Of course, while there are many cultural differences, there are also plenty of similarities. Some public holidays are shared, handshake greetings are common, football is passionately followed, wine is widely consumed, and a love of good food is also a similar trait across both nations.
Having the opportunity to compare cultures is a wonderful experience, particularly when you can learn from it and take new ideas home – either to practice in the kitchen, or in your garden, or even on your decor!
In Spain, lunch is the main meal. It is usually taken between 2 pm – 3 pm and may consist of several courses, sometimes 5 or 6 in total, and often simple in nature such as soup, pasta, salad, meat and vegetables. In England lunch is often a brief affair consisting of a sandwich, salad or perhaps cold pasta, and is usually taken between 12.00 – 1.00 pm. The exception is on Sundays when traditionally, a large late lunch will be served consisting of roast meat, usually chicken or beef, roast vegetables and dessert. The evening meal is the main course, normally taken around 7.00 pm. It varies in nature and is usually hot with a selection of meat and vegetables served on the same plate, often succeeded by dessert. Spanish evening meals are usually lighter and served later, around 9.00 pm, following the ampler lunch. Traditional English desserts are often hot, typically a fruit pie or tart served with custard, or a cold tart or cheesecake served with cream. In Spain, typical desserts consist of a flan such as crème caramel or caramel custard, while pastries and biscuits are popular too.
Shaking hands is expected across both genders, and once a relationship is established, it is normal for men to embrace or pat each other on the shoulder, while female friends may kiss each other on each cheek. In England, handshakes are common although kisses (usually once on the cheek) and hugs are usually reserved between very good friends.
In Spain, Christmas Day isn’t the main event. It’s all about Christmas Eve – “La Noche Buena” – which involves a huge feast and much merriment. Gift-giving happens in January, while December 25th is all about eating your bodyweight in fabulous cuisine. In England, Christmas Day is the main celebration when gifts are exchanged, and the day is spent with family, eating roast turkey and drinking together. It’s also tradition to pause at 3.00pm to watch the televised Queen’s Speech.
The siesta is a famous part of Spanish culture and one that’s often admired by the British! It’s a short early afternoon nap, usually taken after lunch and before returning to work. The tradition doesn’t exist in England, partly due to the shorter nature of lunches, but also because the temperatures are typically cooler. Siestas are more common in warm weather countries.
Given the differences in climate, trade and culture, the architecture between England and Spain is strikingly different. In England, rows of terraced houses, ‘Harry Potter style’ detached homes, country cottages and sprawling mansions are commonplace. In Spain, the warmer weather gives way to spacious, airy villas, flat-roofed houses and whitewashed apartments. This is of course a top-level account and the differences, both historically and in contemporary styles, carry many intricate and fascinating features.