Because of the temperate climate and the long hours of sunshine, Spaniards tend to get up later in the morning and stay out later at night than the rest of their European neighbours. It is quite common for life to begin when the sun goes down, especially in summer. Much of Spanish life is lived in the streets and the atmosphere is especially vibrant at fiesta time. On a warm evening the street cafes and bars can fill to capacity as people sit and relax. They are a very happy people who enjoy life to the full. They love music, dance and food.
The Spanish are a very open-minded, fun loving people, who are very sociable and always intent on enjoying the outdoors and the sun. Meeting friends and neighbours in the streets and stopping for a chat to catch up on things is nothing out of the ordinary here. Family and friends make up an extremely important aspect of the Spaniards' everyday life and living without this constant interaction would seem unnatural to them.
The Spanish Language
The official language is Spanish, also called Castilian, and is the first language of over 72% of the population. Galician is spoken in the region of Galicia and Basque by increasing numbers of the population of Euskadi, the Spanish Basque Country. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, and the closely-related Valencian in the Valencia region. All these languages have official regional status. Other minority languages including Aragonese and Asturian are not officially recognised. The majority of people in Spain do not speak English.
Spanish Society & Culture
Social life in Spain is very important. Family and friends are vitally important to most Spaniards. Spaniards normally act and speak in an informal and spontaneous manner during social interactions and physical contact is frequent with greeting, kisses and embraces that may take those who are visiting Spain for the first time by surprise. Similarly, the Spanish habit of interrupting one another is not considered bad manners in Spain, but part of spontaneous communication.
Work/ Life Balance
The Spanish have the right balance when it comes to work and social life. Their lives generally do not revolve so much around their work but more about what happens after it. The Andalucians especially have thus earned themselves a reputation for being lazy with their “mañana” attitude to their work.
When in fact the Spanish are not lazy, they just know how to enjoy life. Yes they go to work and they work well, but they’ll then make sure they don’t over do it so that they can go out down the “paseo” at night and meet up with friends and family… with the kids in tow too of course. For them, there is more to life than just work.
Spanish Family Values
- Family comes first to Spaniards and that includes immediate and extended family. It is a trait passed down from generation to generation. Respecting the entire family and getting together very often and sharing happy moments and problems.
- Although great changes have taken place in recent years, the family is still at the heart of personal relations and is very important. Maintaining ties of friendship is also very important.
- The family is the basis of the social structure and includes both the nuclear and the extended family, which sometimes provides both a social and a financial support network.
- Today, it is less common than previously for family members to work in a family business, as personal preferences are important and university education is general.
- The structure and the size of the family vary, but generally, people live longer, have fewer children than before, and fewer people live in their homes with extended family.
- Family networks have become less tight. The greatest changes have occurred inside families, between men and woman, and the parents and children because the values that inspire these relations have changed.
Attitudes to Children
The Spanish have always been known for being very loving and tolerant towards children, even the ones that are not theirs. You tend to notice this very much in restaurants where children can be running around making loads of noise and no-one bats an eyelid. The Spanish are happy to let kids be kids, even if they do make sure that on a Sunday they have to wear their Sunday best.
There is an apparent trend in Spain where the Spanish are having less kids and later on in life. This is probably more to do with the cost of having children and buying a house but their attitudes to let children be children remains and that is a very refreshing attitude.
Traditionally, Spanish men have been known for their macho and chauvinistic behavior towards women. This however, has changed drastically over the last years and much less of this sort of attitude is seen nowadays.
Even so, standards are not what you may expect to find in the U.K. or in the U.S. and women, especially if traveling alone, can expect flirtatious comments to be called her way. This is referred to as and is quite common not only in Spain, but also in Latin American countries. Although this may seem rude or annoying, generally no harm is meant and is simply a natural way for men to express their admiration for women. These flirtatious comments are called "piropos", and some of the most common include the traditional “mi amor!” or “guapa!”
While it is acceptable for a visiting businesswoman to invite a businessman to dinner in a business context, it is still extremely difficult for a Spaniard to let a woman pay for his meal. He will expect to pay.
