What We Can Learn From The Spanish

Published on 3/7/2010 in Spanish Culture

I took my kids to a birthday party yesterday and whilst I was there I was chatting to Lola, one of the mums (the dads never go), about the importance of the family in Spain and it got me thinking about the positive things we can learn from the Spanish people.

SpaniardsI have to stress at this point that my views are limited to the Andalucians as that is who I am mostly exposed to and have had time to get to know and understand.

So let’s take a look at what the Spanish can teach us…

La Familia

Lola couldn’t have put it any clearer that to her her family comes first and that includes immediate and extended family.

She says that it is a trait passed down from generation to generation.  Respecting the entire family and getting together very often and sharing happy moments and problems.  Lola is already making sure her kids spend lots of time with all their cousins further reinforcing the importance of the family for future generations.

My own family is very dispersed and we only see each other two or three times a year.  I think the Spanish have got it spot on with their family values and the fact that they tend to stick together very closely and support one another.  Family first.

Work/ Life Balance

I know I’m going to get some stick for this but I really think the Spanish (Andalucians) have the right balance when it comes to work and social life.  Their lives generally do not revolve so much around their work but more about what happens after it.  The Andalucians especially have thus earned themselves a reputation for being lazy with their “mañana” attitude to their work.

Lola was adamant in that the Spanish are not lazy, they just know how to enjoy life.  Yes they go to work and they work well, but they’ll then make sure they don’t over do it so that they can go out down the “paseo” at night and meet up with friends and family…with the kids in tow too of course.

There IS more to life than just work and the Andalucians may have swung it more in the direction of their social life but that’s no bad thing.  You have one life so live it.

Attitudes to Children

The Spanish have always been known for being very loving and tolerant towards children, even the ones that are not theirs.

You tend to notice this very much in restaurants where children can be running around making loads of noise and no-one bats an eyelid.  The Spanish are happy to let kids be kids, even if they do make sure that on a Sunday they have to wear their Sunday best.

There is an apparent trend in Spain where the Spanish are having less kids and later on in life.  This is probably more to do with the cost of having children and buying a house but their attitudes to let children be children remains and that is a very refreshing attitude and one which was a big factor in us moving to Spain.

Eating Habits

Eating well, and slowly, is so ingrained within the Spanish psyche that it is just so natural for them to do it.  You can’t rush a good meal.

If you ever have the pleasure of sitting down to eat with a Spanish family you’ll be amazed at what and how they eat.  Meal times are not to be rushed.  Lunch especially is a long drawn out affair with socialising more important than the eating.  It’s a real time for the family to sit down together, chat, have a drink and unwind.

They tend not to eat a load of junk food with the majority of families still cooking most of their meals at home.  The diversity of fish, meats, casseroles and all the other types of meals that they put together means they tend to eat quite healthily, whilst at the same time using the opportunity to spend further quality time with the family.

I’ll toast to that!

Outdoor Life

Continuing with the family theme, during the afternoons and late into the evening, the Spanish are out in the squares, parks and the paseos.  Most are not doing anything particularly interesting, just walking up and down the paseo, or chatting with friends whilst all the kids play in the park.  And it’s not just when the sun is shining.  It’s about just being out.

The Spanish take to the streets every opportunity that they have.  Just being out, walking around makes them very happy.  And best of all this is a free activity for the whole family.

Being outside is something the Spanish are very good at, winter as well as summer.  It seems most don’t want to be housebound and prefer to mingle outside, sometimes until vary late into the night…and yes, the kids go along too.

Being out is great for spending time with family and friends and it’s free.

Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Although the Spanish are great at making sure that they spend plenty of time outdoors, they are very house proud too and that includes knowing the neighbours.

In many towns and villages people often sit outside their front doors watching the world go by.  If you have Spanish neighbours it’s quite probable that you’ll know them well and they will normally be very friendly towards you.

Love thy neighbour…the Spanish way!

Nation of Complainers…Not!

Everybody has a good moan sometimes but the Spanish are not big on complaining, at least not to others.  The Spanish really look after their own homes but what happens outside is less of a concern.

