For many, Spain conjures up images of rapacious conquistadors, the unworldly Don Quixote, brave bullfighters, fiery flamenco dancers, and brilliant artists. All true enough—but how does the reality conform to these stereotypes? The Spanish people are certainly distinctive. Visitors are often astounded by their vitality, entranced by their friendliness, and driven mad by their frequent indulgence of their friends and relatives. They tend to be proud, passionate, spontaneous, generous, and loyal; they can also be procrastinators, individualistic to a fault, suspicious, and, not least, very noisy! Spain has had a major impact on European and world history. This is the nation that enjoyed a golden age of enlightenment, that discovered America and gathered in its riches, and that left the great legacy of its culture and its language, today spoken by over four hundred million people. In the early twentieth century, Spain suffered a bitter civil war and a stultifying dictatorship, from which it emerged in the late seventies to become again an integral part of Europe and the international arena. Culture Smart! Spain explores the complex human realities of modern Spanish life. It describes how history and geography have created both regional differences and shared values and attitudes. It reveals what the Spaniards are like at home, and in business, and how they socialize. It prepares you for their boundless energy and widespread religious devotion; and offers practical tips on how to behave and make the very most of your visit. The better you understand the Spanish people, the more you will be enriched by your experience of this vital, warm, and varied country—where the individual is important, and the enjoyment of life is paramount.
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