Welcome to Spain, home to flamenco dancers and bullfights, fresh seafood and sprawling beaches.
Spain holds mountains, deserts, wetlands, plains, and miles of coastline. Famous artists such as El Greco, Goya, Picasso, Velazquez, and Dali have helped put the country on the map, and the works of modernist architect Gaudi lure millions of visitors there each year.
Today the country is a constitutional monarchy. The true head of state is the Spanish prime minister.
Ethnically, the people are divided as Castilians, Catalans, Galicians, and Basques. Although Castilian Spanish is the official language, the Catalans, Galicians, and Basques all have separate native languages that continue to thrive.
In many urban families, both parents work. The average Spanish family has two children, and many families have a pet dog or cat.
Typical business days have a two-hour break in the middle of the day. This allows time for the main meal of the day, and for a siesta, although very few people use this time for sleeping anymore.
Food plays an important role in Spanish life — at family gatherings, and in socializing with friends and co-workers. Traditional Spanish dishes include paella, gazpacho, and many forms of tapas, small dishes that are served as a snack with wine and beer.
Spanish students either attend free public schools, government-subsidized private schools, or private schools.
Secondary school lasts until age 16, after which students then must decide whether they want to attend a university or a vocational school. Those choosing university must first pass the Bachillerato, which they prepare for from 16 to 18.
The Bachillerato is also required for upper-level vocational schools that offer programs such as engineering and architecture.
Spanish teens enjoy going to dance clubs, cafes, and going to the movies. They often socialize in large groups. Soccer and basketball are the most popular sports to play.
Spanish teens tend to be very style-conscious, but generally dress as all teens do, in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers.