Spain / España
Siestas are great, but they have a sad past
One big part of Spanish culture is the siesta. This is a break taken after lunch. Siesta usually lasts from 2:30 to 4 or 5pm, during which time many shops and cafés will shut, and some Spanish people take a nap. This is good for getting out of the heat of the day, but the siesta has a darker origin.
In the 1940s, Spain’s fascist dictator Franco plunged Spain into poverty, which resulted in many men having to take 2 jobs (a phenomenon call “pluriempleo”). Franco also moved the country into the “wrong” timezone to match times with Nazi Germany. All this meant that Spanish people couldn’t get enough sleep at night, and had to catch up during the break between their jobs. This became part of the culture, and siesta has since become a focal point in Spanish life, pushing back meal times, party times, and bed times. Spain now has the latest bedtimes of any European nation.
You can read more about that here or, if you speak Spanish, here
Spain has 10 native languages, including a unique one
Nine of these languages are Romance Languages descended from Latin. Latin is in the “Indo-European” language family, like nearly every modern European language. When the Indo-European Languages spread, they wiped out every native language in western Europe, until, by around 200AD, only one of these ancient European languages survived. This is the Basque language, which is unique, and unrelated to any other language on Earth. Nearly 1 million people still speak it, in the Basque region of Spain and France.
Madrid is well placed
At the exact geographic centre of Spain, you will find the capital city, Madrid.
In the centre of Madrid, you will find a square called Puerta del Sol, and in that square, you can see a tile that marks the exact centre of the country. Madrid is the most central capital of any large country.
Spain was Muslim
By the year 716AD, all the land of Spain and Portugal had been conquered by an Islamic empire called the Umayyad Caliphate. This began a period of Spain’s history call the Reconquista, where Christian nations gradually won back Spain from Islamic rule. The Reconquista ended nearly 800 years later with the fall of Granada, the last Muslim kingdom in Spain. During the height of Islamic Spain, the capital city of Cordoba was the most advanced city in Europe, with running water and streetlights. Islamic influence can still be found throughout Spanish culture: in some of the language; the architecture of southern Spain; and even the Flamenco dance.
They lead the world in:
Spain has an ‘opt out’ organ donor system. This means that if you have strong feelings against it, you can choose not to donate your organs, but by default everyone is on the donor list. This has led to Spain having the best organ donor per person ratio of any country on Earth, 2.2 times better than the EU average.