iNMOspector – House inspections in all Spain

“Upper Class” in Spain

April 26, 2024

I really enjoyed reading this and would like to share it with anyone new to Spain.

pijo money young old regional
pijo money young old regional

Classes, if you can call them that, are not really defined by money, but more by political views and education. I think this is true everywhere as money and education become less and less correlated. Enjoy reading about the Spanish version!

What screams “I’m upper class” in Spain?

Spain like the UK, is a very classist country. However, our relationship towards class is extremely different. Here the perceived social class has little or nothing to do with our income, believe it or not.

Or at least, it doesn’t have a clear cut relationship as in other different countries in the world. Let me elaborate on that:

Pijos, or people who consider themselves to be high class.

A “pijo” could be translated as “posh”, but that would be a very unaccurate translation. A pijo here is someone who looks high class. Or to be more precise, somebody who looks like the stereotype that the average Spaniard has about high-class people.

Many other fellow Quorans have addressed that aspect and how it revolves about around a myriad of very superficial traits: Dress codes, accent, propension to use English terms in Spanish conversations, golden watches, expensive shoes, patronizing expensive restaurants, concert venues, expensive hobbies like yatching, etc. Also, they focus in expending their money in a very well-defined set of brands (BMW, El Ganso, Carolina Herrera, etc).

However (and this is the main difference with other “upper classes” elsewhere), pijos are defined not by how much they earn, but rather by how much they spend. It is more of an urban tribe than an actual social class. I have seen people with middle or low income behave (and look) like a pijo. I have seen wealthy people with tons of money who would be looked down by the allegedly “high class” for wearing simple clothes or having unassuming cars.

For example, a wealthy frugal entrepeneur devoted to, say, building his modest library at home rather than attending expensive yacht parties, would not be considered to be pijo. Nor “high class”, either. How could you have money if you don’t spend it? You’re probably lying!

Conversely, a run off the mill office clerk who would be indebted to hell and back in order to buy the most expensive clothes in the store would be considered to be a “pijo”, and in such a way, that would grant him access to the (very insular and endogamic) circles of the Spanish moneyed class (or at least, some fictional acceptance).

People with actual money

People with actual money in Spain usually tend really hard to NOT look like a pijo, or have a very low-key type of profile. They might buy a house in an expensive neighbourhood, because the whole real estate investment is too much of a draw, but that’s the maximum extent of their “flaunt”.

If they are “young money”, you will likely never, ever guess that they are high class, unless they want you to know. They will actively hide that fact from you, and act as “blue collar” as possible, swearing and all. And they know all too well that spending binges only open certain circles of the upper class, not all of them, nor the most interesting. Most of their connections will likely be of foreign origin. The only sign that will “betray” their wealth is their ultra-specialized type of expertise in whichever area made them rich in the first place. They tend to have a very close-knit group of friends from “before they got rich”, and while they will mingle with everyone, they will likely only trust them and their families. They are deeply distrusting of pijos, despite their frequent business interactions.

If they are “old money”, there are more external signs to recognize them, but all of them are very subdued. Most of all will come down to manners and education. They’re probably the last remmant of Spaniards who remember something that resembles actual courtesy. Their kids won’t act like insufferable brats like 99% of Spaniard children. They will likely also have political connections, albeit very well hidden and guarded. Unlike pijos, they will have very few luxury items, but they will likely show extremely good taste at picking them, and you will likely need to have lot of “know-how” in order to “get” them: That random painting is a valuable masterpiece, that single bottle of wine is not labelled because it comes from their personal vineyard, and their suit has no visible trademark because it is tailor made, and so on. Their social circle is wider and less classist than what many people think (despite being surrounded by actual pijos), and you can stumble upon them by chance if you are -gasp- polite enough (which for them is the litmus test to separate plebes from people worth of respect, rather than money per se).

Bonus track: Regional Old money

A very unique, Spanish-centric type of money, not every Spanish region has its Old Money, but the ones who do… well, they are really truly something else. Regional Old Money is unable to compete with nation-wide old money and young money, which fuels a huge (albeit very hidden) inferiority complex and resentment. This means that Regional Old Money is very visible and far more flaunting-prone than its other counterparts: They will form part of the public life of their region, will take huge, central roles in public cultural festivals such as the Feria de Abril in Seville, the Pilgrimage to Montserrat in Catalonia or the Carnival of the Canary Islands (which is truly something that money can’t buy), and will absolutely not hide their political connections. Unlike their other moneyed counterparts, they tend to err on the most conservative side of Catholicism. They are extremely insular and while they will treat lower classes with varying degrees of indifference (or even affection, if they serve them or their families well), they are only openly hostile towards the “other” moneyed classes, which they view as illegitimate alien threats from another different planet that requires active (and often political) defense measures.

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