What's the difference when you travel to Spain vs France? Is one better than the other? The truth is that both countries are amazing to visit, but there are some important differences that you should know about!
In this article, I'm going to tell you about some interesting (and surprising) aspects of traveling to Spain vs France, that will help you make your decision.
In true travel blogger form, I'm here to give you the honest, inside scoop on some of the most interesting things I've noticed when traveling to these two amazing territories.
So, without any further ado, let's take a look at the major differences between the two countries and what set them apart from each other.
Travel to Spain vs France: 21 Surprising Differences
1. Travel Cost
First things first, let’s talk about travel costs. While it's possible to travel to either country on a budget, in general, a trip to Spain is usually a bit more affordable than a trip to France.
A clear difference was noted by me while doing a comparison between the two countries. In France, the average cost per person for a day was almost €146 as compared to Spain where it was only €111.
While there is much variation between cities, I noticed that meals, drinks, entertainment, etc. tended to be a bit pricier in most French cities (especially Paris).
Although the differences may not seem very significant, they add up over time!
(To cut down on total travel cost, I recommend booking an entire package with websites like AllTravelCentral.com, as you'll end up saving money in the end.)
So, make your decision wisely if you are tight on budget!
Both France and Spain share common boundaries. However, there are climate differences that you can easily feel between the two neighboring countries.
The weather in Spain is usually warmer, as it extends father South. Spain is also known to be the most climatically diverse country in Europe.
In contrast, France is overall a cold country; you can even feel the coldness and chill in the air once you step outside in the open air.
When it comes to food, it's hard to pick two better countries than Spain and France. Both these countries are known for their own traditional cuisines, delicacies and savories.
They each take great pride in their cuisine, and it's obvious that they both know what they're doing!
France is famous for dairy and bakery products. That is, you can enjoy French bread (Baguette) there at breakfast. A Baguette Sandwich is also famous for its delicious taste.
However, when it comes to Spain, you will be enjoying a spicier type of cuisine. Some of the famous Spanish savories include Croquettes, Tortilla Espanola, and Ban stews with salads.
That being said, I enjoyed the eatables from both the countries very much. However, the Spanish cuisine attracted me more, as I am a sucker for spicy food!
Food portions at restaurants are generally smaller in France than in Spain. Although I must say, a little goes a long way with many French dishes!
There’s a huge cultural difference between the two countries, yet they share the same border. Isn’t that astonishing?
I have spent almost 6 months in each country, and this has given me a clear sense of how distinct each country's culture is when it comes to humor, social values, and the perception about life.
People living in France have sometimes got an indirect way of conveying their humor. Trust me, it’s something you won't be able to get in the early days of your stay, but with the passage of time, you will get used to it, so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
You will find France more fun once you start understanding the humor of the people living here.
On the other hand, I found the humor in Spain to be very light and obvious; one can understand it easily as compared to France.
5. Eating habits
There is also a major difference in eating habits and timings at which people prefer to eat between the two countries.
In both Spain and France, people tend to spend a much longer time at each meal than people in the United States or Great Britain. But the countries do differ a bit in their eating habits.
In general, people living in France prefer their dinner between 7 pm to 9 pm. However, this trend is not followed by major cities like Paris.
On the other hand if we talk about Spain, people residing here generally have their dinner by 9 pm maximum, and they prefer their lunch to be the largest meal of the day. Their dinner is more like a snack.
France is considered as one of the cleanest countries in the world. People here are hygienic to a greater extent. They prefer to dispose of their garbage promptly, and you will not see any waste on roads while traveling in this country. However, people are not overly concerned about their personal hygiene, as far as I noticed.
I was surprised to find out when I got to France that many people shower only once every three or four days. In fact, the first time I went to France, some of my French friends made jokes with me about how I like showering daily (which is what I'm accustomed to as an American).
Spanish people, on the other hand, are more concerned about their personal hygiene. While visiting a house in Spain, you will be asked to take off your shoes and socks at the door to keep the house clean and dust free.
7. Average Income
A slight difference can also be noticed in average salary of population residing in France and Spain.
French people earn almost €27,000 a year according to INE. In contrast, the average salary of a Spanish person is approximately €23,000 a year.
This difference is the reason why most people living in France are able to enjoy a somewhat more luxurious lifestyle as compared to Spain.
8. Political Trends
A very few differences are noticed between France and Spain when it comes to political tendencies. In France, people elect their President after 5 years through democracy. The competition is; however, tough due to high literacy rate.
Spain also gives freedom in selecting its President and Prime Minister. However, the political system there is based on monarchy which is actually sovereignty of the King above all authorities.
These political trends in both countries i.e. France and Spain don't restrict the freedom of speech, justice, and equality of people living there.
9. Social and Cultural Norms
Social and cultural norms are different for both the countries. As a tourist, what I noticed that French greeted their people with kisses on the cheeks. Not only that, but French people are also very humble and polite. They have, in fact, got a polite accent.
Contrary to that, Spanish people usually prefer hugging while they are greeting their friends or family members. The accent is not too polite as well. However, I noticed a good sense of humility among Spanish people whenever they interacted with strangers.
I also noticed that the people in Spain tend to be a bit more animated and warm in social situations, whereas the French people tend to be a bit quieter and more reserved.
10. Ethnic Diversity
Ethnic diversity is common in both travel destinations. From 100 percent population, 94% of people living in France are French. The remaining 8 percent are divided into smaller groups which are residing in urban areas.
