Life in Spain: Cultures and Traditions

All I’ve talked about thus far on our little blog is Korea this and Korea that. I guess that’s what you can expect from expats living in Korea… But, I’ve got a special treat for you today. My dear friend Dominique has been living in Spain for the past year. Yes, Europe. Okay, I am just a little jealous. Well, we’ve decided to do a short blogging series on life in our different cultures, and it starts today with Life in Spain.


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Hello readers of The English Travelers. My name’s Dominique and I blog over at The Adventures of Holly. I have been SO excited to do this mini blogging series with Amber for awhile, as we have been brainstorming ways to share the adventures we are both seeking abroad… her and her hubby in Korea, and me in Spain.

Really, I just have a major couple-crush on Amber and Jared. Not only do they love adventure as much as I do, but they have the most epic bucket list, and teach the most adorable looking children.

Life in Spain

SOOO… today we are going to be chatting about cultures and traditions in España. This is where I have had the privilege of living for the last year as an au pair, and well… I’ve had to grow used to some of the crazy traditions that make up life in Spain. I would generalize it to cover Europe, but then I would have to write a book. I hope you already made yourself a pot of green tea and are ready to learn a bit about a very unique culture that I have fallen in love with.

The Adventures of Holly

First off, Spaniards love their kisses. And by kisses I mean, greeting one another with two kisses planted on each cheek. It is something you just can’t escape (trust me, I’ve tried). You can imagine how long it must take to greet everyone at family gatherings (think large families like The English’s). And to top it off, this is how you say goodbye to one another as well. It doesn’t matter who it is… a stranger you just met on the street or your grandma, it is always customary to greet with a kiss on each cheek. NOW… the best part comes when a Spaniard greets (lets say) a Swiss. Because the Swiss do three kisses, and the Spaniards do two. Yea… lets just say it can be a tad awkward if you are not careful. 😉

The Adventures of HollyThe Adventures of Holly

Now, if you ever visit Spain… it is important to know that Spaniards LOVE their holidays. And by this, I mean every-other-week we have a day off of work and school for some silly reason. This past Thursday was a holiday to honor a special Saint. Yea, only in Spain…

SO, for New Years Eve… it is customary to wear red underwear. And eat a grape every hour leading up to midnight. Interesting, huh?

Now Christmas and Easter are not very significant in Spain, which is bothersome to me due to the greater significance of these two holidays. Instead, Day of the Three Kings equates to Christmas in Spain for families. Children leave their shoes out for gifts the night before, and Spaniards celebrate the arrival of the three wise men on January 6th with parades and festivities that revolves around gift giving, family and food, food, food.

Oh, and then one of the most popular sports in Spain is well… soccer of course, but also bull fighting. A three hour sporting event filled with dramatic costumes and music, and six bulls that die by the end of it. It was one of those experiences where I shielded my eyes for the better part of the event, but found it to be a very enlightening cultural experience.

Life in Spain

Semana Santa (aka Holy Week) is a week built upon tradition in the Catholic Church. Every day leading up to Good Friday there are several parades that make their way through the city until they arrive at the main cathedral. Each parade consists of 2 pasos (floats) depicting scenes of either Jesus’ passion or the Virgin Mary, and they can weigh up to several hundred pounds and date back to the 15th century. Around 40 men carry these massive floats in the processionals that last between 6-14 hours. In addition, men called nazarines walk alongside the floats and are dressed in what appears to be KKK uniforms, sometimes even barefoot with chains hanging from their bodies. They believe this is how one seeks penitence for their sins.

The Adventures of Holly The Adventures of Holly The Adventures of Holly

But my favorite Spanish tradition of all is La Ferria. Basically, it is a weeklong holiday in Southern Spain that occurs two weeks after Semana Santa. It consists of elaborate costumes, dancing, eating and drinking, socializing, and embracing life to the full. It originally began in the late 1800’s as a livestock fair, which quickly evolved into a weeklong party. This may be one of my favorite traditions in Spain because it feels as if you are stepping into the 1800’s with the elaborate dresses, horse drawn carriages, and unique Spanish music. And getting dressed for La Ferria is quite a feat- especially with a dress weighing nearly 20 pounds not including all of the accessories that is customary for one to wear. The Adventures of Holly

The Adventures of HollyThe Adventures of Holly

Well, there you have it. A little taste of life in Spain. But this barely scratched the surface- we also have the famous Flamenco dance, weekly family meals with the extended family, dinner at 10pm every night, tapas galore, and oh yea… the Spanish language. Hop on over and say hello and until next time, besos from Spain.

The Adventures of Holly

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Okay, it’s Amber again. Wow, what a great post. I don’t know about you, but I was just carried to a Spanish Wonderland, and now I’m having to return to the real world. I know you’re wanting to read more, so go on over to The Adventures of Holly and grab another cup of green tea!


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