Exploring Spanish Culture

Spain is the world’s second country with the most UNESCO World Heritage cities and third in terms of natural areas declared Biosphere Reserves. Its extensive sandy beaches of the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean, as well as of its two archipelagoes (the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, respectively) have been attracting visitors for decades.

In Spanish culture, people live life to the fullest. But, not in a hurried way. Instead, Spaniards tend to take their time, deliberately, to appreciate the world and people around them. In Spain, people savor long, multi-course meals and wander vivacious villages and charming cities.

Whether it’s the middle of the day or night, Spain is home to a vibrant street culture. Imagine neighbors strolling around their blocks, older people playing checkers on the sidewalks, and teenagers hanging out in plazas. And, with such abundant art, architecture, literature, cuisine, history, and more to explore, there’s a wealth of cultural experiences to enjoy.

Study abroad in Spain Host a Spanish student in the U.S.

Spanish People and Community

AFS Student with host family in Spain

Like anywhere in the world, all families in Spain are different. But, they’re usually warm, welcoming, and tight-knit. Many families eat both lunch and dinner together. Communal meals and other gatherings tend to become lively, and even a bit noisy, as Spaniards do tend to speak somewhat loudly in larger groups.

Family roles are modernizing in Spain, as they are around the world, and more and more women have jobs outside the home; but traditionally, the mother manages the household while the father works outside the home.

The average Spanish family has two children. Extended family members visit each other often, especially for large weekend gatherings. In cities, families typically live in flats. Outside of cities and especially in small villages, families tend to live in houses with a small garden. It’s not uncommon for people in their twenties or thirties to live at home until they get married.

Language and Communication Styles

Spain has five official languages—Aranese, Catalan, Galician, Basque (Euskara) and Spanish.

Food in Spain

Tapas in Spain

While each region of Spain has its own food specialties, Spanish cuisine is generally Mediterranean in style with lots of olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes and peppers. In Spanish culture, lunch is the main meal of the day and is served around 2 or 3 pm, while dinner may start as late as 9 pm. Fish and seafood are abundant, but red meat and pork are also eaten nearly every day.

Some traditional Spanish tapas include albóndigas (meatballs), calamares (fried squid), or tortilla de patatas (a potato omelet). Traditional summer dishes are paella (rice with vegetables and seafood) and gazpacho (a cold tomato soup). For dessert, carts on the street sell churros dipped in chocolate or flan (a kind of custard) with caramel.

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