Talking about Spain, many might think of sunshine, nice beach, paella and flamenco. However, in contrast to the stereotype of a very chilled lifestyle, the Gen Z in Spain is working extra hard to achieve their goals.

As part of our ongoing Illume Guide featured blog posts, we interviewed our Spanish Illume Guide Marthe to help us understand more about Spanish culture and Gen Z’s view of the Spanish society.


Hi Marthe! Tell us a bit about yourself – what do you do and what are you passionate about?

Hello! I’m 19, a student studying Business Administration at IE Business School (Instituto de Empresa). Studying at the heart of Madrid has been a great experience so far as I am part of a vibrant community of Spanish and international students.

Art and the business of art are my passion, that’s why I’m doing business studies. For about two years, I’ve been doing ten hours of art classes each week. My interest in art grew as a child. My grandmother was an experienced artist to whom I always looked up to. She taught me to look for beauty and art everywhere I go. Photography is also a practice I enjoy because it enables me to permanently capture all the beautiful things my eyes see temporarily.

How would you describe Spanish culture?

Spanish culture is very joyful and energetic. People are very happy and positive. We want to enjoy the present and are happy to help others. On the one hand, people love being outdoors enjoying the sun and beach. On the other hand, they work extremely hard for education and career. One of the most obvious cultural differences between Spain and other western countries is that there is a very big late-night culture here. People usually have dinner around 10pm. So we normally go to bed around or after midnight, including many children. And after dinner, a lot people go to party until late! Social life is very important here. It is normal for people to stay up late talking with friends after a meal, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. Spanish people often bond and build closer friendships over these late-night conversations. Colleagues and friends also often meet during siesta hours and talk over a small beer to pass the time.

I would describe Spanish people as very hard working and family oriented. It might be a stereotype that most people in Spain just like to chill and enjoy time, but in fact, Spanish people work very hard to achieve academic and professional success. People want to prove themselves to the world that they are just as good as other western peers. Especially when the economy is not at its greatest situation, we have to work extremely hard. The family is the most important aspect in our life. Most people tend to manage their personal problems through family, relying on relatives for support when in difficult situations. This family network of support is particularly crucial during the financial crisis and recession. Some might have to move back into their family home after years of independent living.


What’s Generation Z like in Spain?

Being a gen Z is a defining trait of my identity. Having an international background allows me to build powerful relationships with individuals from all over the world. I consider my network very important as it is a privilege to have close connections with people on all continents. The codes and passions we have as a generation have brought us together on social media and online communities, beyond our cultural and social differences. Social media such as Instagram has enabled me to keep contact with my network of 1,200 friends and followers. Technology and its progress have facilitated my ability in consolidating these relationships.

Just like all Spanish generations, young people are very optimistic, kind and helpful in general. However, I would say we are more ambitious in terms of our life. And we are more eager to prove ourselves, weather in school or in work. Many people are very entrepreneurial and successful oriented. For example, there are 10 classmates in my course already running their own business or doing their website. Which I find less common in other countries. The economy situation also makes us aware that we need to make plan earlier to be successful in our own way.

A growing trend among Gen Z is sustainability. We want a greener future and a more ethical world. Many students are involved with sustainable campaign and try to engaged with recycling and reducing waste. We also prefer to put our money into ethical brand. Electric scooters are becoming more and more popular among young people, which helps to reduce carbon emission.

One of the most popular brands among Gen Z is Bimba y Lola. The brand’s ethos is young – not a single designer is over the age of 30 – and their subtle but playful patterns and feminine cuts at affordable prices are proving extremely popular with the fashion-conscious youngsters.

In terms of the future, our biggest hope is for the economy situation getting better in Spain. The country went into recession in 2008 and the experience has led many people to feel a strong desire for stability and security in life. The effects of the economic crisis have hit the younger generation here harder than anyone else. In 2018, around one thirds young adults were unemployed. This has left many of us feeling disaffected with our options as career pathways that worked for our parents are no longer assured. We need find new ways and places for opportunity, most are also prepared to go abroad to look for work.


Tell me about consumer culture

I would describe a typical Spanish consumer as very picky and conscious. People want to use their money to the best to buy quality products. As a result of the economic crisis and the level of unemployment, price has become no.1 consideration. Apart from that, Spanish people love shopping in stores regardless of the growing of online shopping. People like the in-store shopping experience and also find it more trustworthy to see the products themselves. There are many outdoor markets and people enjoy the interaction.

As part of the sustainability trend, responsible consumption is developing in Spain. More people are looking for more responsible products, traceability and better quality. The second-hand market is also becoming increasingly popular. For example, many are using the second-hand app Wallapop to purchase products.

Although there are many international brands in Spain, I still believe the favourite ones are local brands which people take pride in. Prime examples are Zara and Santander.