Latin Cultures

by Sean N. Bennett

Spanish (Spain) Culture


  • Sean N. Bennett, RN, MSN - Associate Professor - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah



  • Gary Ford


Spain is a land that has been sought after by many. “Carthaginians and Romans fought over it, the Arabs conquered it and the Catholic monarchs would recover Spain” (“Countries and Their Cultures,” n.d., para.2). Spain is comprised of 50 provinces that originated starting in 1833 and are grouped into 17 regions. Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula, with mountains that span its borders, and range into plateaus in the central region of Spain Spain is largely diverse throughout its regions, which many claim is the essence of Spain. In Spain Comarcas, or a cultural unit, or community in which they speak the language similarly in regards to other communities, worship the same shrines, and celebrate some of the same festivals. The differences and diversity of each of these communities are the center of Spain’s identity (“Countries and Their Cultures,” n.d.)

Music Flamenco and Folk music is the most common music in Spain, but Galicia and Asturias, which is less known and has more in common with the music of Ireland and France is a nice addition to their spectrum of music and has celtic roots. Spain and Madrid are the center of contemporary music and influences the pop, rock and even heavy metal music. Saint Isidore of Seville recorded the first Christian music. Zarzuela: a form of Spanish opera, the Cobla, and the Jota are other forms of music known throughout the regions of Spain (“Music of Spain,” n.d.). Spain is known for its music festivals and people come from all over the world to attend. Some of more common festivals include: International Music Festival of Trujillo, and the Benicassim Festival: which is one of the biggest contemporary music festivals around the world (“The Music of Spain,” n.d.). Sport Corrida de toros or bullfighting is widely associated with Spain, though many other countries participate in this activity. Many artists looked at bullfighting as an art and would use these scenes for their portraits. It has been said that bullfighting is an integral part of the Spanish culture and is still covered in magazines and radio today (“Bullfighting in Spain,” n.d.).

Values and Norms

Spanish values were very conservative and strict during the Franco years. After the political transformation, social values changes so drastically that it created a dilemma between laws and reality. There were two major influences that affected the change in the social norms of Spain which included the flow of Tourism and the Spaniards going to Europe for jobs. Due to this Spain had picked up many of Europe’s social values (“Social Values and Attitudes,” n.d.). Due to the conservativeness of Spain the sale of contraceptives was banned until the late 1970’s. Once the ban was lifted, no education was provided to ensure that contraceptives were used safely and effectively. Woman’s role in the change of social values is one of the more predominant changes. Women were looked at as wives and mothers. They were not allowed to have careers. Contraception, abortion and divorce were all outlawed but prostitution was allowed. Along with the named changes, the marriage rate decreased along with the size of the families. Women were becoming more involved with jobs and education, almost outnumbering the men in Universities (“Social Values and Attitudes,” n.d.). When it comes to Etiquette, Spaniards are known to be late to almost every function. It is common and expected to be 30 minutes late to social functions. One thing that you are never late for is a bullfight. Dress is not taken lightly. It is commonplace to be formally dressed even for casual gatherings. Expect to be interrupted, and know that no one is in a hurry. Everything is done at a leisurely pace (“Spain-Cultural Etiquette,” n.d.). It is customary to greet friends and family with a kiss on each cheek. Men who greet other men will shake hands while maintaining eye contact. Woman greeting woman it is customary if close family or friend to kiss on each cheek, but a handshake e between new acquaintances is acceptable. Depending on the region you are in, the amount of kisses can be different ( “Culture Crossing,” n.d.).

