Catalonia vs Spain: What’s the difference?

Catalans frequently pitch themselves against Spain, saying that “Catalonia is not Spain”. But if it’s not Spain, you may be wondering, well…, what is Catalonia?  And if Catalonia is against Spain then how does Catalonia size up versus its rival?

Power: Region vs Country

Catalonia is 1 of 17 regions in Spain, each of which has varying amounts of power.  The central Spanish government oversees these regions and retains overall control.  The regional Catalan government is not the first to wish for independence from the Spanish government; the Basque region has experienced a similar independence movement.


Size: David vs Goliath

The region of Catalonia is just 1/16 of the size of Spain.  In comparison to Spain, Catalonia looks tiny and insignificant, tucked into the North-eastern corner.  Yet, if you compare Catalonia to other countries it starts to look stronger; Catalonia is the same size as Belguim and bigger than several other European countries.

Language: Bon Dia vs. Buena Dias

Catalonia has its own language, which is spoken everywhere: in the street, the parliament and the court.  Catalans also speak Spanish, a world language spoken in 20 countries, including Spain.  Although Spaniards can generally understand Catalan, the two languages are very different. Take, for instance, red, yellow and blue in Catalan vs. Spanish: vermell vs. rojo, groc vs. amarillo, blau vs. azul.



Culture: The Donkey vs The Bull

Although the love of football knows no bounds, Catalan and Spanish culture are actually surprisingly different.  While Spain is famous for ‘el torro’ (the bull) and bull fighting, Catalans mock the idea as cruel and frivolous, instead choosing the modest donkey as their champion. In fact, the rivalry between Catalonia and Spain has only served to strengthen Catalan traditions, such as the fire run and human pyramids.  This revival has added to an already rich Catalan culture, with its own cuisine, the world-famous city of Barcelona and artists, such as Dali and Joan Miro.

People: Catalans vs Spaniards

Despite making up just a 1/16th of Spain’s landmass, Catalans make up 1/6 of the overall Spanish population.  The majority of the 7.5 million Catalans live in Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million.  Catalan and Spanish stereotypes are age-old, steeped in history and propaganda.  While the Catalans consider themselves more reserved, hard-working and frugal, the Spaniards stereotype them as unfriendly, uptight and mean.

Money: Euros vs Cents

Catalonia is the wealthiest region of Spain, with an economy of €215 billion which outsizes many European countries.  The region generates more than a 1/5 of Spain’s GDP.  In fact, the Catalans have almost twice as many euros per person as those counting their cents in the poorest regions of Spain.  Many Catalans believe that they are being unjustly treated as they get fewer returns for their taxes, as their Euros are shared out across Spain.

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