Think Spain is all sun, sand, and siestas? Think again with our list of 15 facts about Spain that you might not know.
How much do you know about Spain? If you’re moving to the country, it’s a good idea to learn a little more about your new home. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of our favorite facts about Spain that you might not know. From legal nudity to magical mice, and everything in between, here are 30 informative and interesting truths that might just surprise you.
1. The EU’s second-largest country
Spain – or the Kingdom of Spain, to give the country its official title – is the second-largest country in the European Union after France. It measures up at around 506,000 square kilometers if you include the Canary Islands and the Spanish territories along the North African coastline.
2. Once a number of separate kingdoms
Like many other European countries, what we know as modern-day Spain was once a collection of individual kingdoms. That changed in the 15th century when Fernando of Aragon and Isabel of Castile married and united their respective kingdoms. And if you thought learning one new language was hard enough, most of these kingdoms had their own language, too!
3. Home of the world’s second most widely-spoken language
There are an estimated 440 million native Spanish speakers around the world, second only to Mandarin. But while Spanish is the official language of Spain, the regional languages of Catalan, Basque (Euskara), and Galician (Galego) all have official status in their respective regions.
4. Nudity is legal in Spain
With its Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters, you might be tempted to strip off while in Spain. With 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, there are also few better places to top up your tan. And any budding naturists out there will be pleased to know nudity is legal in Spain, although it’s considered inappropriate in plenty of places.
5. Has the fifth largest population in Europe
Spain is home to 47 million people, and while you might think that sounds crowded, in reality, three-quarters of the population live in urban areas. Around 6.5 million, for instance, live in the Madrid metropolitan area, while 5.5 million reside in the Barcelona metropolitan area. This means both cities have larger populations than New Zealand.
6. Spanish people live longer…
According to stats, Spain has the second-highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries at an impressive 83 years. Only the Japanese have a higher life expectancy. Figures show that Spanish women are outliving their male counterparts: 85 years compared to 79 years for men.
7. … which means an aging population
By 2050, the United Nations projects that Spain will have one of the oldest populations in the world. It estimates that in just thirty years, over 30% of the population will be aged 60 and above.
8. It’s not quite as religious as you think
Despite the importance of religion in Spanish culture, apparently only 13.6% of Spain’s population actually goes to church every Sunday. That said, some 70% of the locals still identify as Roman Catholic according to a 2012 study by the Center for Sociological Studies in Spain.
9. Spain is a constitutional monarchy
Following the death of the right-wing dictator, General Franco, back in 1975, King Juan Carlos I returned to the throne. Once one of Europe’s most popular monarchs, Juan Carlos fell from grace following a string of scandals. He abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe VI, in 2014.
10. There aren’t many tax inspectors
According to official figures, in Spain, there’s one tax inspector for every 1,928 taxpayers. For comparison, over the border in France, there’s one inspector for every 729 residents. This may explain why the Spanish tax authorities estimate a quarter of Spain’s GDP comes from the black market.
11. Europe’s second-highest unemployment rate
Statistics from 2019 show that Spain had the second-highest unemployment rate in the EU, behind only Greece. However, the current rate of 13.8% is a significant improvement from the 24.2% unemployment rate Spain experienced back in 2015.
12. It’s a good place for female entrepreneurs
During the five years following the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, female entrepreneurs set up 40% of all new businesses in Spain. This totaled some 800,000 businesses and was a significant boost to the economy.
13. Hold the paella
Now here’s a surprising fact about Spain. Although many foreigners see paella as the Spanish national dish, many Spaniards don’t. That’s because most locals see the colorful rice dish as a Valencian dish, not a national one. Find out how to cook paella, among other Spanish delicacies, with our guide to Spanish food.
14. Childcare can be limited
As local parents know all too well, the amount of out-of-school-hours childcare in Spain is limited. That’s why about a quarter of all grandparents take care of their grandchildren on a daily basis, looking after them once the local schools let out.
15. It has below-average high school qualifications
According to official stats, around half of all adults up to the age of 64 have the equivalent of a high school diploma, well below the OECD average of almost 75%. However, younger generations are bucking the trend, with 65% of millennials gaining the qualification – and the number is growing.