Spaniards are legendary for their enthusiasm for entertainment. In Spanish and Latin American cultures, "downtime" is often spent with friends and family. In many Spanish and Latin American cities around the world, Spaniards viven en la Calle or "live in the streets". This is because they spend most of their free time socializing, relaxing, and engaging in favorite past times including sports, dancing, dining, and clubbing.
Close to Home
Saturday mornings are often devoted to housework and chores, but any other time, socializing involves get-togethers, family visits, and numerous venues for socialization. Like any other culture, shopping and eating out provide much anticipated social interaction. In Spain, shops are often open until 9:00 in the evening. Open-air markets are popular throughout Spain and Latin America, as the temperate climate offers warm weather and sunshine most of the year. Weekends are a time to find fun and exciting flea markets. Larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona offer huge markets for locals and tourists.
When it comes to dining, the Spanish love to take time over a meal. In most cases, lunchtime is served after 2:00 p.m., while dinner usually occurs between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.. Spain and Latin American communities in Mexico and South America offer the full gamut of eating locations, from street food vendors to large, expensive restaurants.
In certain locations throughout Spain, Sunday's are reserved for large family get-togethers and parties. Roadside restaurants known as Merenderos are popular and along the coastline these "roadside restaurants" are known as Chiringuitos; they are located as close to beach fronts as possible.
Things to Do in Spain
Spain has a rich and exciting nightlife. Bars in Spain are open all day and into the wee hours of the morning, most closing by 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
In addition to museums and galleries, visitors to Spain and Latin America will certainly be enthralled with the plethora of activities and venues at local theaters, opera houses, and music settings. Operas and dances can be seen or visited in most cities throughout Spain. It is customary to dress casually for most events, although people are expected to dress more formally for operas.
Spaniards love their sports, and it can truthfully be said that soccer is among the favorites. Spaniards love to both play and watch soccer, and nearly every town in Spain and Latin America has some sort of playing field. Different regions throughout Spain also offer a variety of sports. In the Basque country, visitors will see sports similar to those known in Scotland, including activities that involve great physical strength such as tossing the caber.
Spaniards also love to gamble, and Spain offers more lotteries, larger prizes, and more opportunities for gambling than many European countries. One of their oldest lotteries, called the La Loteria Nacional, was founded in 1812 and continues today. Tens of thousands of Spaniards take part in this lottery, and the winning numbers are announced on national television on December 23. In addition to lotteries, a large number of Spaniards love to play the slot machines, which are found in nearly every Spanish bar.
However, it can be truthfully said that two pastimes that literally claim the hearts of Spain's inhabitants (or most of them) are Flamenco and bullfighting.
Flamenco clubs are also extremely popular in Spain. The Flamenco is believed to have originated in Andalusia, and Flamenco clubs known as tablaos are located throughout the country. Flamenco dancing is a very popular venue for tourists visiting Spain, and troops of Flamenco dancers wearing their long, flounced dresses and clacking their castanets are a major source of entertainment.
Bullfighting is also very common throughout Spain. The sport originated in the middle ages and was performed on horseback. By the 1700s, new rules were laid down for the sport, which continue to this day. In Spanish culture, bullfighting is considered more of an art than a sport, and the technique that a bullfighter uses is extremely important.
The bulls used in Spanish bullfighting are of a species that is found only in Spain today, known as the toro bravo. Foreigners not familiar with the history and culture of bullfighting may find the sport alarming, cruel, and distasteful.
Several times during Spain's history, bullfighting has been outlawed, and today, many regions throughout Spain have banned the practice. However, many locals throughout Spain have signed petitions urging their government to protect the sport on a national level. Animal rights activists and international outcries against bullfighting have forced Spanish and Latin American governments to introduce even more bans on the sport. Today, visitors are less likely to experience bullfighting venues than before.
Spain and many Latin American countries are predominantly Roman Catholic. Catholic traditions, rituals and rites often play an important role in a Spaniard's life. Today, the younger generation, as in other countries and religious practices, tends toward doctrines that are more liberal. In fact, growing numbers of Spaniards today lean toward atheism and agnosticism.