Traditions, Beliefs and Attitudes

Tourists that come to Spain want to try one of the most common traditions of Spain called Tapas. Tapa is not a type of food but a way in which you eat. Tapas is eating many small portions of food, not all in one place but is a form of bar hopping, or eating a tapa in each bar. Some other traditions that I have touched on lightly in other sections include the siesta that is in the middle of the day and why businesses close around noon and open again around 4, and another reason business are open much later into the night. Flamenco is very popular, though we now it as a type of dance, it is actually more of the music that has dancing with it. It is about the rhythm, the guitar and the vocals. To have a true flamenco you need the beautiful dress, but this is not always possible. The nightlife in Spain is in their blood. Drinking and partying to all hours of the night is just normal everyday practice. If you are in a bar before 10 0’clock p.m. you will be drinking alone. Festivals are a big deal in Spain. If it is possible to step up the drinking, dancing and eating in Spain, it is done during the time of a festival. Everyone participates because it would be un-Spain like to not do so (“Spanish Customs and Traditions,” n.d.). There are a few very common traditions in Spain such as running with the bulls, one which I had never heard of called La Tomatina, Buñol where they have a tomato throwing or food fight of epic proportions. This is done in the town of Bunol in honor of one of their Saints. Spanish people have been thought of as lazy, which is not the case. They are very hard workers, but just know how to enjoy their free time. Spaniards are known to be very fun loving and caring. Family is the center of everything they do (“Complete Guide, Festivals in Spain,” n.d.).


Roman Catholics are the most prevalent in Spain. 80-90 percent of the population identifies themselves as catholic. The other 10 percent of the population identifies with a different religion or none at all. Catholicism was the only religion before the government changes. No marriages were allowed unless performed within the church. The second largest religion in Spain is Islam, followed by Barcelona Cathedral, Evangelism, Jehovah’s Witness, and Mormonism (“Religion in Spain,” n.d.). Religion over the history has changed drastically throughout Spain. Church and state had no separation. Things such as the change from farm and rural population, to more urban centers where there was less church influence. Being Catholic has less to do with the attendance of services or Mass and more to do with baptisms, marriage and burials. People do not feel that regular attendance to Mass is what makes you be able to identify with a religion. It has been seen through the generations a decrease in practicing Catholics. This is thought to be because of education. The more educated a person is the less likely one is to be a practicing Catholic (“Spain-Religion,” n.d.). It is said that any form of Christian message or teaching in Spain to those who are not proclaiming a faith of Christianity meet the message immediately with an attitude of rejection. Those that still have Christianity at the forefront of their lives go on what are called pilgrimages in which they travel to the burial places of Christian saints. These special burial plots of myths or stories that go along with them such as a man and horse who fell into the ocean and did not drown, they came out on the other side clothed in scalloped shells. Now when people travel there they go on horses and will collect scalloped shells (“Religion in Spain,” n.d.).

Sense of Self and Space

Spaniards are known to stand close when communicating with one another. An arm’s length distance or even slightly closer is acceptable. It is quite common for a Spaniard to touch a lot while having a conversation. Though this is a common interaction, it is less common in business interactions or in a formal situation. When walking down the street it is very common to see people having physical contact such as hugging, kissing, or other forms of physical contact. This does vary from area to area. Eye contact is appreciated and expected in almost all situations. It can be a sign of disrespect if one does not maintain eye contact (“Country Guides to Culture,” n.d.).

Communication Style and Language

Spanish or Castilian is the official primary language of Spain but there are quite a few different languages spoken throughout the country. Other languages spoken in Spain include Euskara spoken by the Basque people, Catalan; which is a mix between Spanish and French, Galician; which is similar to Portuguese, Aragonese, Asturian, Caló, Valencian (usually considered a dialect of Catalan), Extremaduran, Gascon and Occitan. An interesting fact in regards to Spain and the language spoken there was that there are different forms of sign language spoken for the deaf in each of the sub regions of Spain. There is Spanish sign language, Valencian Sign language, and Catalan sign language (“Spain’s Linguistic Diversity,” n.d.) Spaniards communicate in a very formal way when in public, but is very relaxed and informal. Spaniards are known for being direct and speaking the truth but do it in a very diplomatic way as to not offend. Using of hands in conversation to enhance the conversation. It is common to see hands flying about when see groups talking other than while dining at a restaurant (“Country Guides to Culture,” n.d.).