Machismo is the word for male dominance, and the culture of old men who created it has changed dramatically. Spain is fast becoming an equalitarian society, the birth rate is the one of the lowest in Europe, and women are present at university and work.
Religion in Spain
- The majority of Spaniards are formally Roman Catholic, although different religious beliefs are accepted.
- During the history of Spain, there have been long periods where different religious groups have coexisted, including Muslims, Jews and Christians.
- Religious history is apparent in every small town, where the most grandiose building is typically the church. In large cities the Cathedrals are almost museums.
- There is a great variety of popular festivals, some of international renown, which are normally related to religious traditions.
- Although almost everyone in Spain is Roman Catholic, many are not practicing. In many families only the older generation (the abuelas) still attend church regularly.
Fiestas and Traditions
All Spanish towns and cities have their own special celebrations, as well as the national holidays such as Christmas, Easter Week, All Saints Day etc. The way in which the national events are celebrated also varies from place to place. Most festivities are of religious base, mainly Catholic.
What Are The Spanish People Like?
Personal pride and individualism are highly valued, as are character and breeding. Modesty is valued over assertiveness. Flaunting superiority, intelligence and ability is not appreciated. People strive to project affluence and social position. Personal appearance, image and human relationships are very important.
Spaniards in general are a very friendly, warm and fun-loving people. Spanish people are hard working but they do know how to enjoy their free time. Family life is very important in Spain. Towards the south of Spain, life is considerably slower and more relaxed.
Spanish people are very proud of their history and culture and are very happy when foreigners take an interest. They love to show off and this is so evident in their dance such as flamenco. They need little excuse for a party or a fiesta and this is now part of everyday life in Spain.
When it comes to technology in Spain they are behind most of Europe but catching up fast. Spain has been a little slow to realise the potential of the Internet whereas mobile phones were quick to take off. You don't have to look far to see people on their mobiles. New technology is interesting to Spaniards but they are a little slow to take it up. It appears that new technology is far less important than socialising and enjoying life.
Spanish Social Customs
Meeting And Greeting
When you’re formally introduced to a Spaniard you should say ‘good day’ (buenos días señor/señora/señorita) or ‘good evening’ (buenas tardes) and shake hands (a single pump is enough). Spanish men shake hands on meeting and again on departing, whether it’s a casual meeting in the street or a formal occasion. If you’re in doubt as to whether a woman is married or single, wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the right hand (not the left), although mature women should be addressed as señora. ‘Good afternoon’ (buenas tardes) is used instead of ‘good day’ (buenos días) after lunch, which can start as late as 3pm until 9 or 10pm. ‘Good night’ (buenas noches) is usually used when going to bed or leaving a house late at night. ‘Goodbye’ is adiós or less formally you can say see you later (hasta luego).
‘Hi’ or ‘hello’ (¡hola!) is used among close friends and young people, often accompanied by ‘how are you?’ (¿qué tal?) or ‘what’s new?’ (¿qué hay?). In more formal language, ‘how are you?’ is ¿cómo está usted?, to which the reply is usually ‘fine, thank you, and you?’ (muy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?). A common reply when being formally introduced is ‘delighted’ (encantado/a). Elderly friends are often addressed as ‘male’ (don) and ‘female’ (doña), followed by their Christian name (considerable courtesy and respect is shown to women and the elderly in Spain). When someone thanks you (gracias), it is polite to reply ‘it was nothing/you’re welcome’ (de nada). When talking to a stranger it’s polite to use the formal form of address (usted) and not the familiar form (tú) or someone’s Christian name until you’re invited to do so. However, nowadays the tú form is much more widely used and usted is reserved mainly for business and when addressing older people.
The Ud. form is used widely in business and with people you do not know. You will also notice that Spaniards use both the vosotros and Ud. forms in their relationships with a person. Ud. is with people to whom you should show respect, strangers, and elderly members of the family. Vosotros is used with friends and people you are more casual with. You should familiarize yourself with the vosotros form and its uses. Also, there is a level of formality in your everyday dealings with people; it is considered polite to use "Sí, por favor; No, gracias; Sí, señora" when answering questions. Be considerate and follow local language customs.
