Friday, 14 September 2012

Fantastic Facts about Spain

Today and last Friday I made the 305 mile round trip from Washington to my alma mater, the University of Manchester.   I have been working with the Primary PGCE students who have chosen Spanish as their language to improve their language skills, and a particular focus has been building knowledge of intercultural understanding for the non-specialist teacher.  When it came to planning my activities, I had to do some research to get the facts right, and thought I would share my notes here as they are bound to be useful to someone else.


size  - 505,992 km2 - more than twice the size of Great Britain

population - about 47 million

capital - Madrid

major cities - Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga

currency - euro since 2002

time difference UK time +1

shares a border with France, Portugal, Andorra.

has the longest coastline in Europe

surrounded by Atlantic, Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay

has 17 autonomous regions

four official languages- Castillian, Basque, Galician, Catalan

is the highest European country after Switzerland

Highest mountain on mainland is Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada.

train companies - RENFE, Metro, AVE

invaded by Romans in 218BC
inhabited by various tribes, including black haired and dark-eyed Ibers
Visigoths took over from Romans
Then Arabs who drove the Visigoths north
1492 - Moors expelled from Spain, conquest of the New World

Hispania, Latin name, comes from Hispalia, which means land of rabbits

16th century = Golden Age, when Spain most powerful

Civil War 1930s
Dictatorship under General Franco till 1975

paseo - taking a walk in your finest clothes before evening meal
kissing once on each cheek for hello and goodbye, men shake hands
most live in flats not houses
buildings in the south are painted white
windows have heavy shutters to keep out the sun
houses have tiled floors as cooler
shops shut in the afternoon when the sun is hottest

regional characteristics -
Catalan people said to be tight-fisted
Catalans think that people from Madrid are stuffy and old-fashioned
Spaniards think that Galicians are indecisive

arts -
flamenco dance and music
sevillanas (easier flamenco)

school -
primary start at 9
nursery school starts age 3
long lunch break
no uniform in state schools
no half terms
long summer holidays - all of July and August and some of June too

famous buildings -
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
La Giralda in Seville
Alhambra in Granada
the Escorial in Madrid
Casas Colgadas in Cuenca
windmills in Consuegra

sights -
prehistoric remains in La Rioja
Santiago de Compostela

Spaghetti Westerns were filmed in the desert-like town of Tabernas in the 1960s and 1970s

crops -

Spanish firsts -
the Auto gyro
the submarine
card games

famous Spaniards -
Christopher Columbus and other conquistadores
Pablo Picasso
Salvador Dalí
Miguel de Cervantes
Federico García Lorca
Joaquín Cortés (current flamenco dancer)
Penélope Cruz
Antonio Banderas
Pedro Almodóvar
Antonio Gaudí
Placido Domingo
José Carreras

food -
in a bar you have to drop your serviette and toothpicks on the floor
breakfast - cola-cao and madalenas for children
almuerzo - small sandwich, coffee
lunch - about 2pm, work and school stop and people go home or to a restaurant
merienda - about 5pm, a snack
dinner - between 10 and 11pm. lighter meal than lunch
tapas traditionally before dinner with friends

foods -
empanadas / empanadillas
patatas bravas
crema catalana

fiestas -
Año Nuevo
Semana Santa
Las Fallas Valencia 19 March
San Fermín Pamplona 7 July
San Isidro Madrid 15 May
Tomatina in Buñol last Weds in August
Castellers Catalonia last week of Sept 1st week of Oct

sport -
traditional sport pelota, Jai Alai in Basque

lottery -
going since 1763
2 lotteries - state-run and ONCE one
Christmas lottery payout El Gordo 22 Dec

Chupa Chups wrapper designed by Dalí

tooth mouse not tooth fairy - Ratoncito Pérez

I asked on Twitter if anyone had any favourite facts about Spain or Spanish-speaking countries.  Here are the responses:

  • have you seen this on wpedia? Percentage of population of USA who speak Spanish "at home"

  • if you want to sell you car in Buenos Aires, you put a bottle of water on top of it #fabulousfact

  • Costa Rica does not have an army

  • Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe (greatest total percentage over a certain height)

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