Galicia has a culture which is both unique and distinct from that of the rest of Spain and the core of this difference is centred upon Galicia’s perceived identity as a "Celtic", rather than a "Latino" or "Hispanic", sub nation.
Don't expect "Flamenco" singing and dancing, or the acoustic guitar accompanied by hand claps. If you like the appeal of the long and colourful multi-layered dresses, or the "sombrero" hats of the more widely recognised southern cultures, you are in for a surprise.
In language terms too Galicia offers something unique and speaks one of the four distinct Spanish regional languages and not the "Castillano" common throughout most of Spain.
Why is Galician Culture different?
Although part of main land Spain, Galicia is situated in the top corner of the country with its borders facing open sea to the north and west, Portugal to the south and and a further Spanish district, "Asturias", to the east. All told Galicia is fairly isolated in the Iberian Peninsula and this has led to an evolution of "everything cultural" being distinct and unique from the rest of Spain.
These differences have been further compounded by the economic divergences of Galicia from greater Spain and more recently, in the last century, impositions being placed on the area restricting its cultural development. These restrictions were lifted following the death of General Franco, a son (but no friend) of Galicia.
Although the Galicians certainly consider themselves to be Spanish, they have been viewed throughout history as the poorer cousins of the more prosperous south. Indeed they are often the "butt" of jokes in a similar way to the Irish with the English and the Belgians with the French. By the way if you are a Galician, I am simply stating a fact and not suggesting that there is any truth behind these assumptions.
What are the cultural differences?
The two most obvious traits of Galicia's culture are its language, "gallego" and the way in which it demonstrates and celebrates its heritage through dress and music.
Incidentally, Galicians are all bi-lingual and speak "regular" Spanish as well, so your "Get By" book will still come in handy.
Gallego has no apparent connection with "Catillano", or indeed any of the Celtic nations tongues, including those of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It does however have many similarities to its closest neighbours language of Portugese
How the Galicians dress, sing and dance (e.g. during a festival) is different to, not just the rest of Spain, but also its neighbours. Bagpipes are the traditional instrument and the bright and flamboyant colours of "Flamenco" are replaced by a more dour style which perhaps represents the cooler weather, tougher lifestyle and economic strife that Galicia has suffered in the past.
The Celtic connection is, for once, confirmed with both music and clothing and is especially similar to that of the Scots and Irish, although "tartan" fabrics are not seen. If you want to experience, first hand, Galician culture in action, then a festival is the place to be. Festivals offer the best opportunity to whiteness an active demonstration of everything this region has to offer from its food to its fireworks, its clothing to its musicianship and they are also good fun.
To find out more about Galicia's music, dress and festival celebrations, check out the sub menu items in the bar to the right.