Food and Feeding Habits


Rice and bread is a large portion of Spanish cuisine. Paella is a well-known rice dish famous to the Valencia region. The vegetables that are used in Spanish dishes were primarily brought back from the America’s. These vegetables include: Tomatoes, bell peppers (capsicum), potatoes and zucchini. These vegetables are now widely related to Mediterranean cuisine. Other vegetables that are widely used in Spanish meals include but are not limited to are onions, garlic, asparagus, eggplant, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, artichokes, lettuce and mushrooms (“Cuisine,” n.d., para 4) The spices and seasonings used in Spanish dishes are influenced by the “Moors (a Muslim tribal people from the Moroccan region of North Africa)” (“Cuisine,” n.d., para 16-17). Seasonings and spices that are common to Spanish dishes include cinnamon, saffron and cumin. Paprika, garlic, parsley, lemon juices and vinegar are also what give many dishes a Mediterranean feel. The Spanish culture is known for its stews. Every region has a version in which they eat at midday. These stews are usually comprised of broth, legumes, and potatoes. These stews also known as cocido or olla, are usually eaten in some version every day with a small amount of meat and greens that are in season. The midday meal or comida is eaten around 2:00 and is the meal in which families come together. The midday meal usually follows breakfast or desayuno, of coffee and chocolate or a bread product such as a pastry or cookie. Other times of eating include: almuerzo, or mid-morning snack, merienda, or substantial snack eaten between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. and sometimes replaces the supper or cena which is eaten at 10 p.m. Comida or cena are times in which families have to gather. Office hours are made to accommodate these hours of gathering. Families will travel home and then return to work (“Countries and Their Cultures,” n.d.). Eating and drinking are the primary ways in which Spaniards socialize and gather. Sundays, events such as Christmas and Easter, “family celebrations as birthdays, personal saints' days, baptisms, First Communions, and weddings” (“Countries and Their Cultures,” n.d., para. 40) are just a few examples. These group gatherings are known as cuadrillas, or peñas.

Time Consciousness

As stated earlier, Spaniards are not known for their punctuality. For business, punctuality is not important. If you will not be there at a specific time though, it is expected that you notify your business employees such as calling in sick or ahead of time. Appointments and deadlines are expected to be kept, though can be made flexible if need be. Public transportation services run on a schedule. Time constraints are stricter in the North part of Spain where they are more relaxed in the Southern regions of Spain. In the interactions I have had with my friend from Spain she is very good at being punctual to religious activities and services, educational obligations, etc. She is very good at being late to parties, and gatherings. Sometime this can come off as a desire to not be there or as flakiness. With business closing at lunch for siestas it is not surprising that time constraints are of a high importance. Deadlines must be met so organization and procrastination are not an option in business situations (“Country Guides to Culture,” n.d.).

Relationships and Social Organization

The family in Spain is the center of the social structure. Though family is the center of the social structure, the birth rate is the lowest in Europe. Spain looks upon men and women as equals, which leads to more women being in University and in the workplace. Though family is the center of the social structure, Business relationships along with other relationships are very important, and have many different rules of etiquette depending on the type of relationship (“Spain - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette,” n.d.).

When meeting new people, it is custom to shake hands. Once a relationship is formed, women will kiss each other on both cheeks. Men embrace, whilst putting their hand on the other shoulder. When shaking hands it is common for it to be a two-handed shake, one had being put on the forearm. All these are signs of closeness and trust. When being introduced in a formal occasion, Don or Donna along with the other person’s first name is customary (“Spain - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette,” n.d.).

Social Organizations

Spain has many organizations throughout its 17 colonies. Some of the social organizations that are in Spain include national and social clubs.


• American Women’s Club of Madrid: people to get to know other women of different nationalities, and also to help with charitable communities, and other needs throughout the community.

• British Ladies Association: Dedicated to raising money for local Madrid charities.

• International Newcomers Club of Madrid

• Gudonya: Meeting for Australians and friends within Madrid.

• The Madrid Players: A small acting group that puts on plays and productions.


• The American Society of Barcelona: Business networking, cultural outings, traditional American celebrations.

• British Society of Catalonia: Welcomes new and existing residents to come and enjoy social events, usually of a British theme.

• The Business Lunch in Barcelona:

• Barcelona NewComers Club

• Barcelona Women’s Network

• International Women’s Club of Barcelona


• American Women’s Club of Seville

Costa Del Sol

• American Club of the Costa del Sol: A support group for Americans and Internationals living abroad. Celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving, Independence Day, etc.


• International Womens Club

• American Club of Valencia (“Groups and Clubs in Spain,” n.d.).