Helpful Hints For Meeting Etiquette
- When introduced expect to shake hands.
- Shake hands with everyone present--men, women and children--at a business or social meeting. Shake hands again when leaving.
- Many men use a two-handed shake where the left hand is placed on the right forearm of the other person.
- Once a relationship is established, men may embrace and pat each other on the shoulder.
- Women may kiss each other on the cheek and embrace.
- Female friends kiss each other on both cheeks, starting with the left.
- People are often referred to as Don or Dona and their first name when in formal occasion as a general rule.
- Expect to be interrupted when speaking.
- Never touch, hug or backslap a Spaniard you do not know well, unless a friendly Spaniard touches you first.
- Also be aware that the distance between people who are just standing and talking is close and may make you feel uncomfortable at the outset. Do not feel invaded! This is just the Spanish idea of personal space. You will get used to it and not even notice it after a short time.
- Generally, Spaniards stand very close when talking.
- Spaniards speak a lot with their hands. Never mimic them.
Kissing in Spain
Be prepared for BESOS - in some situations, everyone is going to be kissing everyone (a kiss on each cheek) and you are going to have to get used to this. Even when you first meet people who are friends of a friend, they will give you besos.
Male and female acquaintances kiss each other, usually on both cheeks. If a lady expects you to kiss her she will offer her cheek. The ‘kiss’ is deposited high up on the cheek, never on the mouth (except between lovers), and isn’t usually really a kiss, but a delicate brushing of the cheeks. Close family and male friends embrace.
Family surnames are often confusing to foreigners, as the Spanish often have two surnames (possibly linked by ‘and’, e.g. y or i in Catalan), the first being their father’s and the second their mother’s. When a woman marries she may drop her mother’s name and add her husband’s, although this isn’t usual. Spanish children are usually named after a saint and a person’s saint’s day (santo) is as important a celebration as their birthday (cumpleaños), both of which are occasions on which it’s traditional to entertain your family and friends.
Appointments in Spain
Spaniards are often late and it is not considered rude. Also, do not expect quick service as the lifestyle is more "laid back".
If you have an appointment with a Spaniard don’t expect him to arrive on time, although being more than 15 minutes late is considered bad manners. If you’re going to be more than 15 minutes late for an appointment you should telephone and apologise.
Spanish time will take some getting used to. "Nos vemos a las 8" could mean 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, or even later. An invitation to "cenar a las 9 " is sure to mean that you will meet later than that. On the other hand, if you have an appointment with a doctor or any official type, you must arrive on time, even if you are kept waiting for a long time. Bring a book and your nicest smile. Expect buses to run on schedule if you are going on a trip, even if they do not. When someone says ahora, there's no telling when it will happen. Be patient. Nothing is done in a hurry. Spanish trademarks are procrastination and delay.
Dining And Entertainement
- It is acceptable and common to be late by 30 minutes in southern Spain and 15 minutes in northern Spain for social meetings. Never be late for a bullfight.
- Attempt to give a toast in Spanish. Be brief when toasting. It is acceptable for women to give toasts.
- Tip everyone for everything.
- No bread and butter plate is used. Bread is set directly on the table. Restaurants generally charge for bread by the piece.
- Spaniards don't waste food. It is better to decline food rather than leave it on your plate.
- The Spanish say ‘good appetite’ (que aproveche/buen apetito) before starting a meal. If you’re offered a glass of wine, wait until your host has made a toast (¡salud!) before taking a drink. If you aren’t offered a (another) drink it’s time to go home.
- When invited to a Spaniard's home, you can bring chocolates, pastries, or cakes; wine, liqueur, or brandy; or flowers to the hostess (red roses connote passion, yellow roses infidelity; give an odd number of flowers).
- Do not give: chrysanthemums, dahlias or 13 flowers (unlucky number).
