Madrid versus Malaga: The North South Divide

Every country has its own north south divide and Spain is no different. In the north of the country the people are regarded as industrious. In the south they are thought of as lazy. In the north they are cold.

In the south they are warm and friendly. In the north things are organized and service is fast. In the south a ‘manaña’ attitude prevails and things get done when they get done. These are the stereotypes that exist.

A lot the laid-back attitude in the south is attributed to the Mediterranean way of life. All the residents along the Mediterranean coastline are said to have a better way of life, a healthier diet, a more relaxed lifestyle. It’s all that olive oil and the long siestas.

It’s imagined that much of this lazier lifestyle is due to the searing heat, which dominates these southern regions in the summertime.

In fact, during the summer is when the Andalusians work, as this is when the tourists arrive and there is money to be made. It’s in the wintertime that they take it easy.

So do these stereotypes really reflect the lifestyles and attitudes of Spaniards?

Although Spain has a reputation as one of the laziest countries in Europe, according to an OECD report, the Spanish work amongst the longest hours on the continent. The average working week for the Spaniard is 41 hours.

The average Spanish person is expected to live to the age of 80 and regardless of what part of the country they are in, you can be guaranteed they consumed a lot of tapas and beers along the way.

So does the north of Spain really differ from the south of Spain? Certain things are noticeable. When you arrive in Madrid, the buildings are regal and grey. In the south, the architecture is Moorish in style and mostly white-washed.

The people look slightly different. In the south you’ll notice the dark skin and hair of the locals. In the north, skin types and hair colors are more mixed.  But these are just the superficial differences. The most striking difference is in the atmosphere. In the south, the sea is the dominant feature and tourism is the main breadwinner for most locals. This means that they have to be seasonal. They have to be alert when the tourists arrive.

In Madrid, the city empties in the summertime. The Madrilenos flock to the seaside towns in a bid to get respite from the heat. So while the south gears up for the sun, the north slows down.

Also in the north you’ll see a greater variety of shops and brands whereas in the south,

indigenous shops are more the norm. The farmer who comes to town each day, the local corner shop, the fresh market, these are traditional aspects of life, which have yet to die out in the south.

While there are pockets of the north that retain their original heritage, cities such as Santiago, San Sebastian and Girona, many have been industrialized. And while many cities of the south have been created to cater for tourists, cities such as Marbella, Nerja and Sotogrande, many also retain the original flavor of Andalucia.

Spain is a large and diverse country. To really understand the subtle differences amongst its regions, these things must be experienced in person. In other words, book your visit to Spain now.