Two European countries with a common border. How different can they be? After having lived many years in both, even though the cultural differences are not shocking, there are some disparities in the daily life.
I have always lived in the Spanish Basque Country, although at the age of sixteen I lived for 2 years in France to attend High School. Just a two hour drive makes such a big difference.
Concerning geographical and climate differences, Spain is considered a “warm” country (it depends also where you are located within the territory), while France is colder. These disparities are basic when comparing any two countries. We will go more deeply and compare French and Spanish lifestyle.
First of all, time schedules. We could say Mediterranean countries have a much more flexible and late schedule, but Spain is well-known for its, some call it, crazy schedules. As I already developed in the post called Differences between living in Spain and the United States, Spanish restaurants serve until 12 or 1 am, and bars and clubs are opened until 6 am.
When I turned eighteen, I decided to continue my studies in the French capital, where this kind of flexibility can also be found as it is the number one location for tourism in the world. As a consequence, it is not a typical French city and could only be compared to other big capitals in the world.
For my first five or six months in France, I did not recognize any big cultural difference. Of course, the language was not the same, but like with any other foreign country. The more time I spent living around French people, the more I realized disparities between these two cultures were based on humor, social values and life perception. You have to get very involved with the French lifestyle in order to be aware of this.
Humor in France is very implicit and many times related to playing with words. I had a hard time understanding French humor at the beginning, but once you get how it works, it can be very funny. I personally consider French humor more harsh than Spanish. They use an indirect style to say what they want and their humor topics are many times controversial for society. I would say French humor is a smart type of humor which not everybody can understand and have fun with.
Perception of life as I have experienced in France is less “ Carpe Diem” than in Spain. Spain is considered a latino country we live more each day as it could be the last one than the French do. Concerning social values, family is as important in France as in Spain, although less conservative.
Finally, criticism has become the best hobby for French young or older people. I was very shocked with this since my arrival. Unfortunately, you get used to it very fast without even noticing. As a Spanish saying states: Everything can be copied except for beauty.