The Shame In Spain

“Es una vergüenza…”, “Así nos va”, “Normal, este país”

Last week, a nurse in Spain became the first person to catch ebola outside of Africa. Scary? Maybe. A cause for extra precaution, for more education? Definitely. Shameful? I don’t know if we should go that far. But during this past week, I’ve heard a lot of reactions from Spaniards—friends, Twitter personalities, politicians, newscasters, etc. Some offered support to a person who was risking her life to save someone else. But a lot of people talked about shame. Shame? Yes, shame.

La vergüenza ajena

I love Spain. I think it’s a pretty cool country—beautiful, with great food, open-minded people (mainly). It has its problems, but it’s overall a nice place to live. I am sometimes shocked by Spaniards’ views on their own country, the way they insult it, as if their problems made it a terrible country. As Spanish National Television put it in a blog post, “We Spaniards feel shame constantly.” As the blog mentions, everyone feels a twinge of shame when your drunk uncle does ridiculous things at a wedding. Of course! But Spaniards seem to feel shame where most of us wouldn’t, to feel shame when they personally haven’t done anything wrong. La vergüenza ajena, feeling shame on the behalf of another person.

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