The Mediterranean diet is proven to be one of the healthiest in the world. Browse any Spanish market and you will see the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and lashings of olive oil. Traditional Spanish cuisine is simple, making the most of fresh local ingredients. Spain has also given the world tapas, the concept of small morsels of food enjoyed with a drink. One of the joys of visiting Spain is discovering tapas culture, from how best to order in a tapas bar to each region’s typical tapas dishes.
The family is at the very heart of Spanish society and one thing you immediately notice walking around any Spanish town or city is the number of families out for the day: young children, parents and grandparents all socialising together. It is not uncommon for grandparents to live with the family and today, they often double up as babysitters while the parents are at work. Where in some other countries senior citizens are often left in a lonely existence in care homes, older people in Spain are an integral part of the family,
Spain has managed to elevate the simple bar to an art form. From smartly dressed waiters to ham legs hanging from the rafters, the usually wooden-clad bars are dripping in atmosphere. Order a drink and you’ll be presented with a free tapa – a bite to eat alongside your cerveza.
Spaniards are confirmed night owls and run on a completely different schedule to most other nationalities. They eat lunch late, at around 2pm and dinner is anytime after 9pm. Clubs don’t open their doors till well after midnight and don’t get going until 2 or 3am, closing their doors well into the next morning.
No quick sandwich and packet of crisps for most Spaniards, who like to take a long lunch break, if possible, and sit and enjoy a cooked meal. Most restaurants in Spain offer a Menu del Día, a fixed lunch menu that usually consists of a starter, main course and dessert or coffee, as well as bread and a drink for around €10. With bargain lunches like that, it’s not surprising most Spaniards like to take a proper break in the middle of the day.
In 2016, Spain smashed tourism records by welcoming 75 million tourists, a record it is predicted to break in 2017. Tourism is one of the country’s most important industries, accounting for 16% of GDP, and since the rise of the package holiday in the 1960s, Spain has been a firm favourite with holidaymakers. Whatever you’re into, from sunbathing on the beach to exploring historical sites and skiing in the mountains, you can get your fix in Spain.
OK, this dance and music form was invented in Spain so it’s no surprise Spaniards are the best at it, but experiencing a live flamenco performance in Spain is an unforgettable experience. The genre comes from southern Spain and incorporates the dance and folkloric style of Andalusia. In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Spain is the world leader in organ transplants and has carried out the most organ donations in the world for the past 25 years. In 2016, it broke its own record for the number of transplants carried out in the space of a year. One important reason why Spain has such a high number of organ donations is that the country has an opt-out system, in which people are automatically put on the organ donation register. They can then choose whether or not they want to opt out.
Children are adored in Spain and are welcome everywhere – the slightly mean ‘no children’ rule in some UK pubs doesn’t exist in Spain. If you happen to have a small child with you, Spaniards will stop you on the street to coo over it, pinching its cheeks and declaring it the most beautiful baby they’ve ever seen. The phrase ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is inexplicable to Spaniards.
The term ‘no filter’ could easily apply to Spaniards, who seem to have ‘telling it like it is’ ingrained into their personalities. If you’re looking a bit rough, expect your Spanish colleague to let you know and inquire what’s wrong. Old ladies love to dole out advice, no matter if it wasn’t asked for and Spaniards adore discussing their medical gripes – you are guaranteed never to have met people who know so many complicated medical terms as Spaniards.
Swearing doesn’t seem to have the same seriousness in Spain, where swearwords English speakers would recoil at (think F and C-words) pepper every other sentence. It’s perfectly common to hear everyone from small children to sweet old ladies use the most vulgar swear words and think absolutely nothing of it. The Spanish language is also full of more creative swear words and phrases.
Turn up late
Now we don’t want to tar every Spaniard with the same brush here, but in general, Spaniards are not known for their punctuality. If you agree on a time to meet with a Spanish friend, you can pretty much guarantee they will be at least 10 minutes late. Punctuality does not seem to hold the same importance in Spain as in some other countries.
In Spain, drinking is a social activity that accompanies food and is done at a leisurely pace, ideally on a sunny terrace to enjoy the warm weather. A caña, or little beer, is a perfectly acceptable lunchtime drink, perhaps because the beer is served in small glasses, making it more acceptable than necking a pint with your lunch. Spaniards think nothing of having a beer or a glass of wine in the middle of the day, especially at weekends.
Spaniards have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, something that is often attributed to their Mediterranean diets, solid close-knit family structure and pleasant climate. OECD figures in 2017 showed that Spaniards have the highest life expectancy in Europe and the second-highest in the world, after Japan. Average life expectancy in Spain is 82.2.
Nowhere on earth is more famous for its mega-clubs than the Spanish island of Ibiza. The White Isle is a top destination for clubbers and draws some of the best DJs from around the world. From beach and boat parties to all-day raves, the island’s clubbing scene is legendary.
Check out the habits you can’t help picking up if you live in Spain