Let's start with Spain. Generally speaking, in Spain being shy is not an option. It is simply not allowed. From the moment you start to speak, you will be expected to do so. Any shyness whatsoever will be "ironed out" of you by the constant repetition of this phrase: "What's the matter? Did the cat ate your tongue?" I would probably be quiet and reserved had this not been the case. Most people think of me as being very outgoing and confident with people, and it's true: I can hold my own in any type of conversation. What they don't realise is that this doesn't come naturally to me, it is a skill that I had to learn because I had no other choice.
Being reserved, while not quite so frowned upon, it's not very common at all. Except for a part of Spain called Galicia - where being reserved is the norm. There's even a name for it: retranca. Basically a Galician person never lets on on what they're really thinking, and it is not because they're shy, it is because they don't want to tell you. As if life was a constant game of poker. The owner of the clothes chain ZARA is Galician, and according to the "grapevine" until 1999 no photograph of him had ever been published; "he has only granted interviews to three journalists ever" (source: Bloomberg). Another well-known Galician was dictator Franco. I have read that he used to drive his cabinet ministers up the wall with his retranca. Even Hitler found him so hard to deal with that after their meeting in Hendaye to negotiate agreements on Spain entering the war on the side of the Axis, Hitler remarked: "I rather have teeth pulled out than go through that again". Hitler was well-known for his "cleverness in adapting himself to the people he dealt with, his extraordinary tenacity for discussion and his endless capacity for argument." * Well, looks like all that wasn't enough to overcome Franco's retranca.
My experience with the Italians and the French I have met is that their views on shyness and reserve are very similar to the Spanish. Not shy, not reserved (though I'm sure that there are also regional variations on this as well). The Portuguese I have met are not shy, but are reserved though perhaps not quite in the "determined" way of the Galicians.
The Finns are very shy though not necessarily reserved. Unlike the English, they look upon their shyness as a sort of handicap and wish they weren't shy. They even make jokes about their shyness:
"How do you know if a Finn is an extrovert?
Because he looks down at both his feet."
The English are both shy and reserved. Coming from a country where this was not the norm, at first I really struggled to understand their mentality. Bear in mind that at the time I was living in a very small village in the West Country. Then I read "Pride and Prejudice". (This was before the BBC did the famous series with Colin Firth, so I have no idea how on earth I came across the book. I had never heard of Jane Austen until I came over, but she was literally a "sanity saver". ) Suddenly everything made sense: these people were still interacting as if they were in the 1700s. Over a year later I moved to London. Londoners aren't quite as shy and reserved as the people in the West Country, but are not far off. Except for Cockneys that is. Cockneys are the complete opposite of the English stereotype: they are loud and jolly and not shy or reserved at all. They talk a lot and very fast. Think of the differences between Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. It is a pretty accurate portrait of both types.
I have met some other European nationalities but not enough of them to report on their general views. The varied attitudes makes me wonder where the differences originated from. There is always a story behind as to why people have passed those traditions for generations...
* (http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/v1/2004b/InstaurationLordenManstein.htm )