Education and Learning

Education in Spain is required from ages 6 to 16. Kindergarten is for ages 0-3 years, pre-scholar or infantile is for 3-6 years, primary education 6-12(required); Secondary education 12-16 years(required) ; bachillerato 16-18years; University 18-21 years (“Education in Spain,” n.d.). It is very interesting to see how in the Spanish school system has different names for the levels in which you attend school. What I would like to know is the difference in what is being taught. There is public and private schools. Some private schools are state funded thus causing a problem on being able to claim itself as a private school. After your 10 years of compulsory education, the student has a choice on whether to proceed on to high school or a vocational school. You are unable to attend a university if you have not completed your secondary education or bachillerato (“Education in Spain,” n.d.). Hours of operation vary vastly throughout Spain. Some schools have a two hour lunch break, to a one hour lunch break, to even no lunch break at all in order to be home in time for the family’s main meal. For working families schools will open as early as 7 a.m. and provide breakfast, extra-curricular activities etc. in order to provide care for the children while the parents are away. There are two phases of pre-school the first from ages 0-3 which is not free, and the second being 3-6 which is free to everyone. Spanish primary education is tailored to the needs of the student and their level in which they learn (“Education in Spain,” n.d.). The Ministry of Education is in charge of the educational programs throughout Spain. The Law on the Quality of Education consists of a few rules that include school being free of charge from age 6 to 16, Schools have levels of education adapted to those with special needs, All students will receive basic vocational training in their secondary educational years, religious instruction is optional, and special programs exist for artistic and language learning (“Education in Spain,” n.d.).

Work Habits and Practices

In business it is not the norm to greet people with kisses and hugs as it is in other situations, unless of course you know the business associate very well. A handshake is the appropriate way in which to greet someone. Business meetings in Spain are primarily to get to know one another. This is due to Spaniards feeling like they can trust you, especially if they will be doing business with you. These meetings may have many personal questions and will follow no specific agenda. When having a business meeting, or trying to perform a business deal, this is usually done in the office accept for vary rare occasions due to meal time being a very important time for the Spanish people to relax. If there is any kind of food involved, it is usually after the meeting to celebrate a deal that has been made. If invited to get something to eat, it is customary that the person who extended the invitation to foot the bill. Most restaurants do not open till after 9:00 p.m. so most business dinners/luncheons happen late at night. Business meetings tend to be an arduous task with no rush or urgency to complete the business deal or meeting. Business colleagues usually dine together but different ranks within a business do not mix (“Spain - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette,” n.d.). It has been mentioned multiple times that due to the siesta, business hours are very different than what most people would expect. The government is the one who is in charge of the hours in which a business is open. For example, banks are open from 9-2 and have the option of opening one afternoon a week. So strange to me that the banks are only open for such a little time. The Spanish people are known to work hard, but it can be very difficult finding a job currently.


Spain’s healthcare is based on Universal healthcare. This as we know is where everyone receives medical care, whether you are a tourist, non-citizen, or an illegal alien. Due to Spain observing the Universal Healthcare policy, anyone who is participating in the social security program is automatically registered for free healthcare Spain has one the best public healthcare systems in the world but citizens of Spain who are more fortunate, or can afford private healthcare will opt for private healthcare. This is primarily due to the public healthcare system having long wait times that may take weeks to months at times. Emergency care is the only way that treatment is immediate and any follow up care may be put off, again due to the long wait times. Not only do you have no waiting period for appointments or care, but having private insurance or healthcare you will have faster lab results, private rooms, and will even receive emails, and SMS messages to keep you posted or updated on your care. Dental care is one part of healthcare that is not covered by the countries healthcare system. The only way you are not required to pay at the dentist at time of service is if you have private health insurance that covers dental. Only 10% of the population has private insurance so Dental services tend to not be terribly expensive and Dentist office will frequently set up payment plans with patients to ensure they are receiving the dental care in which they need (“Healthcare in Spain,” n.d.). The way in which healthcare is paid for is from the citizens contributions which are determined by their economic status/ capacity. Just by their contributions they are entitled to all and any services. Not only are citizens guaranteed healthcare services, there are many facilities throughout all 17 autonomous regions. This ensures that patients are receiving quality, equity, and mostly, citizens are participating in healthcare because it is affordable. Though citizens may wait for long periods of time for healthcare, they have a longer life expectancy and better quality of life in comparison to many other countries (“Healthcare in Spain,” n.d.).

See Also



External Links


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