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Spain Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

The Spaniards are usually described as hospitable and welcoming. In particular, in the autonomous regions such as Catalonia and the Basque region, the residents are often proud of their food and culture. They look primarily like Catalans or Basques, rather than Spaniards. The family is important in Spain, which is especially noticeable in times of crisis.

In private contexts, Spaniards almost always greet cheek pussies, one on each cheek, even though one does not know each other. These are light kisses that sometimes barely touch the cheek. Kind kisses are given between women, between men and women and to children. Men rarely kiss each other, but take a hand or thump each other in the back.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Spain, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

In working life or in official contexts, Spaniards usually greet by handshake, but if you get to know each other you can later switch to cheek kisses. When Spaniards meet new people, are seen in official contexts or if the other person is older, it is best to use Ni (Usted) instead of Du (Tu).

Spaniards are generally interested in visitors from other countries and ask about the person's home country and what he or she likes about Spain. The conversations can be about food, cultural habits and more, but rarely about work. It is unusual, as in Sweden, to start a conversation with asking what the other person is working.

Culture and Traditions of SpainPride and humor

Spaniards are often proud of their food, their football and other Spanish culture. For many, pride first and foremost applies to their own region, for example in Catalonia where Spaniards from other parts of the country are called "immigrants". Pride over one's own region is especially true in the Basque Country and Galicia. Learning a few words in the regional language is highly valued. If you live in the region for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to try to learn both Spanish and the regional language.

Being punctual is important in the northern regions, as in Catalonia and the Basque country, but has less significance in Andalucia in the south. Humor is often used to initiate meetings or regular conversations - you want to avoid appearing too serious.

At work and in official contexts, Spaniards dress quite formally. Women generally dress more feminine than in Sweden. You walk in with outer shoes in each other's homes.

If you are invited home to Spaniards, you can bring a small gift to the hostess, such as chocolate, cookies, wine or brandy. If there are children in the home, it is appreciated to bring candy or small gifts for them as well.

Meals and typical food

Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day. Breakfast is light, as is dinner if you don't eat it in a restaurant or have guests. The breakfast usually consists of coffee, tea or - for the children - thick chocolate milk, served with French bread and jam, croissants, muffins or some other sweet bread. The lunch is eaten at 14 and sometimes consists of three dishes; soup or salad for starters, a main course consisting of meat, fish or chicken, and then dessert which is usually fresh fruit everyday. In the late afternoon, a snack (merienda) often consists of sandwich or some sweet bread. Dinner is usually eaten late, at 20 or 21 hours. Everyday, dinner can consist of sandwiches (bocadillos) with different toppings, potato omelette (tortilla) or some other light dish.

Spanish food is varied. What you eat depends to some extent on what part of Spain you live: on the coasts (especially in Galicia) a lot of seafood is eaten and in the north inland, pots with beans and sausages or meat are common. Olive and sunflower oil are essential in Spanish cooking, while butter and cream are rarely used. For most meals light bread is eaten. The Spanish small dishes (tapas), the rice dish paella as well as tortilla are known worldwide. Spain is also known for its red wine, especially from Rioja, for the sherry from Andalusia and for the sparkling white wine cava from Catalonia.

The family is often central, especially in times of crisis when many have to rely on the family to survive. The children often stay with their parents for a long time, which is partly due to high youth unemployment, low wages and expensive housing.

Holidays and national symbols

Spain has both national and a number of regional holidays. In addition to the Catholic holidays, the National Day is celebrated on October 12 in memory of Christofer Columbus's ascent in America in 1492. It is also celebrated in Latin America and the United States. On December 6, the Constitution Day is celebrated in memory of the referendum on Spain's new constitution in 1978.

The Spanish celebrate Christmas, but most of them still hand out Christmas presents traditionally on the thirteenth day of January 6 - the day when the three wise men came to the Jesus child with their gifts. The Christmas presents are handed out by the vice men (los reyes). Influences from the rest of the western world and the commercial impact have meant that more and more people have changed to Santa and Christmas presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and some give out both days.

New Year's Eve is celebrated with family or with friends and acquaintances. According to tradition, you drink cava and eat a grape for each time when the new year is ringed.

On National Day and at other festivals, the red-yellow Spanish flag is raised (see the introduction page for Spain in the Country Guide). The colors come from the oldest Spanish kingdoms: Aragon, Castile, León and Navarre. On National Day you can also hear the national anthem from 1770, Marcha Real (the royal march), which has no words; until 1975 the text used by General Franco was used, but it was then removed and no new ones have yet been agreed. It is available in a longer version (intended for the king) and a shorter version (for example at sporting events) and you can hear it online.

2013

December

The king's mother-in-law risks long imprisonment

According to Spanish media, King Juan Carlos's son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín is suspected of crimes, which in total can be punished by 23 years in prison. This applies, among other things, to embezzlement, fraud and tax offenses.

