There is an expression or refrain that is quite common here, and it speaks volumes about an aspect of the Spanish culture. More or less, the expression is as follows: “think the worst of someone or some situation, and you will be right” (Piensa mal y acertarás.).
In other words, if you’re in the midst of a business transaction, a spiritual conversation, an offer of some kind, don’t you dare believe the person. He is probably just out to trap you, to fool you, to mug you, or perhaps has some kind of an axe to grind. Maybe he wants to steal your wallet. Maybe it’s a scam. Maybe it’s a trap. Run! Run!
Essentially, if we had to summarize this characteristic with one word, the word would be distrust.
Certainly, there is truth and wisdom in being guarded, perceptive, and wise. Gullibility is an ugly reality for far too many individuals in my culture.
Here, this attitude of distrust has only compounded with the recent economic debacle. In fact, I just ran across an interesting article on a mainline and politically right website. The article polled thousands of Spaniards on what they believe to be the number one problem facing their country. Economic crisis? No. 28% unemployment? Nope. Education problems? Good try, but no. Instead, a shocking 40% of the population believes Spain’s biggest problem is government corruption. In their minds, the country is run by a band of lying, scheming, scoundrels. (By the way, it just takes one quick conversation with almost anyone on the street to confirm this data.)
Even more shocking, those polled believed that this problem of dishonesty, corruption, and deceit goes way beyond political leaders. In fact, 86% of the Spaniards polled believe themselves to be “corrupt.” That’s right, they believe this is a problem that transcends politics and touches their own hearts and lives. 86%!