On the other hand, Spain is also diversified ethnically. It has got a combination of different ethnic groups such as; Spaniards, Hispano, and Latino Americans, Catalans and Castilians, etc.
The higher diversity trend makes both countries unique in their own way and thus attracts a large number of travelers.
11. Landscape and Terrain
There is a good distinction when it comes to the landscape and terrain between the two countries.
While roaming in France, I mostly noticed flat plains with small mountains, especially in Metropolitan areas. However, you will see a major distinction while traveling from one place to another in France.
Spain, on the other hand, has got a flat terrain with dissected plateaus. Many cities are surrounded by large mountains which add more beauty to the scenery.
France relies hugely on rail services when it comes to transportation. A fast web like rail network has been implemented and Paris is its hub. People can easily travel from one place to another in rails as they are comparatively affordable than that of traveling by bus.
In contrast, Spain has got a mixture of public transportation services. That is, you will need to travel by bus as far as you need to travel to city. However, a proper rail system is also there in case you want to travel from one city to another.
That being said, France leads the public transportation services as it has got an extraordinary rail service.
13. Legal Differences
Well, legal differences are always there for travelers and that's why it is recommended for them to study the country they are about to visit. A major legal difference between France and Spain is in the usage of medical marijuana.
Possession of Cannabis is indeed a crime in both the countries. However, marijuana is legalized on a medical basis in Spain. This trend is not yet seen in France though.
France is known for its architecture. One main reason for travelers visiting this country in droves is because of its architecture. A sense of aesthetics is found here in different buildings, paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
During my time in France, I visited one of the most famous museums i.e., Louvre Museum, and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
Famous paintings like, Mona Lisa, The Frame by Frida Kahlo , and different sculptures will leave a lasting impact on you for sure.
As far as Spain is concerned, it is also rich in architecture. Skyscrapers can be seen there with ancient construction style. Barcelona is a city to explore in Spain if you want to take a look at the architectural side of the country. La Sagrada Familia cathedral is absolutely breathtaking!
15. Popular Landmarks and Sightseeing Destinations
Both the countries have their fair share when it comes to popular land marks and sightseeing destinations. There’s a lot to unravel. France and Spain both have got tough competition in brilliant landmarks and destinations.
France attracted me a lot through its landmarks. The first place that I visited in France was Eifel Tower, which is indeed one of the beautiful places in the world. Louvre Museum is still in my positive memories and I can't just get it out of my mind.
The landmarks in Spain were equally gorgeous, of course. The capital city i.e. Madrid is home to the Royal House along with Prado Museum. Both of these destinations will leave you in awe.
City of Barcelona has got many destinations as well. Visiting Camp Nou football stadium in Barcelona was indeed a wholesome experience for me. You will completely fall into the aesthetic sense of that stadium for sure.
16. Best Time to Visit
France and Spain both attract a large proportion of tourists every year. If you want to avoid overcrowding in both countries, then I recommend that you avoid going during the summer. Months such as June, July, and August are the peak months during which thousands of travelers and tourists head to either France or Spain for vacation.
However, if you have no issue with overcrowding, then summer can still be plenty of fun. Just be sure to bring lots of sunscreen!
17. Social Values
Social values are important for both French and Spanish people. Although the families are not as conservative as they were back in ancient times, family values are still important for them.
Both France and Spain have got their own social values. You will experience a sense of natural bonding in French families as they are still following their old traditions.
However, this practice is not very common in Spain. Visiting urban areas, however, can show you the true family values of people living in Spain.
18. Perception of Life
Perception of life is also what set the two countries apart from each other. In France, people are more focused towards their future. Yes, they will live each day with full energy, but in the end, they will still be worried about their future.
However, Spanish people are more into living the life it’s fullest. You will not see people talking about their future more often. They value what they have today more rather than worrying about what future holds for them.
There are exceptions, of course, but this is the general trend that I noticed.
19. Sports Attractions
People of France and Spain both love sports. Football (soccer) is a sport played in both the countries with great zeal. These territories are home to well-renowned players like Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Kylian Mbappe, etc., who play to entertain huge numbers of fans.
Rugby is played as a traditional sport in France. In Spain, Bull Fighting and Bull Races are common traditional sports.
20. English speaking
It is commonly thought that people in France only speak French, and dislike the English language. Happily, this turns out to be incorrect.
English is spoken by some 39% of people in France, according to recent statistics.
Contrast that against Spain, in which only 22% of the population speaks English.
I definitely found it much harder to find other English speakers during my time in Spain. This can be important to know, so be sure to bring a smartphone or other device with a translation app!
21. Attitude towards Foreigners
Attitude towards foreigners is different in both countries. People residing in France are sometimes falsely mischaracterized as being unwelcoming.
This is just a simple misinterpretation of their social and cultural attitudes and sense of humor. They will talk to you with politeness, but you have to bear their criticism and harsh humor.
On the other hand, I never experienced overtly harsh criticism from people living in Spain. They greeted me with politeness and most of them offered me free meals along with free drinks as well.
So, this is the major attitude difference that can be observed between the two regions. Again, there are always exeptions, but this was the general impression I got during my time in both of these magnificent countries.
The Final Word
So this was my take on the major differences between France and Spain. I sincerely hope that following the above guide will be of great help in shaping your final decision.
No matter which way you decide to go, you're sure to have an amazing experience. Come to think of it, why choose when you can visit both countries and see for yourself!
Safe travels, everyone!