Culture in Spain
From the golden coastlines of Andalusia to the colorful architecture of beautiful Barcelona, Spain is famed for its diversity and vibrancy. Before you set off on a tour of this vast and historic nation though, it’s worth knowing a little bit about Spanish culture.
Whether you want to understand more about the country’s religion or you’re keen to immerse yourself in Catalan culture, prepare yourself for an upcoming trip with our tips below.
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Spanish Culture in the Cities and Countryside
As a country that encompasses more than 500,000 square kilometers and is home to over 45 million people, Spain’s various languages and everyday cultural practices can vary depending on which region or city you decide to explore. Despite the nation’s diversity, there are many aspects of Spanish culture that remain similar throughout.
Spanish people are known for their friendly and social natures. Most of the population tends to live in and around the cities, although you’ll get a better sense of authentic Spanish culture in the countryside where local ways of life have been less affected by technology and other outside influences.
Family life is very important in Spain, with extended family gatherings common during most special occasions. In some rural areas, you’ll likely see the older generation being cared for by their younger relatives, while children are rarely excluded from family events.
Food is also a key element of Spanish culture. Locals tend to eat their main meal at midday and then have a lighter meal in the evening, sometimes as late as 8 pm and beyond. Siestas (short afternoon naps) are still very much embraced in rural areas and sometimes even in larger cities across Spain, so expect to see shops and businesses close for a few hours after lunch.
Religion in Spain
The main religion in Spain is Christianity, with almost 70% of people practicing Roman Catholicism. The country is packed with beautiful cathedrals, from the unique Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba to the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral. Spain also recognizes many other religions too, with Islam being the second most popular after Christianity.
Music and Dancing in Spain
Flamenco dancing is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Spanish culture. But did you know that this flamboyant dance form actually only developed in the late 19th century?
While the most authentic flamenco bars are found in Andalusia where it originates from, you’ll spot a great many places to watch this lively form of dancing (or even have a go yourself!) in Spain’s major cities, particularly in Madrid’s La Latina Quarter.
Other traditional genres of Spanish dance that you’ll be able to watch during your vacation include the energetic fandango, the ancient bolero and the jota, which sees dancers playing castanets as they move.
Spain has birthed some of the world’s greatest artists over the years, such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Antoni Gaudi. If you’re keen to admire some of their work, set out on a cultural tour of Barcelona to view Gaudi’s architectural wonders such as the monumental La Sagrada Familia church and the magical Park Güell.
Madrid is also packed with fantastic art galleries (including the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Gallery), while more modern Spanish artwork from the 20th century onwards can be viewed at the futuristic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Sports in Spain
Spain boasts some of the world’s top soccer teams – FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. You can see both teams in action at their respective home grounds – Camp Nou in Barcelona and Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid.
A more historic sport that’s deeply associated with Spanish culture is bullfighting. It’s the country’s national sport, however, it has attracted controversy in recent years and is banned in some regions, including Catalonia and the Canary Islands.
Spanish Culture in Catalonia
Catalonia is one of the most popular regions to visit in Spain. It’s known for its colorful culture that’s been shaped by centuries of history and the merging of many different communities from Europe and beyond.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and a must-see for art lovers, thanks to its modernist architecture and many wonderful museums. In addition to having its own language known as Catalan, the region is also associated with fiestas (festivals), Sardana dancing and rustic cuisine consisting largely of fresh seafood.
Spanish Culture in Basque Country
Another area with its own distinctive culture is Basque Country in the far north. It’s one of the oldest regions of Spain and is well-known for its coastal cities like San Sebastien and Bilbao, which are great places for soaking up contemporary Basque life.
As well as speaking Spanish, people in Basque also have their own language called Euskara as well as various other local dialects, some of which are spoken in areas of neighboring France. Folk festivals are a huge part of Basque culture, with popular celebrations including Semana Grande (Great Week) which is held in San Sebastian every August.
Etiquette in Spain
In order to respect the local customs and not cause offense, remember to:
Shake hands or kiss the cheek when you greet someone – If you’re greeting a male stranger or someone you’ve not known for very long, it’s appropriate to shake their hand. For females, a kiss on each cheek is the typical greeting.
Bring gifts if you’re invited to a local’s home – Wine or flowers are good options, although avoid chrysanthemums or dahlias as they’re associated with funerals in Spain.
Excessive drinking is frowned upon – While Spain has a very sociable culture, it’s not common to see locals intoxicated. Instead, enjoy an alcoholic drink or two before or during your evening meal.
Cover up in churches – If you’re visiting a church such as La Sagrada Familia or Seville Cathedral, make sure you’re respectably dressed and have your shoulders and knees covered.
Get in touch with Enchanting Travels today if you have any more questions about Spain and its culture before your vacation.
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