Problems such as rubbish on the streets, dog muck, etc, seem to bother the expats much more than the Spanish.  The Spanish realise that everything will get sorted out eventually so they don’t stress themselves out too much about it.

When I was the president of our community here the level of complaints from expats far exceeded those from the Spanish.

The Spanish will have a moan about Zapatero and the state of the economy, but few are inclined to leave the country and would never slate it the way many Brits do with the UK.

Message to expats (including myself):  Chillax!

These are just a handful of some of the traits of the Spanish people that I think we could learn something from.  Things have and still are changing in Spain.  As generations move on traditions and customs are often lost.  Many Spanish will tell you that the Spain of today is very different to the Spain of just ten years ago, and not necessarily for the better.  Hopefully future generations will continue to enjoy similar positive traits to those of today.

Are there any other traits you feel we could benefit from copying?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

I’m off for a siesta now...don’t want work to take over my life!

Written by: Justin Aldridge (EOS)

About the author:

Justin has been running Eye on Spain for over 5 years and recently with his partner Susan launched their popular moving to Spain video guide, Spain Uncut.

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astonished said:
Saturday, June 29, 2013 @ 5:05 PM

..region of Murcia where 64% of the population over the age of 45 who can not read or write and have never used a computer..
Where did you get this information? It is definately NOT true, even if there is a typing mistake 6.4% is false.

Jtou said:
Sunday, April 7, 2013 @ 4:08 PM

" region of Murcia where 64% of the population over the age of 45 who can not read or write and have never used computers" ?????????????????????????

"expats" are crazy people.

Meg said:
Friday, August 31, 2012 @ 5:01 AM

i want to travel spain and surfing the net how is it...i don't know if this will help or not!!

harriet said:
Friday, December 2, 2011 @ 7:25 PM

thank you this really helped xxx

p.s (homework)

Adey said:
Monday, September 26, 2011 @ 9:31 AM

with 25% unemployment and very low pay, they seem to not got the concept of being competitive very right. And all the enforced 'family' is something I personally will gladly pass on. Your romantic image of Spain is just that. My experience is one of debt, lack of opportunities and a well worn external smile to the same strife as us uncultured, family hating, junk food eating Northern European retards have.

Adey said:
Monday, September 26, 2011 @ 9:28 AM

with 25% unemployment and very low pay, they seem to not got the concept of being competitive very right. And all the enforced 'family' is something I personally will gladly pass on. Your romantic image of Spain is just that. My experience is one of debt, lack of opportunities and a well worn external smile to the same strife as us uncultured, faily hating, junk food eating Northern European retards have.

como tu quieres said:
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 @ 2:01 AM

True also is that the Indians,Chinese, and many other nationals always put their family first but they also enjoy the company of their valued friends and friends also become part of their family. Like myself I treat my children's friends the same.
There is much one can learn from friends, aqua intones and enjoy sharing time how brief it may be.

Strong family structure also establishes stronger societies and healthy and happy environment leading to fewer social problems. so good for a balanced and harmonious life. sadly this precious ingredient has disappeared from many European societies. I think the ex-pats here in Spain has also contributed much to enrich the Spanish way of life especially about customer care, technology, education, especially literacy with in the older generation of majority of Spanish families especially in the region of Murcia where 64% of the population over the age of 45 who can not read or write and have never used computers. This surely must restrict the social and economic progress in the long run. I have shared time with many Spanish family friends where conversation rarely extend beyond the pueblo and the region.now I have encoraged them to come to the classes to learn Spanish with me so the abuelas, and abuelos, tios and tias, tia abuelas as well as many suegras are enjoying learning spanish, use of internet, cooking with others, and yoga too. The younger family members enjoy talking about how much they like this new found interest of their mayores. I love my family but here I feel good about being able to enjoy and share a bit more than family life.

Chris said:
Sunday, March 14, 2010 @ 5:16 PM

A very good reminder of cultural values in Spain. Kids seem to understand it well.

rob in bubble busted land said:
Saturday, March 13, 2010 @ 11:15 PM

Rosita that is very very true, a good friend who has been here 30 years commented that when she got married her husband said he had 8 brothers and sisters and didn't need anymore friends. Another thing about work life balance is that Spanish are night owls, you leave the house at 8am and arrive back at 8 or 9 at night. One big positive I see over Americans is the family stills eats dinner at the table every day, of course eating at 10pm means everyone is home.

