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Spain: a nation of sun, soccer, bullfights — and the crisis

Survey shows country’s recent economic woes now form part of its international image

Spain is still associated with bullfighting in many foreigners' minds.
Spain is still associated with bullfighting in many foreigners' minds. EFE

The economic crisis has officially joined bulls, soccer and sunny weather as one of the most common images of Spain in the minds of foreigners.

The finding is part of the Image Barometer survey conducted by the Real Instituto Elcano think tank and released on Wednesday.

The poll asked people in 10 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Maghreb region of Africa what they thought about Spain.

The country’s global image rating was 6.9 points out of 10, a slight improvement from 2012, when it was 6.5.

The survey found a lower incidence of the words “flamenco” and “siesta”

But the real news is the fact that the economic crisis has become a chief characteristic of the country, according to residents of other nations.

Asked “What is the first thing you think of when you think about Spain?” a majority of respondents in Morocco and Mexico mentioned the crisis in first place, while French and German respondents placed it second, after the sunny weather.

The survey also found a lower incidence of the words “flamenco” and “siesta,” although they were still mentioned.

“The international media, which kept underscoring the Spanish miracle up until 2007, have been stressing the economic crisis for years now,” notes Carmen González Enríquez, director of the think tank’s Spanish Image Observatory.

European countries – particularly Germany, France and Britain – view Spain as a poor country and, along with South Korea, expressed the least optimism about its economic progress.

Spain scored best for tourist attractions (8.2 points) and sports personalities (7.5) and worst for the economy (5.9) and politics (6.2).

Neighboring countries were generally more critical of Spain, although in general it is perceived as traditional, religious, democratic, hardworking and trustworthy.

“It is worth mentioning that corruption is not something that is associated with Spain abroad, and that is in sharp contrast to the image that Spaniards have of their own country,” said González Enríquez.

Broken down by countries, Morocco gave Spain the lowest grade (5.8) while Brazil awarded the highest score (7.6).