As in other countries, larger numbers of immigrant Muslims arriving in Spain and throughout Western Europe have spread their teachings of Islam throughout the country, making it the second largest religion. Of course, Far Eastern religions also have a very small influence on religious beliefs and practices in Spain, including Judaism and Hinduism.
Spain's Religious History
Throughout the centuries, Spain saw centuries of conflict between warring factions and religions. Predominant struggles between Spaniards and invaders and their influences have settled heavily between Islam and Catholicism, although other religions have certainly had their influence on the country as well.
During the Roman era, most of Spain was Christianized. In the early centuries, Arabian raids brought Islam to the country, although Islamic rule ended in the late 13th century.
During the Middle Ages, Christianity once again swept through the country, although continued conflicts with Muslims in the Andalusian territories brought harsh treatments to Christians and those of the Jewish faith. However, a strong foundation in the Christian faith united many who fought against the Moors and eventually drove them out of the country.
The Spanish Inquisition further drove out Muslims and those of the Jewish faith, and once again, Spain was predominantly Catholic. Doctrinal purity was considered the epitome of religious faith, and for years, heavy influence of conversion to the Catholic faith was predominant until the Spanish Inquisition ended in the early 1830s.
Catholicism became the official state religion in 1851, and remained in place until the 1930s, when Franco gave legal status to Catholicism. Other faiths and worship services were not allowed to be advertised, and laws were passed that abolished civil marriages, divorce, and any form of sexual permissiveness in society.
By 1953, Franco's cooperation with the Catholic Church and the Vatican heavily enforced the privileges of the Church. Varying degrees of censorship were practiced throughout the country. By the late 1960s, the Vatican began yet another attempt to reform the Spanish Church, but met with fierce resistance from Franco.
It wasn't until the mid-1970s that a greater sense of religious freedom in Spain was enjoyed. The 1978 Spanish Constitution affirms a Spaniard's right to freedom of religion. By the end of the 1970s, other Christian faiths had cropped up throughout Spain. Other religions such as Seventh-day Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Judaism, and Islam nearly outnumbered the number of Catholics throughout Spain.
Basics of Rites of the Catholic Faith
For the purpose of this section and as a mere introduction into religious society in Spain and many Latin American countries, we'll offer just a brief glimpse into one of the most common rights of the Catholic faith, Mass. This glimpse will hopefully offer you a better understanding of religious attitudes and beliefs when you visit Spain or other Latin American countries.
The focal point of Catholic worship is Mass. In traditional Catholicism, a religious person's life is focused around seven sacraments that offer grace to believers. The first of these seven sacraments is Mass, a main form of worship in the church. The Mass itself is divided into four sections:
- Introductory rites.
- The liturgy of the Word.
- The liturgy of the Eucharist.
- Concluding rites.
Today, a traditional Catholic Mass may be offered in a variety of languages. The Catholic Church has encouraged those celebrating Mass to develop a Mass that can reflect the different cultures and heritage of peoples around the World, while at the same time maintaining its essential symbolic elements and doctrine.
Baptism and confirmation are also among the seven sacraments. Baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist are considered the sacraments of initiation, guiding the believer from the time of infancy into adult life. Traditionally, baptism symbolized the washing away of original sin, but today is also practiced as a welcome to new believers within the Christian Catholic community. Confirmation, usually offered in young adulthood, symbolizes the affirmation and receiving of the gift of grace through the Holy Spirit.
Two additional sacraments, the sacrament of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, are considered healing sacraments. The first deals with sickness of the spirit, while the second deals with sickness of the body.
Vocation, marriage, and holy orders are also sacraments designed to lead adults through life to salvation. Marriage is considered a sacrament of joining a man and a woman into communion. The sacrament of Holy Orders follows the ministry of men as they enter the priesthood, or serve as deacons or bishops. While women have taken up Roman Catholic ministry in many locations around the World, they do not receive Holy Orders.
Visitors to Spain can see the physical presence of religion in many of her museums, structures, cathedrals, and religious celebrations. While the number of ordained monks and nuns continues to decline in Spanish culture, young men continue to join the priesthood, though in much smaller numbers than ever before. Today, Spain has no officialreligion, but the state does offer continued financial support to the Roman Catholic Church.
