Exploring the Spanish Speaking World: Let’s Go to Spain!

As a Spanish preschool, our days are immersed in the Spanish language and culture. With our locations in Texas, however, it’s natural that most of our teachers come from Mexico and Central or South America, rather than from Spain.  

Spain is, of course, the birthplace of the Spanish language and the inspiration for a lot of Latin America’s rich culture.  Let’s take a look at some of its highlights!  From art and architecture to siestas and fiestas, the sights, sounds, and aromas of Spain say, “¡Bienvenido!”/ Welcome! 

Surprising Variations

Spanish geography, Spanish language, Spanish culture, Spanish preschool

People who’ve experienced Latin American countries and cultures often assume that Spain must be similar.  In some ways it is, but what surprises people is how unique it is and how much variation there is within Spain itself.

The country is made up of 17 autonomous regions, which are divided into 50 provinces!  Not only does this highlight diverse climate and geography, it makes for a huge variety in language, food, and customs.  In Spain, you can explore both ancient and modern cities, beaches, mountains, rivers, aqueducts, vineyards, and glistening white villages.  Each area has strong regional pride, and this shows in local dishes, music, language, and customs.

!Más que español! More than Spanish!

Language map of Spain, Spanish language, Spanish Culture, Spanish geography, Spanish preschool

You might be surprised to know that there are multiple languages spoken in Spain, and some are very different from what we know as Spanish! The official language is Castilian Spanish, or castellano.  It’s spoken by approximately 90% of Spaniards as their first or second language.  The regions of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands have an official co-language called catalán, spoken by approximately 20% of the population.  Basque is a very unique and complex language spoken in the Basque Country and Navarra. Galician is the regional language of Asturias.  


Spanish speakers from Latin America may have to adjust to the accent of Castilian and the use of the pronoun “vosotros” to informally to address groups. They may even find themselves stumped by some common Spanish words that are quite different in Spain.  For example, a computer is a computadora in most Latin countries, but it is an ordenador in Spain.  Peaches are melocotones vs duraznos, juice is zumo vs jugo, eyeglasses are gafas vs anteojos, and matches are cerillas vs. fósforos.  Here’s a previous blog post that touches on some of these linguistic differences:  https://spanishschoolhouseblog.com/my-spanish-or-your-spanish/

Fiestas

Running of the Bulls, Spain, Spanish culture

Each region has its own colorful fiestas.  Many of these span several days, involve entire towns, and draw partygoers and curious onlookers from throughout Europe and beyond.  One of the most famous festivals is Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermín, the Running of the Bulls.  This is a nine-day festival in July where crowds gather in the streets as bulls run from their corral to a nearby bullring.  An unusual festival is La Tomatina in Valencia that some say started as a food fight between pedestrians!  Thousands gather each August to throw 120 tons of ripe tomatoes at each other!  In April, the Feria de Abril takes place in Sevilla.  It’s a weeklong celebration of flamenco-style dancing, colorful dresses, food, wine, and thousands of lights.  

Dining in Spain – Adjust Your Gastronomic Clock!

tapas, spain, spanish food, spanish culture

Although every region has specialty dishes, certain foods are quintessentially Spanish – like paella, tortilla española, patatas bravas, chorizo, and jamón serrano.  A lot of Spanish food is not so different from elsewhere in Europe.  Fresh fish and seafood, roast chicken and lamb, fried potatoes and rice are typical dishes.  What makes dining uniquely Spanish is the timing!  
Spaniards often have just a light pastry and coffee for breakfast.  They follow this with a mid-morning snack of a sandwich and/or coffee.  The main meal of the day, la comida, is around 2:00 pm.  This is when shops and businesses close for a few hours for the famous Spanish siesta.  Small appetizer-sized plates called tapas are typically served between 7:00 and 10:00 pm.  Dinner is usually a very light meal, between 9:00 pm and midnight.  It takes a while for a traveler’s appetite to adjust but you won’t regret waiting when you taste the mouthwatering Spanish dishes!

Art and Architecture

Spanish architecture, Spanish culture

If you travel throughout the country, you can visually time-travel through Spain’s long history.   Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance structures will take you back through the centuries! There are also beautifully preserved Moorish buildings that have a distinctly North African feel.  Check out the Alhambra in Granada, The Royal Alcazar in Sevilla, the Mezquita of Cordoba, and the Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza for beautiful examples of Spain’s Moorish period.

Spanish geography, Spanish culture,  Parque Guell

Antonio Gaudi was Spain’s most famous architect of the early 20th century and his work is one of a kind!  Some of Barcelona’s most famous icons are his Catedral de la Sagrada Familia and the very colorful, magical Park Guell.

In terms of art, Spain has some of the world’s greatest collections in museums like The Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. These are great showcases for the works of Spain’s own masters such as Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Goya, and El Greco. 

La Gente – The Spanish People

Spanish culture

Speaking of art, one thing Spaniards are known for is the art of enjoying life!  They socialize often and love to share daily life, good weather, good food, and conversation with friends and family.  A beautiful custom is el paseo, where people young and old take leisurely evening strolls down main streets to people-watch and catch up.  While Spaniards work hard, they value work/life balance and prioritize spending quality time with loved ones.  Customs like the daily siesta period, late-night dining, and frequent holidays encourage a culture of slowing down and connecting.  

Pack Your Bags!

Tourism is a major part of Spain’s economy.  In fact, for the past three years, it’s been the second most-visited country in the world!   If you get a chance to visit, you’ll find it’s a great place to put your Spanish language into practice while exploring the fascinating areas from north to south. You’re sure to feel welcoming hospitality in any region at any time of the year!  

Spain’s Influence Abounds at SSH!

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We love the fact that SSH teachers and staff come from all over the Spanish-speaking world.  While only a few may come from Spain, many have ancestral roots there. We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at this colorful and vibrant country that gives so much richness to the language and culture we share at Spanish Schoolhouse!

So, what do you think?