Three years ago, I moved to Andalusia, Spain, after many years abroad. I am married to one of its citizens, and I have been coming here for 22 years, so it made perfect sense. However, new visitors may experience culture shock in my home country. A recent online forum shares people’s perceptions of this proud nation; here are some useful tips for anyone hoping to visit or live here.
1. The Noise Level
For the untrained ear, it can seem as though everyone here is angry about something; such is the boisterous nature of the Spanish language. I still need to calm myself down before responding to my wife sometimes, but it isn’t anything more than her ingrained Iberian passion bursting through the seams.
2. Coffee Is To Be Savored
“Coffee to go is just now becoming a thing but mostly does not exist,” shares the next thread leader. “They want you to sit down and enjoy.” For the average Spaniard, a drive-thru Starbucks would be heretical — coffee culture here means sitting down outside, enjoying your cafe con leche as your heartbeat rests — until the coffee hits, at least!
3. Air Conditioning? What Air Conditioning?
American tourists may find summertime in Spain stifling in the daytime and only exacerbated by a lack of air conditioning in most establishments and homes. “In the evenings, everyone was out of the house walking while the house cooled down,” claims a former resident who experienced how things in Spain get started after sundown. Embrace the shade and stay hydrated; you will be fine.
4. Hospitality Knows No Bounds
Once you can get past the loud people, you will uncover some of the kindest, most generous Europeans on the continent. For example, if someone invites you to lunch, they insist on paying the check. Furthermore, many bars and restaurants sometimes give you free rounds or tapas just because they can. This ethos can confuse less experienced Anglos not used to such random kindness, but it defines Spanish people for me.
5. Embracing the Slumber
I cannot get through a day without at least a short power nap. Some people believe this is because of the weather, but I put it down to lunchtime being the day’s biggest meal. “Siesta time is a real thing,” adds a visitor. Yes, just try staying awake after a huge plate of paella and a glass of rioja — I dare you!
6. Closing Time
Although I often grumble about everything being closed on Sundays and mid-afternoon, I love that Spanish people value rest — other nations should do so. “Many shops and restaurants close in the early afternoon,” notes another poster. “Even places you don’t expect, like bike rentals. Always check business hours.”
7. Tipping Culture Be Gone
For the average American, tipping comes as a way of life. Europeans appreciate the generosity, but in Spain, it isn’t necessary. However, this means you will get standard service without a monologue explaining everything they have on the menu. “Don’t expect the overbearing level of customer service they have in America,” writes a knowledgeable commenter. “Servers will take your order, bring it over, and pretty much disappear until you catch their attention again.” Dining Karens will not last five minutes in Spain.
8. Be Ready To Eat Late and Eat a Lot
Even on a weekday, my family rarely sits down for supper until 10 p.m.; in summer, I have eaten dinner at 1 a.m. before! Moreover, breakfast comes in two installments: the first being normal desayuno between 7 and 9 a.m., followed by almuerzo (lunch) around 11 a.m., then the main event of lunch at 2 or 3 p.m. Of course, an evening snack called merienda also comes after a siesta in the early evening.
9. America, This Is Not
Black culture is fully ingrained in American and British life, though it is still in its infancy in Spain. Thankfully, the country’s diversity is growing exponentially, with thousands of African families moving to Spain over the past decade. However, one American tourist recalls a curious event. “I had a (Spanish) woman ask me to pet her barking dog because it had never met a black person,” she explains, “so it could get used to black people!”
10. Shoes On!
In places like Asia and Scandinavia, wearing shoes when entering someone’s house is rude, but in Spain, this is expected of a new visitor. “Do not take your shoes off at someone’s house unless they ask you to or tell you it’s okay,” warns a Canadian. “Taking your shoes off at someone else’s house is considered rude if you’re not close to them!”
11. Be Ready To Walk
Are you one of those who jump in their SUV to drive two blocks for milk? You will not get far with this mentality in Spanish towns or cities because parking is a nightmare, and it is far quicker to walk those two blocks. “Have comfortable shoes, you’ll walk a lot,” notes a former resident. This scenario can be irritating when you are in a hurry, but Spain will soon teach you never to be in a hurry, too!
12. Easter Is Not a Klan Rally
You can relax if you find yourself in Spain during Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and see a procession of robed and hooded people walking toward you with torches. The Spanish Easter procession outfits look uncannily like those of the Klu Klux Klan, though they couldn’t be more different. “This caught me off guard at first,” remembers a visitor who wasn’t aware of this medieval Catholic practice, which outdates the racist hate group by centuries. Semana Santa is a beautiful occasion for anyone lucky enough to see it.
This article was initially published and syndicated by The Cents of Money.