberian Peninsula, who despair when they see that the Spanish they were taught at school has nothing to do with the one people speak, who speculates that “Andalusian” must be a cross between Spanish and Berber, who loves churros with chocolate and is excited by the possibility of devouring them in gloomy joints at the wee hours of the morning, who does not understand the ritual exchange of cheek kisses between perfect strangers, who abhors that “ the first floor is actually the second floor thanks to the diabolical invention of the mezzanine”, who accepts with great difficulty that most stores are closed until five in the afternoon despite the fact that hardly anyone takes the famous siesta anymore… Also who is stunned by “gastronomic finds with the sign of Spain” of the caliber of the pseudopaella Moorish skewer, chicken with ratatouille or potato omelette with bacon, meat broth, red peppers, mozzarella…

These are, in general, videos impregnated with complicit humor, if not genuine affection like the one in which an anonymous TikToker describes it as “the most adorably strange country in the world”. Among the answers, there are many Spaniards who take up the gauntlet with, in general, sportsmanship, good nature and wit: “Tinto de verano is the answer to your prayers.” “I don’t know what Spain you have lived in, my girl, because everything you tell sounds very strange to me.” “What are you doing, Barabbas? With Spain only the Spaniards get involved ”. “If it is that to be Spanish you have to be born.”

Good pretty and cheap?

Just a few days ago, Melissa Essie, an American living on the Spanish coast, accumulated tens of thousands of I like with a video showing the bill from the restaurant where he had just had a sandwich and a beer. “Four euros! Four euros! ”, She repeated herself over and over again. “And they still ask me if I regret having come to Spain. This is my answer!”. It will turn out that ours, in addition to being strange as hell, is the country to which you have to move if what you aspire to is to eat well at a reasonable price.

There is no doubt, TikTok has become the new reference platform for those who think that Spain is different. The Chinese social network began by popularizing outlandish dances and today (with more than a billion active users, according to data from the company that owns it, Byte Dance Ltd.) it welcomes Internet user tribes of very diverse stripes, starting with those who bet on populace humor. and without bitterness. Of the many possible Spains, one of the most likeable is perhaps the one drawn by many foreigners, tourists or residents, from a fascinated strangeness or from a partial understanding of our social fabric and our cultural codes. Together they have revitalized an aesthetic category, bizarre traditionalism, which is perhaps best perceived from outside of Spain.

Difference as will and representation

Are we really that weird? How to explain why we continue to seem so stubbornly unique in a world where, courtesy of hyper-accelerated globalization, everything is starting to look more or less the same almost everywhere?

In the opinion of Andrés Marquina, a Spanish teacher for foreigners, “Spain is as strange a country as any other, but some of its peculiarities, seen up close, can be downright amusing.” Marquina adds that most of her students “make shocking discoveries about Spanish idiosyncrasies almost every day”, but considers that this is “perfectly normal” when you delve into a certain culture: “I lived in the United Kingdom for five years and never left to be amazed at how rich, complex and, yes, wacky, British popular culture really is. I was about to return to Spain when I discovered the jellied eels (jellied eels), which must be the strangest dish in the world, and I never quite got used to having rugs in bathrooms or lawyers wearing wigs.”

For Marquina, “a new style of humor based on celebrating diversity feigning amazement at things that catch our attention but that deep down we don’t consider so strange” is proliferating on social networks. It seems to him a way like any other to “bet on the local color” and display, incidentally, “some knowledge of the destination or host culture.” Playing the foreigner on TikTok is a good way to “start feeling a little less foreigner”. The professor has among his pupils a couple of young people influencers who make videos like some of those mentioned, “although surely they are much less viral”. Among the reasons for perplexity that they have shared with him on occasion, Marquina cites “festivals like La Tomatina, which seems very strange to them; the hanging clothes (a classic); the great physical contact between people; how frequent are expressions like “cool”, “cojonudo” or “de puta madre”; the lateness; chaotic schedules; the eternal after-dinners; the carajillo of anise or cognac at breakfast time, or the thing about throwing goats from a bell tower, although I have explained to them a thousand times that this is no longer done”.

The Hispanist Nigel Townson already said that the slogan Spain is different, in addition to a cynical attempt to justify “the aberrant singularity of the Franco dictatorship”, was perhaps one of the most effective marketing campaigns in our history, the one that contributed to making the tourist explosion of the 1960s possible. then it was evident that tourists are excited about the difference, especially if it is part of a package of sun, beach, sangria and competitive prices. What’s the point of traveling abroad to find more of the same? Judging by the TikTok verdict, tourists and expatriates prefer a Spain with churros and tinto de verano, where clothes are hung on the balconies and you have to go through the mezzanine to get to the first floor. A country that aspires to be better, but does not for that reason give up being different.

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