Linzi Ashwood said:
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 @ 10:25 AM

My husband and I have been here over 5 years and although loving our life on the whole are very frustrated with the Spanish attitude to us having lost my job due to closure of establishment signing on the state system has been a nightmare, although I was legal and paid social security I was promised I was entitled to the (Paro) dole for 6 months, 6 months later I have not had a penny and after several visits, my Spanish although not bad I gave up and took an interpretor even though she is Spanish we were there for 4 hours after having been told I had wrong ticket ( I had an appointment) eventually I was told the problem was sorted filled out form in Spanish and left later after interpretor had left had to go back with copy of my passport which I had and had not been asked for, but not good enough thet wanted copy not just the photo page but entire passport blank pages and all. Much arm waving and incomprehensible Spanish had to try find a copyier. As already stated my Spanish is OK normally. Said copy eventually produced taken with no grace. I await the possibility that I might get some money next month.

Juliette said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 10:08 PM

It's nice to read such a positive article and I agree with all of it. I don't agree with Graham (above) that it means the British are worse; every nation has its good and bad points and there are many aspects of Britain that I miss.

I do love the Spanish attitude to family and would love to share it, I just wish I could convince my own family to move out here!

Graham said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 6:58 PM

Great article Justin and spot on. Us Brits moan too much and are massively cynical about everything. Just enjoy life.

Rosita said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 6:53 PM

I'm from a Spanish family but married to an English guy and living in England. Dee - we live in a really friendly English village and have street parties and all types of community events for all ages and so does everyone else I know round here. England isn't just what happens in the cities! However I have many English friends & colleagues who have moved to Spain and they have often commented on how hard it is to make "real friends". This is because Spanish adults don't feel a need to have any NEW friends - they already have their big extended family, all their cousins etc and they just don't need you! However if you've married into a Spanish family I'm sure you've discovered by now the flip side to this all smothering family life!

Louise said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 6:46 PM

Love this article, and Dee I agree with you. We have a house inland in Sierra de Yeguas, and spend as much time as we can there before retiring one day..... My parents often comment on how similar life there is to their growing up days in the 50s in the northeast of England......although Mum says that Gran just used to take a couple of chairs out into the street for late night chats with the neighbour, rather than the entire 3 piece suite as seems to happen in our village! I guess Co Durham doesn't have the weather though! Our teenage dughters are not as enamoured with our pace of life there, although love Feria Week, but I think as they get older they'll reconsider.Can't wait to get back in May..........I hope it's stopped raining by then..

Dee said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 6:26 PM

The Spanish people cannot teach me anything I do not know already... however unfortunately the Brits have lost the plot.
I am one of the oldies and remember when the Brits were just the same.. we looked after each other neighbours as well as our own family .. particularly the elder members.; when family were the most important thing in my life; street parties were the norm; it would not have occurred to anyone to leave their hometown let alone their country. We learned how to enjoy ourselves because holidays were only for those who had money.

It is one of the reasons I love the way of life in Spain.. I am envious of their traditions and their family loyalty - reminding me of what I used to have - for their sake I hope they dont lose it the way we have.
Sadly the fabric of society in Britain has been destroyed

jan said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 6:18 PM

Yes my thinking exactly the spanish have found a great balance.I do not think the spanish are lazy (many that I know though would prefer a normal working day without the siesta) they just prefer spending time with family, and working to pay the bills and a bit left over.

Gill said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 5:44 PM

Your article is spot on as far as we see it. I love the Spanish attitude towards family.It was the same in South Africa when we lived there and found to be sadly lacking in the UK when we returned. To have family and friends close by is the structure of society. Spain have got it exactly right!

Brian said:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 @ 5:17 PM

Totally agree with your points Justin, those are the reasons along with the weather (Whats with the rain this winter? though summer is around the corner) that we have moved here and love it.

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