Mas announces Catalan referendum on independence

Catalonia's leader Artur Mas announces that the region will hold a referendum on independence from Spain on November 9, 2014. The Madrid government rejects this. When Spanish King Juan Carlos holds Christmas on TV and appeals for national unity, the Catalan public service channel does not broadcast the speech. All parties in Catalonia agree on how the question in the referendum should be formulated, and the date on which the vote will be held.

Abortion ban is planned

The government also plans to prohibit abortions except in cases where a woman becomes pregnant during a rape, the fetus is damaged or where the woman's physical and mental health is in danger. This raises protests across the country. According to the current abortion law from 2010, a woman can freely choose whether she wants to have an abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. The Catholic Church is pushing for the law to be changed, but opinion polls indicate that a meager majority of Spaniards want to keep the legislation as it is. However, the government does not have any major problems getting the law through parliament, where the People's Party (PP) has its own majority.

November

Government new demonstration laws, threat to freedom of speech?

At the end of the month, the government decides to tighten the fine for demonstrations that are held without permission and which lead to violence. The highest penalties, up to EUR 600,000, should include those who interfere with electoral processes. It is also proposed to be punishable by burning the Spanish flag, insulting the state and drinking alcohol in public places. Masking bans for those participating in protests should also be introduced. The opposition and many non-governmental organizations strongly criticize the bill, which they believe restricts freedom of expression. Some conservative commentators are also critical of the proposal.

The king's son-in-law is being investigated for eco crimes

A number of properties belonging to King Juan Carlos's son-in-law are being held by the court. The mother-in-law is being investigated for financial crime and the tax authorities are to examine the wife, Princess Cristina's affairs.

October

53 are convicted of corruption

October 4th

53 people are sentenced to fines and imprisonment for up to 11 years for corruption in the so-called Caso Malaya (Malayan Falls). It is local politicians and officials in Marbella who have embezzled municipal funds and received bribes to grant building permits in, for example, protected areas, give public contracts and more.

August

The Socialist Party demands Rajoy's departure

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy explains to the congressionally elected Congress that the bribery allegations against him by the People's Party's former treasurer (see July 2013) are false and that he has not received any black money. The Social Democratic opposition claims that Rajoy is lying, that the People's Party won elections with the help of illegal funding for two decades and that Rajoy must resign.

July

The newspaper accuses Rajoy of corruption

El Mundo magazine publishes what is said to be an original document, which shows that Prime Minister Rajoy received bribes in 1997-1999. After publication, the newspaper submits the document to a court. The pressure on Rajoy to resign increases since former party treasurer Bárcenas said in the preliminary investigation that he handed over € 25,000 to Rajoy as late as 2010. El Mundo writes that the prime minister sent comforting and encouraging text messages to Bárcenas after the scandal became known. However, Rajoy explains that he intends to fulfill the mandate the Spanish people have given him. The PP government has such a strong majority in Parliament that it cannot be cast in a vote of no confidence.

June

The IMF calls for efforts to create new jobs

According to the IMF, the crisis-hit Spanish economy is now making progress, but the government is urged to step up efforts to create more jobs.

April

Demonstration against the monarchy

Thousands of people are demonstrating in Madrid demanding the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of a republic. The royal house has been subjected to harsh criticism since the king's accusation was accused of embezzlement (see December 2012) and his daughter, Princess Cristina, was called for questioning.

March

Spain receives criticism from the European Court of Justice for lack of protection for homeowners

The European Court of Justice states that Spanish law does not provide sufficient protection for homeowners who cannot pay their loans and are evicted. It is estimated that around 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2008.

Over five million unemployed in Spain

New figures show that over five million people are unemployed, an increase of 328,000 people in one year.

February

Protests against evictions

Protesters in several cities demand a halt to evictions of people who cannot pay their mortgages. The evictions have been followed by many suicides.

The PSOE demands that Rajoy resign after corruption revelations

The socialist opposition calls for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's resignation and demonstrations are held against him after details of major unreported donations from construction companies to his party, the People's Party (PP). The money must have been bribes that went to leading party representatives, including Rajoy, during the years 1997-2008. The Prime Minister denies the allegations, but the PP's opinion figures are falling. Prosecutors initiate preliminary investigation against the party.

January

The Catalan regional parliament votes for independence

Catalonia's regional parliament votes for a symbolic declaration of independence, but at the same time the regional government in Madrid is asking for an additional € 9 billion in emergency loans in addition to the € 5 billion requested by the Barcelona regional government in August 2012.

Lower interest rates, signs of economic recovery

Falling market interest rates for Spain are signs that the world's confidence in the country's government finances has strengthened. Interest rates on five-year bond loans fall to 3.99 percent.


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