- Open a gift immediately upon receiving it in the presence of the host.
- If you know your hosts have children, they may be included in the evening, so a small gift for them is always appreciated.
- Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
- Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
- Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
- Use utensils to eat most food. Even fruit is eaten with a knife and fork.
- If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
- The host gives the first toast.
- An honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal.
- It is acceptable for a woman to make a toast.
- Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing up, with the handles facing to the right.
- Do not get up until the guest of honour does.
- Although you may find a few things that Spaniards do truly appalling, they too will be surprised at some of your actions. Your best bet is to watch them and follow their lead.
Talking on The Phone
You should introduce yourself before asking to speak to someone on the telephone. Although the traditional siesta is facing a battle for survival, it isn’t advisable to telephone between the siesta hours (e.g. 2 to 5 pm) when many people have a nap. If you call between these times, it is polite to apologise for disturbing the household.
Because of the temperate climate and the long hours of sunshine, Spaniards tend to get up later in the morning and stay out later at night than the rest of their European neighbours.
Shops and Businesses
Shops and businesses are usually open from 9:00 am until 1:30 pm. After a lunch break the stores reopen around 4:30 pm and do not close until 8:30 pm, though it has become more and more common for businesses to saty open through the traditional 'siesta' hours.
Business establishments are usually closed for a day-and-a-half per week, most often Saturday afternoon and Sunday, while many shops close only on Sunday. In tourist areas, in summer, business hours are often expanded to 10 or 11 pm with stores open 7 days a week. Obviously this mainly includes the souvenir and handicraft stores that are of special interest to tourists.
The normal time for lunch is 1:30 to 3:30 pm and the normal time for dinner is 8:30 to 11:00 or 11:30 pm, quite a lot later than the norm in the rest of Europe. As with the souvenir stores, the restaurants often stay open later in the evening and serve food and drinks sometimes into the early hours of the morning, particularly in popular areas. It is common to go out to dinner with friends, especially on weekends.
Bars are usually open all day and close late at night. In general, the nightlife in Spain is quite intense, and the bars and discotheques stay open long past midnight. In summer, they often stay open past 3 or 4 pm. In big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, for example, there are many places that stay open until dawn, even in winter. Most bars do not have a cover charge.
While practically all establishments currently include a surcharge for service it is still common to leave something of a tip. The tips are what a lot of Spaniard workers rely on because the average wage for a waiter/waitress is relatively low compared to other Spanish professions. The tip also tells the person that you have enjoyed the products and services they have delivered to you.
This custom, common in bars and restaurants, has extended to hotel porters, theatre ushers and taxi drivers, though in none of these cases is it obligatory nor will anyone recriminate a client for not tipping, it is just a little bit more polite to offer one. A good 10% of the cost of services is recommended as an acceptable minimum tip, but you can give as little or as much as you wish.
Shopping is another very popular activityin Spain. The shop opening hours are usually from 10.00 in the morning to 20.00 in the evening. The opening hours are usually longer in shopping centres.
Spanish clothes shops stock a wide variety of clothes, as with any European country. On most high streets you will find top names as well as some local shops that sell high quality clothing. On the coast you will find typical holidaymaker shops where the quality of clothing may not be so good.
Dressing Style in Spain
Spanish men and women are almost invariably well groomed and style and fashion are important, although they often dress casually. It’s advisable to dress conservatively when doing business or visiting government offices on official business. There are few occasions when formal clothes are necessary and there are very few dress rules in Spain (except in respect to places of worship). Spaniards consider that bathing costumes, skimpy tops and flip-flops or sandals with no socks are strictly for the beach or swimming pool, and not for example, the streets, restaurants or shops.
Dress is not looked at too closely in most parts of Spain, even with trips to the opera or out to dinner, there is no obligatory dress code. There are no special norms in Spain with respect to dress. It is really up to you what you wear and you can just wear jeans and a t-shirt to even the nicest restaurants. Unless you are taking a walk up some of the mountains in Spain, it is not at all necessary to pack any warm clothes, although it is advisable to pack a raincoat, just in case you are one of the unlucky few that arrive in Spain during one of the average 50 days of annual rain.
