Oh never talk again to me
Of northern climes and British ladies;
It has not been your lot to see,
Like me, the lovely girl of Cadiz
--Lord Byron, "The Girl of Cadiz" (1809)
Part I here. A little background: I graduated in spring 2003, spent 3 months teaching English in Barcelona, came back due to being broke (only had a job for those 3 months), worked to save more money, went back in summer 2004 and stayed until February 2005 (again due to being broke). I've been working here since then, and I'll likely return this year in July -- thank christ! I plan to get a more advanced diploma for teaching English, which I hope will open more options for teaching & training new teachers.
Now, I wouldn't be much of a nerd if I didn't have some sort of quantitative data analysis to establish my case, so let's get it out there first. The data are from David Buss' seminal 1989 cross-cultural survey of mating preferences (pdf here, Ctrl F "bbs"). The sample size for the Mainland US data set was N = 1491 (639 male, 852 female, mean age for both ~20); for Spain it was N = 124 (44 male, 80 female, mean age for both ~23). Buss had the respondents rate how important various traits were in a mate, from 0 (not important at all) to 3 (essential), and then averaged the responses of each culture.
Admittedly, the best way to show where different cultures stand would have been to calculate their z-scores using huge data sets, but 1) the worldwide distribution would be unfairly dominated by larger cultural data sets in Buss' survey, and 2) I'm not interested in precisely how much more or less concerned one culture is w/ some traits vs another culture. As I'm more interested in who is more or less concerned w/ some trait than who else, I just made a rank-ordering, again admittedly to be taken w/ a grain of salt in the finer details, though the rough patterns are clear enough. For example, here are the rankings of the 37 cultures for how important to females are "Good finanical prospect," "Ambition / Industriousness," and "Good looks," from least to greatest emphasis (lists are up to the Mainland US data point):
Good financial prospect
(Rank) (Mean rating of trait) (Culture)
1 0.94 Netherlands
2 1.14 Zulu
3 1.16 Great Britain
4 1.18 Finland
5 1.33 Italy
6 1.36 Belgium
7 1.39 Spain
. . .
27 1.96 US
Ambition / Industriousness
1 1.41 Netherlands
2 1.56 Finland
3 1.59 Great Britain
4 1.66 West Germany
5 1.69 Spain
. . .
31 2.45 US
1 0.88 Zulu
2 0.99 Finland
3 1.09 Japan
4 1.21 Netherlands
5 1.22 S.Africa white
5 1.22 Ireland
5 1.22 Colombia
8 1.24 Spain
8 1.24 Australia
. . .
28 1.67 US
So what do Spanish girls care about? Beyond "personal chemistry," I'm not sure, but level of culture plays a larger role there than here. Now, many folks here believe that reflects Olde Worlde elitism, but it's actually the opposite -- raising your level of culture through willpower is much more feasible than raising your level of riches (largely determined by IQ, itself beyond conscious control), ambitiousness (mostly extraversion on the Big Five personality inventories, also not really under conscious control), or good looks (muscle level is under control, but not the two features girls actually give a damn about: height and facial features). Not unrelated: the only gain in the Head Start programs was in literacy, not IQ or other IQ-related life outcomes.
In my experience, they also want a guy who has a passion for something -- here, that usually means a thirst for power (as in the "Ambition / Industriousness" trait), but in cultures civilized enough to rise above alpha-male polygyny (a quagmire into which the rad fems have unwittingly led their sisters), "passion" means engaging in some activity that activates the psychological state of flow, whether that gets you rich or not. They want a guy who isn't so busy that he doesn't have time to enjoy the things that make life worth living for a Mediterranean -- succulent food, keeping in touch w/ family members, taking in beautiful architecture, enjoying a meandering chat w/ friends over coffee or a nap at home during the long lunch break, and staying out all Saturday night and not sleeping until Sunday afternoon!
That still leaves a large role for chance (chemistry), and isn't that unsettling? Not really: the randomness of personal chemistry is at work everywhere, except here you have to score highly on a battery of elite tests just to earn a ticket to enter the head-over-heels lottery. No thanks. I'm of course leaving aside the elephant in the room -- that, to me at least, the average prize in one lottery behaves and looks orders of magnitude better than in the other lottery.
As for personal anecdotes to put a face on the numbers -- first, I'm 5'8 and 130 lbs, so I haven't been to the beach in the US since I was a kid. I couldn't suffer them staring at the scarecrow. But when I went to the beach at Barcelona, I actually noticed some (cute) girls looking at me -- I thought for sure the skin on my back must have been stained by sprawling splotches of sunburn! I found out they don't prefer Viking Warrior types but Adolescent Greek Boy types. Second, I taught English, and a (cute) student of mine came on to me when our class went out clubbing. (I didn't respond since I didn't want to spoil the student-teacher dynamic.) Third, the only hot girl who's ever more-or-less propositioned me was a Catalan friend of an English teacher friend, when a group of us were at a karaoke bar. (Nothing happened since I tried to play it cool rather than ruin the chance by appearing too eager -- but she thought I was uninterested or gay, dropped me like a hot potato, and started hitting on another guy in our group. How on earth are you supposed to be not too eager but not too nonchalant anyway?)
Well, there's plenty more to say about them, but I'll leave it there and come back to this topic as other ideas pop into my mind. Till then, the final lines of Byron's poem:
In each her charms the heart must move
Of all who venture to behold her;
Then let not maids less fair reprove
Because her bosom is not colder:
Through many a clime ’tis mine to roam
Where many a soft and melting maid is,
But none abroad, and few at home,
May match the dark-eyed Girl of Cadiz.