The Spanish healthcare system is an entity whereby the public and private sectors coexist in some health centres and hospitals. In general the Spanish health system is very good, with excellent geographical coverage.
The public health system provides an extensive network of health centres and hospitals spread over the whole country. In public health centres the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is accepted allowing patients to receive first class medical attention, although in many of these centres communication for patients who do not speak Spanish can be a problem due to a lack of multilingual personnel. The hospitals offer specialised treatment and take referrals from primary care health centres. There are also emergency departments in the hospitals and in some of the health centres.
On the other hand there are the private health centres where (especially in tourist areas) there are usually multilingual personnel who are invaluable when it comes to quality attention, as well as ease of communication with the patient’s insurance company. In recent years privatisation in this sector has increased significantly.
In Portugal we find both public and private sectors, which between them provide good cover nationally. For any health problem the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives access to care under the public system. Those who do not have the EHIC should ensure that they are covered by a suitable travel insurance. The private sector is well positioned in the tourist areas with personnel ready to assist when required.
Climate: Spain has a predominantly Mediterranean climate which favours dry summers and winters with balanced temperatures. It is one of the warmest areas of Europe and for this reason has become popular as a tourist destination for sun and beaches. Even so, there can be wide climatological differences between the north and south of Spain and also with respect to the Spanish islands. In winter all areas of Spain enjoy a climatic advantage when compared to northern Europe.
Culture: There are many museums in Spain, of which the Museo del Prado in Madrid stands out as one of the most esteemed museums in the world. There are however many others all over the country which form a significant part of the Spanish heritage. Access to most is free of charge, and those which charge a fee often have discounts for students, pensioners and citizens of the European Union.
There are a great number of libraries countrywide, of which the most famous are Universidad Complutense, the Archivo General de Indias, and the National Library which was inaugurated in
1712. Spanish art forms one of the largest cultural collections in the world and has played a major role throughout the ages.
Society: Spain is above all a mosaic of cultures; heterogeneous, ancient and modern, sacred and profane, as well as plural and diverse. The breadth of its culture captivates and its historical heritage dazzles. Spanish culture is rich and covers all forms of expression, from literature to painting, music to architecture, and theatre to luxury arts. In all of these, at a certain moment in time, Spanish culture has reached the highest artistic peaks from prehistoric times with some remarkable examples of cave drawings, to the present day in which Spanish architecture is at the forefront worldwide. Spanish culture is at present unmistakably flourishing.
Spain is one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to monumental heritage and is ranked second for Unesco World Heriitage Sites with more than 20,000 important monuments. Spanish theatre and cinema are becoming very well known throughout Europe highlighted by the theatre festivals of Merida, Sagunto and Almagro, and the cinema festivals of San Sebastian and Valladolid. The Spanish universities also play a role in the dissemination of national culture, in particular those which organise summer courses such as El Escorial, Salamanca, Santander or the International University Menendez Pelayo (UIMP) based in Santander, Barcelona, Cuenca, Galicia, the Pyrenees, Seville, Tenerife and Valencia. Scientific and cultural investigation is represented by the staterun Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas.
Spain is noted for its multicultural wealth across the entire social spectrum. In this respect the diversity of festive events extends throughout the nation.
The Spanish traditions and festivals are unmistakably religious in origin. Overtones of these are reflected in all forms of Folklore which combine religious fervour with pagan traditions. The country’s cultural diversity means that from north to south festivities can be very different, but at the same time there are others which are common to the whole country. Each New Year begins with the traditional chimes of the bells of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, bringing together the people of the captial city and many other parts of the country to celebrate the arrival of the New Year with a grape eaten for each chime of the bells. One of the most relevant festivals in Spain has to be that of Holy Week. This fiesta is celebrated at the end of March or in April and is noted for its colourful but solemn processions. Many of the festivals take place during the summer months, from June to September, depending on the area, and combine religious and socioeconomic aspects. All over Spain there are end of summer festivals (usually at the end of August and the beginning of September) which historically coincide with the harvests, and in particular the grape harvest. Besides these, each part of the country has its specific fiestas, amongst which are the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Sant Jordi and La Merce in Barcelona, the Fallas in Valencia, the Fiesta of the Reconquest in Granada, the April Fair in Seville, and the festivals of San Isidro and La Verbena de la Paloma in Madrid. These are just a few of the thousands of celebrations which take place all over Spain throughout the year.
Population: Spain has a population of over 47 million and life expectancy is one of the highest in the world at an average of 82.1 years, with the average Spanish woman living to 85 years one
of the longest life expectancy rates in the European Union.
Spain is a secular country whose constitution recognises religious freedom, however the majority of the Spanish belong to the Roman Catholic religion which has strong social roots.
Castellano or Spanish is the official language of the nation. Also official in their respective autonomous communities are Catalan, Galician, Basque, Valencian and the variations of Catalan spoken in the Balearic Islands.
Spain occupies 505,955 square kilometers, and has 17 autonomous communities, as well as Ceuta and Melilla which are autonomous cities.
On the 1st of January 1986 Spain became a full member of the European Union.