Even though they speak Spanish in Mexico, and the Spaniards are the reason for that, there are huge differences between the two peoples. Accent, culture, food, just to name a few. Today, we’re going to dig into the more granular ways that the two countries and their people are so different, even though the Spaniards colonized the country over 400 years ago. So let’s get right down to it.

Spain & Mexico are on Two Different Continents

Now, I do not want to offend you by stating the obvious, but sometimes this fact is not quite so obvious! Mexico is just south of Texas, and is in North America, connecting the United States to Central America. Spain is just north of Africa, and to the east of Portugal, and is in Europe. At Fluency Corp we believe everything is easier to remember with a story! We’ll tell a short, yet entertaining, story that will help you remember.

Imagine Hernán Cortés: not a super tall Spanish guy in the 16th century. He’s been on a boat for months to get across the Atlantic Ocean. He probably left at the southern port of Cadiz (no clue if this is true, but geographically it makes sense), and he is eager to claim some land and resources for Spain. Cortés and his boss hit up Cuba, and his boss told him to then go back, but Hernán Cortés wanted more. He pushed on through the Caribbean Sea/Gulf of Mexico and landed in the state of Yucatan. Can you visualize it? Hope that helped.

Biggest Challenges Facing Mexico & Spain

Corruption and the absence of rule of law are the 2 largest problems facing Mexico today. We are reminded almost weekly that the crime and homicide rate still makes this country out of control. When 43 students were murdered in 2014, the country rose up in protest. Yet, the murderers, supposedly the exact army that was supposed to be protecting the country, is still not in jail. Enormous crimes like this can be committed, and no one is held responsible. This sends a message that the drug cartels can get away with bribing officials and get away with it.

Spain, on the other hand, has more first world problems, as we call them. In 2008, the housing bubble burst and the GDP growth finally hit a wall. In 2012, the Spanish financial sector could no longer continue and they had to get bailed out by the European Stability Mechanism. This affected the unemployment rate especially hard, caused a severe economic downturn and bankrupted many companies.

At this same time, we saw many Spanish companies go abroad to stay afloat. We’ve been working with infrastructure powerhouse Ferrovial teaching their employees Spanish and English since 2013. They knew that in order to stay relevant and continue building highways, tunnels and airports, they would have to seek clients in other countries, and in order to be successful in those other countries, they would have to invest in language training. They have most definitely succeeded since they now have projects on almost every continent.

Spanish Food vs Mexican Food

Very different! These two foods could not be any more different, actually. The main components of a Mexican staples are corn, chili, beans, tomatoes, fruit and meat. Each region of Mexico has their specialties, like shark and octopus in the Yucatan region. Corn is mostly found in the famous, warm Mexican tortillas and tamales, which are filled with just about any vegetable or meat and dipped in one of the many salsas, from mild to very picante. Or as my grandfather says, picosa. When I said chilies, you didn’t think I meant just one, right? Just a few of the chiles you will run into in Mexico are: mulato, cascabel, poblano, serrano, and of course, the one we all know and love, the jalapeno.

Spain, on the other hand, boasts a delicious Mediterranean diet: olive oil, fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, some poultry and some dairy. As you can see, the Spanish diet hits heavier on the Omega-3s, and contains more of a variety in their vegetables while Mexico leans heavily on corn and beans (what could be found locally, of course). Spain, surrounded by water, logically gets a large amount of its food from the sea and the olive trees that flourish in Spain. Just like in Mexico, every region in Spain has its own specialties, like the empanadas from Galicia, or the spicy Basque-style chicken from Basque country. Of course, no matter where you are, you can get the famous Jamón ibérico.

 Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish Differences (Why!?)

The Z and the C (before e or i) in both languages are pronounced very differently. You can immediately tell if someone is from Spain due to this letter difference. In Mexican Spanish it sounds like a regular English S sound. Using Spain Spanish, it sounds like someone speaking English with a lisp (or, the TH sound in English), but it’s not a lisp – that’s how it’s pronounced.

Why did this happen? Well, this would be the same answer as to why Brits do not pronounce the H and Americans do. Over hundreds of years and many thousands of miles, groups of people change a spoken language over time. The resulting change is very different from the group that is far away. This is the simple evolution of a language.

In Medieval Castilian Spanish, just as in Medieval Olde English, words were spelled differently. Interestingly, Spanish used to use the same letter used in French, the ç, called a cedilla, to spell words like plaça, which is today spelled like plaza (but still using the TH sound where the Z is).

Communication Styles in Mexico & Spain

I have lived in both of these countries so I can most definitely tell you that even though Spain brought a lot of people over, they did not bring their communication style. Or, at least, it didn’t stick. I found the Mexican people to be overly polite (for my blunt American style of communicating), indirect, long-winded (again, for my blunt taste), and sugary sweet (I also lived in the bustling city of Boston, and liked the direct communication style there). They were most definitely polite.

Spain, on the other hand, does not have any of the above characteristics, and I do not mean that in a negative way. They say the truth, even if it may sting a little. Spaniards are direct, but at the same time diplomatic – not rude, but frank. They are quite gregarious and will talk a lot, and possibly loudly to show their feelings about a particular topic.

Similarities are seen in the formal nature of communicating in public, and the respect given by not using first names, but rather Mr., Mrs., etc.

Mexico & Spain: Cultural Differences

Based on one Mexican’s journey to Spain, the largest differences he found were: 1. The people 2. The flow of life.

When you arrive in Mexico City, you realize quickly that it will take possibly an hour to arrive at your hotel from the airport. During this drive, it will be quite chaotic, people will be running to cross the street, motorcycles fly between cars, and the flow is quite fast. Of course, the capital is the main area where you’ll encounter life at this speed. In Spain, it seems more calm, organized, serene, and CLEAN. This Mexican tourist also found that the general way of being was intimidating. Remember, we said that the Mexican culture was more affable, polite and less frank. So the strong character (not rudeness!) of the Spaniards was more in your face than Mexicans, or even Americans, are used to.

Vocabulary Differences Between Spain & Mexico

Just like an American traveling to Britain, there are stark vocabulary differences between Spain and Mexico. Asking for a fag in the U.S. might make some eyebrows raise. In the same way asking where the l00 is might get you an introduction to a large, trucker named Lou! The same happens in Mexico and Spain. There are hundreds of differences, but here are just a few:

  • Los servicios vs el baño (the bathroom).
  • Vale in Spain expresses ‘okay’ or agreement. This is not said in Mexico.
  • Tio or tia in Spain expresses guy or gal, but the dictionary meaning is uncle or aunt.
  • Boletos (Mexico) versus billetes (Spain) both mean tickets.
  • Computadora (Mexico) versus ordenador (Spain) both mean computer.

These are just a few of the hundreds of differences!

If you interested in learning Spanish from Spain or Spanish from Mexico, or if you have a cultural challenge at your multicultural or multilingual workplaces, please reach out to us. We transform communication with employees and their families so the success of international relocations are greatly increased. For a free consultation, contact us or call us at (800) 401-3159. Read success stories on our testimonials page.