You still need to be fashion conscious. If you dress only for comfort, your wardrobe will draw comments. Spaniards, like many other Europeans, wear clothes that fit closer to their bodies. They also have fewer, but nicer, outfits (because good quality clothes can be pretty expensive). They will notice baggy clothes and probably comment on them. You can of course wear whatever you want, but should think jeans without holes for your casual wear and some slightly nicer slacks too rather than grungy clothes. And do not worry about wearing the same thing too much. You will fit right in!
Be sure to dress nicely when you go out. For big clubs, dress up. For others, you can wear jeans and a nice shirt. Restaurants can be deceiving. The bar that you see when you first enter seems informal, but then you get to the dining room, and everyone is dressed up.
In general the Spanish have a very modern outlook on clothing. They are keen on designer clothes but quality is more important than a designer name. Spanish made clothes tend to be high quality and reasonably priced.
Teenage girls tend to wear trousers more than skirts. Denim is definitely 'in'. Teenage boys are keen on designer wear and appearance is important to them. Mature Spaniards dress conservatively and with style. Older men in particular tend to wear high quality clothing. Appearance is extremely important to Spaniards. They dress elegantly, even for casual occasions.
It is unclear what the Spanish think of scantily-clad holidaymakers but it is not acceptable in small villages, away from the coast. One should be particularly careful of dress code if entering churches. Swimwear and short skirts are frowned upon.
When visiting cities especially you may not want to look like a tourist. Dress conservatively. Avoid bright or flashy colors. Girls who wear mini-skirts and bikini tops will be frowned upon and will certainly attract unwanted attention. Long dresses or skirts are fine, as are trousers. Men are discouraged from wearing shorts and football tops around the city. You will rarely see a Spaniard wearing football shorts in town although smart shorts are quite acceptable and common.
The beach and coastal resorts is different; it seems that less is best. Don't be surprised to see scantily-clad girls of all ages in tiny bikinis and often topless. G-strings and thongs are in. Thongs on men are out and frowned upon.
Business people in Spain wear suits, along with shirt and tie. If you are there on business then you would do well to dress the same, even in warm weather. If the senior person takes his/her jacket off during a meeting, you may do so, too. Short sleeve shirts are quite acceptable. Women should wear dresses, blouses and skirts. Shoes are the most important element of dress. Shabby looking shoes can ruin a very nice outfit.
Spanish nightlife is legendary and one of Spain’s greatest attractions. Bars and discothèques stay open throughout the night. The hospitality sector is one of the most vibrant sectors of the Spanish economy. The Spanish nightlife is amongst the most popular and colourful in the world. Spain is world famous for its clubs, bars and restaurants, especially in the Balearics.
Spanish nightlife has a reputation for flair. Bars and clubs often stay open until the wee hours of the morning, allowing energetic youths to drink and dance the night away. Most Spaniards don't even go out until 11 p.m. or midnight, and they often stay out until dawn. Of course, this only holds true in big cities and party locales such as Ibiza and Malaga. Smaller towns are more reserved and low-key. Tourists in southern Spain also may enjoy the region's flamenco bars. Spawned by gypsies, this traditional dance music has grown into one of the nation's most recognizable art forms.
Spaniards often start the evening with el paseo, a leisurely stroll through the main streets or along the paseo maritimo in the coastal resorts.
Much of Spanish life is lived in the streets and the atmosphere is especially vibrant at fiesta time. On a warm evening the street cafes and bars can fill to capacity as people sit and relax. The nightclubs of Ibiza and the big cities have attracted the attention of the international media and are always an attraction for the youngsters. Most open late at night and don't close until late the following day.
The Spanish way of life is somewhat slower than the rest of Europe, especially in the south. This may be seen as lazy, but when the Spanish work, they work hard. They have adapted to the weather and play hard too. It is quite common for life to begin when the sun goes down, especially in summer. They are a very happy people who enjoy life to the full. They love music, dance and food.
