Spaniards think France is ‘superior’…and so do the French 

Both Spanish and French people believe France has a stronger economy and exerts more power and influence on the global stage, a study by a prestigious Spanish think tank has found, but they also agree the quality of life in Spain is better.  

Spaniards think France is 'superior'...and so do the French 
France's President Emmanuel Macron greets Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (L) at Versailles in March. France and Spain have put past rivalries behind them, but their views about each other's countries vary, a new study reveals. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Neighbours Spain and France have for centuries been rivals. At one stage it was focused on the expansion of their empires across the globe, in more recent times it’s been the promotion of their gastronomy, language and culture overseas.

In the 21st century, their relationship has turned into friendly competitiveness as both nations have grown closer together; they’ve even brokered a dual nationality agreement recently

But a survey by Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies reveals that there continues to be a sense of superiority on the part of the French towards Spain, which contrasts with Spaniards’ ingrained inferiority complex.

Citizens from both nations agree that France is better on most fronts – they have a stronger economic system, a better democracy, more developed scientific and technological industries, and more power and influence on the global stage. 

To give an example, only half of French respondents could name a Spanish brand (Zara and Seat being the best known), whereas Spaniards were quick to name Carrefour, car manufacturers Renault, Peugeot and Citroen as well as French cosmetic brands.

However, both French and Spanish people concurred, albeit to a lesser extent, that the quality of life, cultural offering and sporting level are better in Spain, with Spaniards tending to be more convinced about this than the French. 

For the study, 1,001 people from each country were asked a series of questions relating to their views on the EU, current economic and social affairs, the war in Ukraine, as well as their opinions about each other’s countries. 

Young supporters hold French and Spanish flags at the Tour de France in 2022. There’s a mutual admiration between both countries but both agree France is a bigger power on the world stage. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

Asociación Diálogo (Dialogue Association), a group which promotes France-Spain relations, also took part in the research.

French tourists cross over into Spain more often than Spaniards visit France, which according to Real Instituto Elcano researcher Carmen González has helped to improve French people’s views about Spain overall, including Spanish infrastructure.

French people consider Spaniards friendly, but a majority of Spanish respondents don’t feel the same about their Gallic neighbours.

 When asked to define themselves, both French and Spanish respondents referred to their own societies as tolerant, democratic, trustworthy and traditional, whilst stressing that they have a distinct cultural identity. 

A greater percentage of Spaniards considered themselves first from their city or region rather than from Spain as a whole, whereas French people identify first with being French. On the other hand, two thirds of Spanish respondents are happy to be identified as European, whereas only 42 percent of French respondents have a positive view of belonging to the EU.

Seventy-nine percent of Spaniards also defined their country as emotionally-driven, whereas French people believed they were more split between emotion and rationality. 

Around 60 percent of respondents from both countries agreed that a strong bilateral relationship between Spain and France is important, whether it be in the fight against terrorism, energy, economic ties or tourism.

Whatever their differences, it’s clear that French and Spaniards have put past rivalries behind them and have a mutual admiration for each other’s countries. 

READ ALSO: “Africa starts at the Pyrenees” – Eight memorable quotes by historical figures who hated or loved Spain 

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REVEALED: The most and least polite cities in Spain

Do you live in the politest city in Spain? Or perhaps in the rudest? A new survey has revealed where in Spain residents are most considerate towards others and where they are the most ill-mannered.

REVEALED: The most and least polite cities in Spain

Spaniards are known for being straight-talking and not overly polite, saying please and sorry (or por favor and perdón) far less in daily conversation than British people, for example.

That’s not to say that they’re rude by definition, they just have a different interpretation of what’s expected and warranted in certain social situations. In fact, Spaniards are far more likely to strike up a conservation with you in a queue than northern Europeans, and if someone is in trouble, they’re likely to jump in to help.

READ ALSO: Nine unwritten rules that explain how Spain works

However, when it comes to being considerate towards others and having good manners, not all Spaniards make the mark, and the inhabitants of some cities fare far worse than others.

According to a study by language learning site Preply, the politest cities in Spain are Vigo and A Coruña, both in Galicia in the rainy northwest of the country.

The stereotypical image of Galicians is that they can be closed-minded, superstitious, and untrusting, but also affectionate, helpful, strong and honest, and it could be that they’re more polite on average as well. 

Residents of Vigo and A Coruña were followed by the eastern coastal city of Valencia on the politeness podium.

READ ALSO – The good, the bad and the ugly: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain? 

For the study, 1,500 residents of the 19 most populated areas of Spain were interviewed and given various scenarios to find out how polite or inconsiderate they considered their neighbours to be.

Talking loudly on the phone, watching videos with the sound on and speaking in a loud voice were all given categories that could be ticked as being rude on public transport, while not slowing down for pedestrians or not letting other cars in were considered examples of rudeness when driving.

The most ill-mannered behaviours according to the study involve shouting in public, pushing into a queue or being rude to workers.

Once the answers were collated, each city was given a score from 1 to 10, with 1 being the politest and 10 being the rudest.

Vigo, situated in Galicia’s Rías Baixas was found to be the most polite with a score of 5.17, closely followed by A Coruña with a score of 5.18.  

Valencia came in third place with a score of 5.28, followed by Murcia-Orihuela with 5.30.

Other polite cities were Oviedo (5.31), Las Palmas (5.39), Zaragoza (5.45), Sevilla (5.45) and Cádiz (5.50). 

Madrid came in the middle of the list with a score of 5.53, while on the rude side of the list were Valladolid (5.58), Málaga (5.61), Barcelona (5.64), Palma de Mallorca (5.69) and Bilbao (5.73). 

On the far end of the scale, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was found to be the city with the least considerate inhabitants with a score of 6.06, followed by Granada with 5.95, Alicante-Elche with 5.81 and San Sebastián with 5.77.

New technology could be partly to blame for bad manners, as according to respondents the most frequent rude behaviour in Spain is being too absorbed in your phone in public (with a score of 6.31), followed by not greeting strangers (6.26) and watching videos on your phone in public (6.21).

Other behaviours that people considered to not be very civic were making noise in public (6.15) and not giving tips (6.05).

On that note, when it comes to leaving tips, the residents of the city of Valladolid were found to be the most generous.

In general, only 26.55 percent of respondents said they  usually leave a tip, while 28.08 percent only do so if they received excellent service. More than 19 percent of respondents confessed to never leaving any tip.

In Valladolid, the most generous city, people said they give an average of 10.18 percent of the bill, while in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the stingiest, they admitted to only giving 6.10 percent of the bill.

If there are any conclusions to be drawn overall about the study’s findings is that there aren’t huge differences between the most and least well-mannered cities in Spain.

Good manners and fear of offending others may not be intrinsic of the Spanish character as in other countries, but that doesn’t stop Spain from being a country with a strong emphasis on community.

READ MORE: The many ways Spaniards refer to your face when you’re being cheeky