Spanish culture stands out from the rest sheerly from the aesthetic views it gives rise to. Cheerful “olé”s and soulful bagpipes are how popular media depicts the culture in Spain. Have you ever wondered if that’s actually the case? We’ll take you on a journey from Gijon to Malaga and from Spanish food traditions to Spanish customs. Strap in!
Exploring Spain’s History
The fourth largest country in Europe, Spain, has a rich tapestry of history, culture, customs, traditions, and warmth, from the ancient civilisations that ruled from the Iberian peninsula to the millennia of conquest and conflict inflicted by the Romans. Peaking in the 15th and 16th centuries, culture in Spain is heavily influenced by its days as the Spanish Empire, or the Reconquista movement that lasted for centuries and saw the Christians wage war against the Islamic groups that held the majority in Spain. Explore all that the country has to offer and travel to all the top things to do in Spain.
Spain’s Golden Age, which emerged after powerful monarchies were established, saw vibrant artistic expression embodied by maestros such as Cervantes and Velázquez. In the early 20th century, the culture in Spain was influenced by the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Dictatorship. However, throughout it all, Spanish customs that persist to this day are a testament to Spanish resilience, diversity, and richness that has survived and evolved from historic turbulence and revolution!
Your Guide to Culture in Spain as an International Student
Culture in Spain is popular for its people’s warmth, their passion for expression, and their ability to prioritise time for their family and friends. The people take pride in their rich cultural heritage and aren’t afraid to follow Spanish culture and customs to evoke the same sense of pride in others. Here are 10 Spanish traditions that have emerged through the centuries, ole!
Every culture has a name for its beloved afternoon naps, and the culture in Spain loves to indulge in their afternoon siestas! A siesta is usually taken after a Spaniard’s midday meal and helps them recharge and rejuvenate to face the day like taking on a bull by its horns (no pun intended, you know that bullfighting will be on this list!)
Originating in the land where FC Barcelona dwells, one of the many Spanish cultural traditions that emerge from here includes the practice of Castells, or human towers built during festivals in Catalonia. Teams of people climb upon one another to form intricate structures as a symbol of teamwork and good community spirit.
We are already drooling. Spanish tapas consist of small portions of mixed olives, fried squid, chorizo and meatballs. Tapas can either be appetisers or full-course meals and go well cold or hot. As one of the most famous Spanish foods, tapas is a delicious part of the culture in Spain!
How can we make a list of Spanish customs without mentioning Flamenco, Spain’s very own expressive art form? We are sure you’ve seen it in popular media: women dressed in beautiful red adorned with rhythmic music and flamboyant dance moves. Flamenco is a sight to behold.
5. “Buenas noches”
“Buenas noches” translates to “good night” in English. Family members often kiss their loved ones on the cheek, accompanied by this phrase when tucking one in. A beautiful aspect of the culture in Spain.
Originating from Valencia, Paella is amongst the most tasteful Spanish food. Paella is a rice dish often accompanied by fish, chicken or rabbit, along with a host of wonderful spices. If you don’t eat meat, worry not; the culture in Spain is perfect, as paella can be served with freshly cooked vegetables and green beans, too.
A feria is an annual festival that takes place in Spain and Southern France. The cultural traditions followed during a feria include bullfighting, bodegas (outdoor bars with lively music), bull-running and bandas (live music). A feria is the perfect showcase of the culture in Spain. This isn’t the only type of festival prevalent in the country; take a look at the best festivals in Spain to gain a better understanding.
8. Bota Bag
Your own wine in a leather flask at live events. Sounds great, right? That’s what a bota bag in Spain is! This part of Spanish culture and customs is a social one where one carries a bota bag for convenience outside for events such as social gatherings and picnics.
9. Día de los Muertos
The culture in Spain holds great respect for the dead. Día de los Muertos translates to “Day of the Dead” and is a Mexican tradition also celebrated in Spain where Spaniards go to altars to make some offerings as a sign of respect and remembrance for those who don’t belong to the mortal realm anymore.
Did you know that this classic cocktail, popular worldwide, originates from Spain? The culture in Spain, as well as the people, love wine. Add some chopped fruit and sweeteners to the mix, and you end up with sangria! Sangria finds its roots in the Kingdom of León around the early 900s, where locals used lemons, fruits, spices and other additions to make a different version of the “leonese lemonade”.
Importance of culture in Spain
Like many others, there is a deep respect for culture in Spain, such as the importance of the family, unique communication and greeting styles and the lifestyle that comes with Spanish cultural traditions. Let’s delve more into the culture in Spain:
Contrary to popular belief, the people in Spain don’t just speak Spanish. Some other languages used to communicate in Spain include Basque, Galician, Valencian, and Catalan.
However, most speak Castilian (Spanish), so it is highly recommended you learn as much of it as you can if you are planning on studying there.
2. Family life
“La Familia” is probably the strongest unit in Spanish culture. The families are usually nuclear, and it is normal to see children live with their parents till their early thirties unless they are studying abroad or living with a partner.
The youth in Spain normally doesn’t choose to get married or have children till their mid-thirties due to either unemployment or the high cost of raising a child in Spain. The culture in Spain often sees grandparents raise their grandkids. Gathering around for a meal is considered a necessity in Spanish culture.
3. Communication Styles
If you belong to a country where beliefs in terms of communication can be considered orthodox, be prepared to see a lot of public displays of affection as a part of culture in Spain. There are more hugs and kisses, eye contact, and slight touching of the arm during conversation. The Spanish populace is often expressive and tends to be quite opinionated. Having conversations with an unknown abuelo (grandfather) at a random bodega sounds quite fun, actually.
4. Working in Spain
Arriving late at work is considered unfashionable within the culture in Spain, so is ignoring the hierarchy of command. The average Spaniard works approximately 36 hours a week and usually, there are no meetings in the afternoon, as it is considered lunchtime. The corporate culture here sees regular meetings, however, where employees tend to interject and engage in healthy discussions which can be considered informal in other cultures.
5. Food Culture in Spain
Spanish food traditions are numerous as you can tell by our list of Spanish traditions and understandably so. The culture in Spain revolves around food as most social gatherings and events revolve around food. The family meets up and engages in conversation over food and the bodegas and bandas have a variety of food options to go along with your day.
The lunches in Spain are heavy, giving rise to the afternoon siestas. Some famous Spanish food traditions apart from the ones already mentioned include: croquettes, bocadillos, gazpachos, and more.
6. THE FOOTBALL in Spain
Spain is probably one of the biggest hubs of football in the world. Even non-football watchers across the globe have heard or know about FC Barcelona or Real Madrid! The football schedule dictates the rhythm of the day, as matches are broadcast at prime time. If you are ever in the country, don’t miss out on catching a game featuring the best football clubs in Spain!
Spaniards love discussing football tactics and player profiles and speculating potential outcomes. Football becomes a shared experience that not only takes over daily life but also transcends generations. Friends and family come together to cheer on their favourite teams, which are usually the teams that play in the same region they live in. Stadiums are filled, and local sports bars witness hungered eyes feasting on the art of the sport.
The culture in Spain is rich and one that welcomes outsiders to experience it. Spaniards are expressive, passionate and hospitable individuals who are sure to make your stay in the country as pleasant as possible. Whether you are an admirer of the arts, a football fanatic, or maybe you are a massive foodie, this European wonderland is ripe for your exploration!