Smoking is now banned in all interior public places in Spain although it is common for people to take no notice. Most bars still allow smoking and it is signposted on the door.
Especially for Women
- Traditionally, a macho and chauvinistic behavior toward women has persisted, known as machismo. This has changed drastically over the last few years.
- Be aware of eye contact. Returning a man's gaze may be interpreted as flirting or a show of interest.
- Spanish men tend to maintain eye contact with females for longer, although this does not mean anything.
- Do not dine alone in a restaurant or bar at night. However, it is acceptable to do so at lunch.
- It is acceptable for a visiting businesswoman to invite a businessman to dinner. However, realize it is very difficult for women to pay for a man's meal. Spanish men expect to pay. Speak to the maitre d' or waiter in advance if you wish to pay.
During the afternoons and late into the evening, the Spanish are out in the squares, parks and the paseos. Most are not doing anything particularly interesting, just walking up and down the paseo, or chatting with friends whilst all the kids play in the park. And it’s not just when the sun is shining. It’s about just being out.
The Spanish take to the streets every opportunity that they have. Just being out, walking around makes them very happy. And best of all this is a free activity for the whole family.
Being outside is something the Spanish are very good at, winter as well as summer. It seems most don’t want to be housebound and prefer to mingle outside, sometimes until very late into the night…and yes, the kids go along too.
Although the Spanish are great at making sure that they spend plenty of time outdoors, they are very house proud too and that includes knowing the neighbours.
In many towns and villages people often sit outside their front doors watching the world go by. If you have Spanish neighbours it’s quite probable that you’ll know them well and they will normally be very friendly towards you.
Spanish dining traditions focus on lunch as the primary meal of the day. Breakfast and dinner often are small affairs, giving way to a big family lunch. This is especially true on Sundays, when families tend to convene for an afternoon of food and socializing. Dinner may take place as late as 9 or 10 p.m., although many Spaniards opt to go out for tapas.
Food in Spain
Eating out in Spain is relatively cheap and meals are usually substantial instead of gourmet. The Spanish tradition of tapas is a good way to sample the local food. Tapas are small dishes of snacks, which are served anytime especially in small bars. They cover all types of foods from seafood to vegetables. Many Spanish people make an evening of hopping from bar to bar trying different tapas.
- Tapas is not a particular type of food. anything can be tapas - paella, croquettes or even ham and cheese on toast as long as it is small and served with your drink (either free or at a surcharge).
- Tapas are not starters. If you decide to have tapas it will be either a quick snack or you will have several and make a meal of it.
- A 'Tapa' is a lid or cover that originated many years ago. A slice of ham or cheese was served with your drink and was placed over the top of your glass. The tapa is an integral part of Spanish culture. Most Spaniards will take tapas with a drink.
- A tapa is normally a quater sized version of a full meal and the content will vary from region to region. For example on the coast you will find seafood tapas in abundance. Inland you might find that meat is more on the menu such as veal or venison, beef or pork. Each region will also have its specialities.
- Gone are the days when most bars gave tapas for free, altough a few still do. Nowadays there are speciality tapas bars that serve nothing else.
- There is a popular chain of bars that serve tapas 24 hours a day. You simply help yourself from the bar. Each tapa comes with a cocktail stick. The number of sticks on your plate at the end of the session will be counted and charged accordingly. Dishonesty is very rare in these bars and few people actually eat the cocktail sticks to avoid payment.
- One of the most popular tapas all over Spain is the Iberico Jamon. This cured meat is carved in very thin layers and is absolutely beautiful. A full jamon can cost upwards of £500 but will last for years.
- Cheeses also make popular tapas, especially Manchego cheese. This is often served in olive oil.
- If you want to sample as many Spanish dishes as you can then tapas is certainly the best way to do it.
Another of Spain's favourites is Serrano Ham. Spain is famous for its fish delicacies and simply must be sampled, especially if you get to coastal areas. Paella has long been a Spanish favourite, based on either meat or seafood. Every region in Spain has its own specialities.
