Is Spain a Country? Important facts about Spain and Europe

May 15, 2013

Is Spain a country?

Well, it depends…

No, actually, it doesn’t. Spain is totally a country.

But you can read on to find out the whole story.

See, the other day I wrote about the massive ignorance that Americans suffer from with regards to all things Spanish.

The article was called American Ignorance and it explained that even I myself was once woefully ignorant of all but the very basics – the location of Spain in the west of Europe, and two of its main cities.

Today I’d like to continue with the answer to one of the most common questions: Is Spain a country?

Is Spain a country? Short answer: yes.

It doesn’t depend. Spain is a country. And in Spain, the majority language is Spanish.

First, a note about ignorance in general. I love this saying by Socrates (I’m paraphrasing): If there is one thing that makes me wiser than other men, it is that I understand the extent of my ignorance. 

For me, there are few things more irritating than people who speak with great conviction about things which they do not understand.

Rather than admitting their ignorance and trying to learn something, they pretend to know all about it. I don’t know if they’re just bullshitting me or if they’re also bullshitting themselves, but either way, they’re full of it.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that the world is always going to be full of things we don’t know.

The best we can do is to recognize and admit that we don’t know everything and we never will, and to adopt the mindset of a life-long learner.

is spain a country?
Madrid is a modern metropolis. We even have an Apple Store – right in Puerta del Sol.

Face it: you’ll never know even 0.01% of everything that’s knowable, and that’s okay! Einstein or whoever didn’t know much more, if we’re talking about percentage of everything knowable.

Also, geography is a difficult topic for a lot of people (especially people who don’t travel much) and it’s a big world, so it’s understandable that many people don’t know a lot about it.

All of this as a way to introduce the idea that yes, Spain is a country.

Well, it is!

Some important facts about Spain

Spain is a country. Its capital is Madrid. It’s in Europe, which some people consider to be a continent, but which others would say is a few little peninsulas coming off the western end of Asia.

Yuval Noah Harari, in his brilliant book Sapiens, described Europe as something like “A series of peninsulas on the West of Asia where up until 1492 nothing of consequence had happened.” I’m paraphrasing that too, because I can’t find the actual quote right now. But read the book. It’s well worth your time.

Anyway, even the number of continents is debatable, if you want to get into it. Most people in Spain and Latin America consider the idea of “South America” as a continent to be kinda dumb.

They say it’s all just one big continent: America. And some people think Oceanía is a continent – but when I was growing up it most definitely wasn’t. We had Australia. All the rest of those islands out there didn’t matter much.

But back to the issue at hand.

To the north of Spain is another country called France, and to the west is a country known as Portugal. I’ve been to both of them, and they’re nice places. France is kind of expensive, and Portugal is much cheaper. The food is good everywhere you go in the south of Europe, pretty much.

You can check out my article about Bordeaux for a bit more on the south of France.

Anyway, here’s the google map of Spain to give you an idea. You’ll notice that there are also just a few miles of water separating the south of Spain from the north of Africa!

is spain a country in Europe?
That’s Edificio España and a bit of Gran Vía, right in the heart of Madrid. And Madrid, of course, is the capital of Spain.

I think the confusion about Spain’s status perhaps comes from the USA’s proximity to Mexico. Many Americans know that in Mexico, the people speak Spanish. (Actually, Spanish and about 70 other languages like Nahuatl, Zapotec, Yucatec Maya, Tarahumara, and many more.)

Does that mean that Spain is a part of Mexico? No!

Is England part of the US? No, England colonized the North American continent centuries ago, and that’s why we speak English today.

Similarly, Spain colonized most of Central and South America centuries ago, and that’s why many people in those places speak Spanish.

A notable exception is Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese, and in which they speak – you guessed it! – Portuguese.

Important facts about Spain

Spain has an area of about 200,000 square miles, making it a little bit bigger than California.

It has a constitutional monarchy, and the King is an older gentleman whose name is Juan Carlos I.

Updated: Nope, it’s Felipe VI now. The old King abdicated. Long live the new king!

In any case… Juan Carlos is pretty old now, but he used to go and hunt elephants for fun, Otherwise he always seemed to be a decent guy. Mostly.

We also have a Prime Minister. His name is Pedro Sanchez, I think. I mean, Pedro Sanchez is theoretically running things, bust he’s only the Prime Minister “en funciones” – we don’t really have a government right now. (Check back soon, because the government / no government situation is changing day by day.)

Before Sanchez, the prime minister was Mariano Rajoy, and… well, it’s difficult for me to talk about him without being sort of controversial.

In any case, the language spoken by the majority of people in Spain is Castilian (which is also known as “Spanish” but which refers to the language of Castile, the region in the center of Spain which includes Madrid.)

Other languages spoken in Spain include Catalan, Galician and Basque. There are a few more, and the issue of what’s a language and what’s a dialect tends to be pretty controversial around here.

These days, Catalonia up in the north (which includes Barcelona) is agitating for independence. It’s a long story.

Spanish offshore territories

Spain has a couple of offshore territories: the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean to the east of Barcelona, and Ceuta and Melilla, two small cities perched on the northern border of Morocco (just a few miles across the Straits of Gibraltar from mainland Spain).

And incidentally, the UK has a little territory on the south of Spain, called Gibraltar. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It causes a bit of a conflict between Spain and the UK sometimes.

There’s a lot more to know about Spain… Check out some more articles here: the Spain page. Or take a look at What do the Spanish think of foreign people? or my article about famous Spanish people.

You’ll be glad you did.

Anyway, what do you think? Leave me a comment… And have a great day!


Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Updated: I’ve got a lot more information in the article about why I love Spain. So check that out. Or if you’re feeling romantic, 7 things you should know about dating Spanish girls. Have fun!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. That’s funny I was just having this conversation yesterday about why it is that most people speak with such conviction when they clearly are full of it. That Socrates quote made me feel better about not being one of those people. I’m also moving to Madrid in a couple of months, glad I stumbled across this page.

    1. Descartes also said something similar: “Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.”

      Madrid is a great city to live in, enjoy your stay! There are plenty of other Madrid and Spain related articles on here… I’ve been around the block a few times.

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