social attitudes

social attitudes
   Although Spanish society is not fundamentally different from other western European societies it does have certain distinctive characteristics. One of the most obvious is the Spaniards" love of nightlife. This is not simply a matter of climate: winters in Castile are cold, but this does not deter most of the inhabitants from slipping in and out of bars and other nightspots until the early hours. Being a naturally gregarious people, Spaniards will spend many hours with friends, preferably in a café or bar, of which there are allegedly as many as one per 300 inhabitants, and which at certain times of the day or week appear to be bursting with clientele. The habit of going out in the evening and living life in the street is a cultural trait that becomes starkly obvious if one compares adjacent border towns such as Hendaye and Irún: whereas streets on the French side will be deserted by 8 p.m. even on a summer's evening, the streets in Irún are just beginning to throb with life and will remain animated for several hours. It is a curious paradox that hand in hand with this extraordinary addiction to social life Spaniards reveal a high degree of attachment to the family: over 80 percent of Spaniards will cite the family as the most important element in their lives. The continuing strength of family ties across generations probably accounts for the low suicide rate, and certainly gives Spanish society a more cohesive structure than elsewhere, and enables it to cope with levels of unemployment (of the order of 1 in 4 of the working population) that would place intolerable strains on the social fabric in Britain, France or Germany. In 1991 only 4.5 percent of Spaniards—the majority of whom were widowed—lived in single-person households (13 percent of all households, roughly half the rate in other western European countries). And while fertility rates have declined, this is balanced by the fact that offspring are remaining longer in the parental home.
   Given the Spaniards" love of social life it is surprising that they are also avid watchers of television, with a watching time somewhat higher than the average for Europe (although considerably lower than that of the British, who are Europe's leading television addicts by a considerable margin). After devoting their time to family, friends and television, all of which can take place simultaneously, Spaniards have relatively little leisure time left for other activities. Reading (see also readership), listening to the radio, listening to music, going out into the countryside, watching sport, practising sport, and going to the cinema are the most common activities mentioned (see also sport and leisure), although with the expected differences between the sexes and level of education. Foreign travel is still very much a minority activity, although one that has been increasing significantly. About 10 percent of Spaniards are now taking holidays abroad; of the vast majority that opt for holidays within Spain itself (including the Canaries and the Balearics), over half stay in properly belonging to family or friends. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 Spanish families have a second home, often a seaside flat or a house in the country within a 100 km radius of a large city, and these secondary homes are used for holidays and weekends. The weekend exodus is now a standard phenomenon in large cities, an escape from the metropolis enhanced by the numerous puentes (literally "bridges": a public holiday connecting with a weekend) that prolong the weekend break by one or two days. Spanish society is one given to conspicuous consumer spending, especially on clothes and eating out (see also consumerism; fast food outlets; restaurants). Most of this spending, however, occurs in the context of the family and an inner circle of friends, although Spaniards are also renowned for their lavish hospitality to visitors. The emergence of a strong consumer society has resulted in a watering-down of traditional Catholic attitudes. Rather than turning their backs on Roman Catholicism, Spaniards have quietly developed their own pragmatic system of beliefs and attitudes (see also religion). Although there is no evidence that Spanish society is especially promiscuous, there has been a high degree of liberalization of sexual attitudes which the Catholic church finds unpalatable, not to mention the accompanying practice of birth control. The proportion of Spaniards who say they believe in complete sexual freedom is surprisingly high: 48 percent according to a 1990 poll but with 65 percent in the more relevant under-45 age bracket. Co-habitation, though scarcely a norm, is nevertheless widely tolerated. By the end of the 1980s only 30 percent of those polled found co-habitation objectionable. Interestingly, marriage in church remains the most popular option by far when it comes to tying the knot (see also marriage and divorce). But if the blessing of the church is still sought upon the occasion of a marriage, a birth or a death, many of its doctrines and injunctions no longer carry weight with the great majority of Spaniards. Abortion, in its present restricted form, commands wide support (and the indications are that a more liberal abortion law would still be acceptable), while there is near-universal support for the availability of divorce. Attendance at weekly mass involves about 30 percent of the population, although twice as many people are willing to call themselves religious and 85 percent accept the label "Catholic". Thus, while a strong residual religiosity remains, Spaniards have become more choosy about their beliefs. And perhaps most surprising of all, given the machista attitudes of yesteryear, only 17 percent declare themselves to be against the ordination of women. What is beyond doubt is that in the public expression of their beliefs and attitudes Spaniards have become tolerant, permissive and relativistic to a degree unthinkable even in the 1960s.
   Further reading
   - De Miguel, A. (1990) Los españoles, Madrid: Ediciones Temas de Hoy (highly readable).
   —— (1995) La sociedad española 1994-95, Madrid: Universidad Complutense, chapter 9 (sociological series based on yearly survey; also relevant are the 1992–3 and 1993–4 reports based on 1991 and 1992 surveys).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapters 10–16 give a highly readable account of changes in social attitudes).
   - Orizo, F.A. (1991) Los nuevos valores de los españoles, Madrid: Fundación Santa María (the Spanish part of the European Value System Study Group public opinion polls of 1990; indispensable for those who appreciate statistical information).
   C. A. LONGHURST

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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