Regardless of how predominantly the Catholic faith, or any faith, plays a part in the daily life of a Spaniard, nearly all customs and traditions in Spain come from a religious foundation. Despite the decreased influence of the Roman Catholic Church over the everyday life of Spaniards, the people of Spain and other Latin American countries have been steeped in Spanish values for centuries, with each generation taking part in observing behaviors, learning morals, and teaching values to their children, that have existed for thousands of years.
As a general rule, it's recommended that any business or leisure traveler research, be aware of, and understand the customs, values, and traditions of any country that they're visiting. Learning about local customs and values will help business and recreational travelers get along in international destinations. Values and attitudes of the Spanish people are very important to them. Learning about them and respecting them will help you avoid embarrassment and ensure that your visit to Spain is a friendly and memorable one.
First-time visitors to Spain may consider Spanish business people shortsighted. They seem to thrive on "living for the moment". Today is much more important than tomorrow. The Spanish people are happy, friendly, charitable, and hospitable.
However, at the same time, the Spanish people can be relatively fatalistic in thoughts and attitudes. They consider their centuries of turmoil, strife, and sacrifices, which has influenced their almost lassaiz faire attitude of life, and with good reason. For centuries, the Spaniards were militant people who defended the Catholic faith against invaders. They've learned how to sacrifice, and they suffered along the way. It's not difficult to understand why they take such great pleasure in day-to-day events.
The culture of the Moors left a deep impression on the Spanish people, especially in the South. Centuries of isolation, fighting, and turmoil eventually evolved into the development of social values considered rather conservative from most definitions of the term. Regardless of the region however, traditional Catholic values and social order are honored and respected in Spain.
Spanish people expect to work hard in order to earn their rewards. They respect authority, as a prevailing Catholic nation, so they rely on and accept church teachings on morals and values (as defined in the previous lesson).
That's not to say that Spain is a stagnant country. Spain is steeped in 21st century exposure in regard to social media. Tourism, democracy, and materialism are as prevalent in Spain today as in any other country. In the southern regions of the country, the Mediterranean climate creates summer heat that shortens workdays. Balmy evenings along the southern coastline of Spain encourage outdoor socialization, and that's where you may find yourself doing business.
For many Spaniards, work and business is engaged according to a relatively flexible schedule. Don't expect Spaniards to stick to deadlines as you do. Usually, "tomorrow" is good enough, but tomorrow usually turns into something like "when it gets done". Prepare yourself ahead of time and expect that anything that is agreed upon in a business or leisure environment will happen later rather than sooner.
Spaniards tend to live in the now and visitors to Spain may find it increasingly enticing to adopt such an attitude while visiting the beautiful countryside.
In Spain, family is the most important thing in the life of a Spaniard. Family ties and networks are also very important. Visitors to Spain will find as many as three generations of one family living together. Don't be surprised to come across an acquaintance who has up to 20 or 30 family members attending social gatherings, celebrating birthdays, anniversarie, or holiday celebrations.
Family problems are worked out within the family unit in most cases, and many family members continue to rely on family for support. Young people rely on parents to help them, and parents rely on their children to help them. This social network of children, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are an extremely important and valuable family social network in Spanish culture.
In Spain, while women continue to enter the workforce and receive university educations, they are still expected to take care of children and run households with very little help from their spouses. Therefore, women are expected to balance job responsibilities with home responsibilities with little help from their husbands. In Spain, women are not expected to officially change their name after they're married, and legal documents are signed with her maiden name.
When it comes to children, they are a very important and integral component of Spanish society. In Spain, there is not much emphasis on discipline when it comes to children, as they are always loved first and disciplined or corrected second. In many ways, this approach to nurturing enables most of them to enter adulthood with high values and a solid sense of self-confidence and self-respect. However, young Spanish children often expect things to be done for them and may take many things for granted. By young adulthood, unless trained carefully, such children grow up with a sense of entitlement.
Young adults typically live at home before they get married, due to not only the high cost of apartments throughout Spain, but also most likely because they are not yet ready to fend for themselves. Children are not typically expected to help their mothers with housework or contribute financially to the household, even if they continue to live at home and are earning a wage. Nevertheless, in most cases, Spanish parents are more than happy to keep their children close to home.
