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Interesting facts about Spain

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Interesting facts about Spain

People & Lifestyle

  • Not all Spaniards are native speakers of (Castilian) "Spanish". There are in fact four official languages in Spain (Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician), three unofficial regional languages (Asturian, Aragonese and Aranese), and several more dialects of these (Andalucian, Valencian...). Almost all Spaniards can speak Castilian Spanish though.
  • The Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have been ranked as the world's two richest football clubs since the 2008–09 season. The Real Madrid has clung to the top of the Deloitte Football Money League since 2004-05.
  • According to the World Drug Report, Spain has the world's highest cocaine consumption per capita (3.1% of the population in 2010), and Europe's third highest annual prevalence for cannabis (10.6% in 2010).

  • Spaniards are the most enthusiastic radio listeners in Europe.
  • Owning one's home is very important to Spanish people, and indeed some 80% of Spanish households do - one of the highest rates in Europe. 65% of them live in apartments though, which is the highest proportion in the EU. Spaniards also have the EU's highest level of second home ownership. Spain has the third lowest overcrowding rate in the EU (after the Netherlands and Cyprus).
  • In 2004, Spain built more housing per capita than any other country. 750,000 new homes were built nationwide, more than in Germany, France and Italy combined !
  • The Spaniards have a completely different life rythmn from other Europeans. They typically have lunch between 1 and 3 pm, dinner around 10 pm, and rarely sleep before the early hours of the night. Prime time TV in Spain starts at 10 pm and lasts until 1 am. Likewise the peak for radio listening in the morning is around 10 am.
  • Spaniards have dominated a surprising number of sports since the early 2000's. In motor sports, they have won two Formula One Championships with Fernando Alonso, and six Motorcycle World Championships with Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Toni Elías and Marc Márquez. In football, they have won the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. In tennis, they have had won five Davis Cup and have had two ATP number 1 ranked singles players, including Rafael Nadal who was the youngest player ever to win the four Grand Slam tournaments. In basketball, they got medals at six of the last seven FIBA European Basketball Championships, including two gold and three silver. Finally, in road bicycle race, they won nine Vuelta a España, four consecutive Tours de France, three UCI Road World Championships, and one Giro d'Italia.

Culture & Heritage

  • Spain is traditionally a strongly religious country (Roman Catholicism). However, only 76% of Spaniards now identify themselves as Catholics, and only about 20% are regular church-goers. Due to recent immigration, 3% of the population is now Muslim.
  • Spanish-speaking cultures have been very propitious for the development of new dance styles, such as Flamenco (inspired by Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures), Merengue (Hispano-African), Salsa, Mambo and Cha-cha-cha (African and Cuban), Rumba (African, Amerindian and Spanish), etc.
  • Spanish culture greatly influenced modern art from the late 1800's, with artists like Antoni Gaudí (Art Nouveau), Pablo Picasso (expressionism, cubism, surrealism), Joan Miró (surrealism), or Salvador Dalí (surrealism).
  • 58 million tourists go to Spain every year, making it the fourth most visited country in the world. Spain's foreign tourist industry is worth approximately 40 billion euro, or about 5% of the GDP.
  • Spain is renowned for its lively festivals, the most famous of which are :

    • San Fermín ("running of the bulls") in Pamplona
    • Tomatina ("tomato battle") in Buñol
    • Fallas (St. Joseph's Day) in Valencia
    • Moros i Cristians (commemoration of battles between Moors and Christians) around Valencia
    • the Mystery Play of Elx (medieval lyrical drama ranked Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO), near Valencia
    • the Carnival nationwide, especially the one of Cádiz
  • According to numerous opinion polls, the Spanish people generally like King Juan Carlos as an individual, but are at the same time, for the great majority, anti-monarchist.
  • Contrarily to the popular image abroad, the majority of contemporary Spaniards does not approve of bullfighting. The practice has even been banned in the Canaries (since 1991) and in Catalonia (since 2009). The heartland of bullfighting is essentially Andalusia and Castille (mostly in and around Madrid).


  • Most of Spain was under Muslim domination from 711 to the mid 11th century. The full peninsula was not reconquered by the Christian powers until 1492.

  • There are at least 10 well-preserved Roman-age bridges in Spain today. Among them, the Roman bridge of Córdoba, completed in 100 BCE, is the oldest masonry bridge in Europe outside of Rome (and 3rd oldest overall), while the Aqueduct of Segovia is the longest surviving Roman aqueduct and one of the best preserved. The Roman bridges of Mérida (721m) and Salamanca (356m) are the longest intact Roman bridges still in use today. The one in Mérida is in fact the world's longest surviving bridge from ancient times. The six-arched Alcántara Bridge (194m long, 50m high), built over the Tagus River between 104 and 106 CE by an order of the emperor Trajan, was the highest bridge in the world until the 14th century.
  • The Spanish Inquisition, which aimed at converting non-Christians to Christian Catholicism, started in 1478, and was not abolished until 1834. It is estimated that the Inquisition processed some 350,000 people, of whom at least 10% were executed (most famously burnt at the stake).
  • Under Philip II's reign (1556-1598), and until 1640, Spain ruled over an empire comprising Spain, the Spanish Netherlands (most of present Belgium, and Northern France), Southern Italy, most of South and Central America (Brazil included), about half of the present USA, the Philippines (named after Philip II), as well as various smaller colonies in Asia and Africa (Macao, Malacca, Goa, Daman, Diu...).
  • Tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, tobacco, and cacao, were all brought to Europe (then spread around the world) by the Spaniards from their American colonies. All these words were imported from Spanish language into English, which explains why they end in "-o".

  • The Spanish colonies in the Americas (except Cuba and Puerto Rico, lost to the USA in 1898) became independent between 1809 and 1825, mostly due to Napoleon's occupation of Spain between 1808 and 1814.
  • Spain did not participate in either the First or Second World War.
  • During the Franco regime (1936-1975), Spain was not unlike fundamentalist Islamic countries in its treatment of women. The Spanish civil code declared that a woman needed her husband's permission to conduct any sort of activity outside the home. Women were banned from having a job, opening a bank account, starting a business, buying or selling goods, or initiate legal proceedings. Until the 1960's there was no legal recourse against a man mistreating his wife.
  • Few countries have changed as quickly and spectacularly as Spain since the 1970's. Spain was then one of the poorest and most backward countries in Europe. It has since raised its GDP per capita to the level of Italy, and has become one of the most socially liberal and progressive nations in the world. The condition of women has dramatically improved, as suggested by the Global Gender Gap Report 2012, in which Spain ranked 26th worldwide, just behind Australia, the USA, and Canada.

Law & Government

  • Spain is one of the world's most decentralised countries. According to OECD statistics, the Spanish Autonomous Communities have a higher share of public expenditures than German Länder of U.S. states.
  • In July 2005, Spain became the third country on Earth to legalise same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. In the same year the country also legalised full joint adoption by same-sex couples.
  • Personal consumption and home cultivation of cannabis are legal in Spain. As for cannabis possession, it has been decriminalised.
  • Spain was one of the first European countries to ban smoking in in all workplaces, and bars and restaurants (from 2006), following the lead of Ireland and Norway two years earlier.
  • Spain is the only country in the EU, along with Portugal, where life imprisonment has been abolished.
  • It is a crime in Spain to slander or libel the dead.
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