One of the most well-known preconceptions about the Spanish people is their love of celebrating any event that comes across them and living a “no pasa nada” lifestyle.  That is to say, the notion that everything is going to be alright, that anything bad is no big deal, and other such feelings about simply enjoying life.  This is one of the many reasons that makes Spain such a popular destination for foreigners, especially within Europe.  Spain provides that quintessential escape from everyday life; from the job, stress and even bad weather.

So, when you hear that Spain’s economic situation is one of the worst in the world (taking the bronze medal behind Greece and Italy), I can imagine your surprise, especially after coming to know the Spanish and their culture.  Currently, Spain has more than 20% national unemployment, with unemplyment being 40% among the youth population (ages 18-24).

Think getting a job in the US of A is rough? Try searching here.

The irony of the situation was best described by one of my professors recently, a local from a pueblito in the Valencia province.  He has constantly been aware of this nearly carefree feeling, of how most Spaniards, especially youth, just want to have a good time — all the time.  When faced with crisis, what does the general public do?  Say “no pasa nada” or no big deal and try to ignore the problem, or simply treat it as nothing significant.  In fact, he went as far to say that Spaniards, in a general sense, live lifestyles of bubbles.  That is to say, no one truly wants to confront the elephant in the room; it’s much easier to picture it as a puppy.

Of course, simply enjoying life is something that everyone should take to heart.  The common phrase of “taking pleasure in the little things” certainly comes to mind.  However, it is one thing to have this mentality yet have major problems in the country.  It is something else entirely to recognize these problems and iron out solutions.

With the total change of government in Sunday’s primary elections (from the socialist party of the PSOE to the conservative majority of the Partido Popular), we’ll just have to wait and see if the “no pasa nada” style can compete with the 21st century.

Pat Pederson is studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, with the University of Virginia.