For centuries, taking care of the elders has been the responsibilities of the family unit. While more residential and long-term care facilities are being constructed in Spain than in earlier generations, many Spanish families still find it extremely difficult to ask for or even accept help from outside the family network.
Mi Casa es tu Casa
Friends and acquaintances are also valuable and important commodities in Spanish culture. Spain is a very friendly country, and you'll find yourself welcomed everywhere you go. Don't be surprised if you're invited to join in family events and celebrations by Spanish acquaintances and friends. This superficial relationship behavior is common in Spain, and does not often lead to deeper relationships. Still, think of it this way: a Spaniard may have many acquaintances but very few friends. This is the way they like it.
The Spanish are an expressive, emotional people. They rely on families for emotional support. Rarely do people talk about problems outside the home environment, although this depends upon the level of friendship. In Spain, mi casa es tu casa, or "my house is your house," means just that. You are welcome, you'll be treated with the same respect and courtesy, and enjoy the benefits of companionship, acquaintances, and friends wherever you go.
The Spanish people take great pride in their local and regional customs. They are prideful, honorable, and macho. At times, you may find yourself with a group of people who may tend to discuss the negative aspects of another region or some such. As a stranger, a newcomer, or merely a business or leisure traveler, refrain from taking part in any such conversations, as negative comments from outsiders are not appreciated.
Family honor and pride are extremely important to every Spaniard. In Spain, the man is king of his castle, so to speak, but today, that attitude is slowly giving way to the changing importance and role of women in society. As women's roles changed, so have men's. However, it's important for visitors to Spain to understand that any action or behavior that brings shame upon one family member brings shame and embarrassment upon the entire family.
Spanish culture is not particularly focused on the good of all but it's more like every man for himself. For example, in the United States, it's common for individuals to strive for personal growth and security. It's the same in Spain. On the contrary, in many Asian countries, it's common for individuals to think of country first, and themselves last.
However, this attitude is slowly changing in Spanish culture, especially in regard to 'public conscience'. Never consider the Spanish people as lazy, because they are very hard workers. However, most Spaniards consider work and work obligations as a necessary evil in their life. They do what has to be done, but don't necessarily do it by the clock. In fact, work is rather low on the list of priorities for Spanish citizens. They'll do what they need to do, but don't expect them to be punctual, stay late, or to do more than they're paid to do on a daily basis.
The Spaniards consider themselves a fairly tolerant people. Don't be surprised to watch Spanish television and find relatively uncensored sexual content or nudity during television shows or commercials. Actually, the same goes for newspapers and magazines. Many visitors to Spain may be rather shocked that brothels and prostitutes openly advertise services in even the most serious newspapers. Violence on television is also tolerated and television news often displays explicit coverage without editing.
In most cases, Spaniards are extremely courteous and friendly to foreigners, although there is still a level of prejudice against Gypsies. However, such prejudice has also decreased with time.
Think of it this way, Spaniards live for the moment. They're confident individuals who have an extreme zest for life and living. When they're having a good time, it's next to impossible to get them to leave. When they're having a good time, they don't want to go home. They'll likely invite you to stay and continue to enjoy the festivities.
The Spanish people are formal people until you've been introduced, and then things get more casual and relaxed. As in many other countries, the older generations are typically more formal than those of the younger generation. If you're not sure, err on the side of caution and always offer a respectful greeting.
At informal gatherings, women and men can greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks. Men may shake hands and then hug, and a slap on the back can always be expected.
Don't be offended if you don't hear the words "please" and "thank you". While such words are considered expected for Americans, they are considered unnecessary in Spain for everyday exchanges, and when dealing with close friends and family. For example, a demand for a waiter to "give me a cup of coffee" is not considered impolite or rude in Spain. After all, it's a waiter's job to serve the customer.
Once they get to know you, Spaniards can be very direct. They'll say what they think, and tact doesn't necessarily enter their minds when doing so. Spanish men are not shy about expressing their thoughts or appreciation of women, vocally and loudly.
In a nutshell, Spanish values are founded in family. Family is the most important thing in life, and is valued above all other things, including work, social responsibility, and pride in country. Take the time to research deeper into the customs, culture, and behaviors of the region of Spain or Latin America to which you are traveling.