The diet in Spain is reported to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. The combination of olives, fresh fruit, seafood and fresh vegetables can help sustain a healthy and long life.
Eating well, and slowly, is so ingrained within the Spanish psyche that it is just so natural for them to do it. You can’t rush a good meal.
If you ever have the pleasure of sitting down to eat with a Spanish family you’ll be amazed at what and how they eat. Meal times are not to be rushed. Lunch especially is a long drawn out affair with socialising more important than the eating. It’s a real time for the family to sit down together, chat, have a drink and unwind.
They tend not to eat a load of junk food with the majority of families still cooking most of their meals at home. The diversity of fish, meats, casseroles and all the other types of meals that they put together means they tend to eat quite healthily, whilst at the same time using the opportunity to spend further quality time with the family.
Drink in Spain
Primarily Spain is a wine drinking country with each region producing its own special wines, however there are several large breweries within Spain producing the light, lager-like beers popular everywhere. The main table wines are the Riojas and Valdepeñas, named after the regions in which they are produced. In general, Rioja, from the region around Logroño in the northeast, resembles the French Bordeaux, though it is less delicate. Valdepeñas is a rougher wine, but pleasant and hearty. It will be found at its best in the region where it is grown, midway between Madrid and Cordóba.
The Jerez area is famous for its sherry. Jerez is the place from which this wine was first exported. Britain now buys 75% of all sherry exports. There are four main types of sherry, being fino which is pale and dry, amontillado, dry, richer in body and darker, oloroso, medium fragrant and golden and dulce, which is sweet.
In the Basque Country, chacoli is a favourite, green wine, slightly sparkling and sour. The majority of Spanish sparkling wines are sweet and fruity and even the inexpensive supermarket wines have an important place in the wine culture.
Cider also has an importance in Spain. Cider is especially popular in northern Spain.
Spanish brandy is very different from French brandy. It is cheap and pleasant although specialists find it a little sweet. Popular brands include 103, Magno and Carlos, which are distilled in Jerez.
Coffee is drunk in Spain in great quantities. Cafe solo is served in small cups and is a black coffee, very strong and thick. Cafe con leche is coffee with milk.
Spaniards also drink a great deal of bottled water. There are two types, con gas is fizzy water and sin gas is still water. Agua del grifo is tap water (free, if you can get it), but you will probably be purchasing bottled water or wine, either of which will be cheaper than soda.
La siesta is another well-known aspect of Spanish culture. Siesta is real and you will learn to love it. Seeking to balance work with pleasure, Spaniards long have practiced the tradition of siesta, when students and professionals return to their homes around midday for a few hours of rest and family time, along with a big lunch. Many businesses shut down for a short spell. However, 21st-century Spain gradually has moved away from this tradition. Big cities move at the faster pace akin to other western countries--but many people in smaller towns and villages still take a siesta each day.
Bullfighting is one of the more prominent customs in Spain. This bloody sport developed as an evolution of ancient Roman gladiator games, pitting human matadors against bulls. Embraced by older generations as a quintessential element of Spanish culture, bullfighting has been protested by younger generations and animal-rights activists who decry it as brutal and immoral. Either way, it remains an iconic part of the country. Bullfights take place in many Spanish towns and cities, although the most famous bullrings can be found in Madrid, Seville, Ronda, Valencia, Barcelona and Pamplona.
Nation of Complainers…Not!
Everybody has a good moan sometimes but the Spanish are not big on complaining, at least not to others. The Spanish really look after their own homes but what happens outside is less of a concern.
Problems such as rubbish on the streets, dog muck, etc, seem to bother the expats much more than the Spanish. The Spanish realise that everything will get sorted out eventually so they don’t stress themselves out too much about it.
Things have and still are changing in Spain. As generations move on traditions and customs are often lost. Many Spanish will tell you that the Spain of today is very different to the Spain of just ten years ago, and not necessarily for the better. Hopefully future generations will continue to enjoy similar positive traits to those of today.
PHOTO: Gerry Balding