People ask me all the time questions like, “What is Spain really like?”, “Will I like Marbella?”, “Do Spaniards really take siestas?”, “Does it get really hot in August?”. Usually, I am able to give assistance but occasionally I struggle on such generalities as, “Where should I live?”. Fortunately, my good friend Graham Hunt can always be relied on to give the answer to the crux question, “What is Spain REALLY like?” I am delighted he has allowed me to publish his concise thoughts.

“In order to identify and find the Real Spain that so many people long for you may need to go a bit more off the beaten track. The Real Spain can still be found though and the following aspects are things that I consider to signify that you have found the Real Spain that so many people look for.

Bars – The Spanish live in the street much more than other nationalities even when out of the home means in a smoky bar. You can see this by the street corner bars you can find everywhere all over Spain with the old blokes playing cards and debating life in general and the older women spending all day discussing the merits of various minor celebrities and taking forever to finish off a single coffee.

Tradition and Modernism – Architecture in the big cities is the best example where new exciting structures have sprung up all over the place usually right next to well preserved relics of the past from many ages. This mixture of tradition alongside modernism makes Spain a melting pot of ideas.

Pride – The pride in the country and region in Spain is huge. There is pride in personal appearance, pride in the children and achievements and pride in the achievement of converting from dictatorship to democracy in a short time without any major dramas. This pride is best emphasised on Sunday evenings where the main thoroughfares of most towns and cities in Spain are festooned with people parading up and down the street in their Sunday best clothes as a whole family unit, this is the real Spain.

Opinions – The Spanish love a good debate or round table discussion. They will argue the toss over anything. They express opinions forcefully yet allow the other side to express theirs too. Even for subjects way off the radar of the life experience of the average Spanish person, let’s take diamond mining in Botswana as an example, you can guarantee that the point of view of one will differ widely from their best friend or neighbour.

The Pueblo – The Spanish people traditionally come from a rural background but now mostly live in large cities. However the weekend, fiestas and more demand that they return to their Pueblo, their village, to meet the extended family and live a quieter pace of life. The pueblos continue to survive as a result despite the rural depopulation.

Shops – In the big cities mostly the large chain stores have taken over but in the smaller towns, villages and even in certain areas an anomaly in the rental laws means that you can find the most extraordinary shops that really should go out of business but don’t because they pay such a miserly rent and they have customers who have been going there for 40 or 50 years. They are usually dark and unwelcoming but strike up a conversation with the owner and you will be there for hours as no steady flow of clients will disturb you. These shops are run under the Renta Antigua system which means they pay a ridiculously low amount to the landlord which can only be updated by the inflation rate annually until the death of the owner of the business.

Height – Just a thing to look out for in the new Spain that reminds you of the fast development of the country. The Civil War stunted the growth literally of the people in the country and the younger generation tower over their grandparents an are generally quite a bit taller than their parents too.

© Graham Hunt 2009

Email Graham Hunt for further information on the real Spain.