Spain is one of those unique places that vibrates consistently with life during the day as well as into the wee hours of the night. The lifestyle here is markedly more laid back than most Western countries. Whether you are living in Spain or just visiting, here are some tips to keep in mind to ease into Spanish life:
The Art of Tapas
Tapas are small plates of food that come with your drink order in a bar. It can range from a plate of olives or chorizo slices, to something fancier like marinated pork skin and roasted veggies.
Beware: sometimes pork fat looks like a potato. I found this out the hard way.
At times the bartenders can get quite cheeky and won’t give you tapas with your drink if they know you’re a foreigner. If this happens, simply ask nicely for one and they will bring it to you.
Mealtimes and Going Out at Night
Everything in Spain happens later. Expect to eat lunch around 2PM. Dinner is usually around 10PM, but I’ve been known to eat at 9PM without judgment from others. On the weekends it is not unusual to push dinner to midnight.
In keeping with tradition, the normal hour to hit up the bars or clubs is around 2AM, but 3AM is a more acceptable hour. To do a Spanish night properly, you really have to bring your game face. There is no going home before the sun rises.
Embrace the Siesta
The siesta is either one of the best things about Spain or one of the most inconvenient. Depends on perspective. But it isn’t going anywhere so you might as well embrace it. Most businesses, markets and some restaurants shut down completely from 2-5PM every day, so be sure to plan your day around those closures.
Meeting New People
Women don’t shake hands here! They always greet males and females alike with 2 cheek kisses. Men are the only ones who shake hands in greeting.
When entering a room, it is customary to introduce yourself and greet every single person in this manner. Do not wait for someone to introduce you – just move from person to person until you’ve said hello to everyone.
Conversing with Spaniards
People are not direct in Spain. When a Spaniard asks if you want something (more food, another drink, etc.) you are expected to say no. The Spaniard will ask again, still expecting you to say no. Continue this song and dance a few more times before finally accepting. The Spaniard will be happy to oblige. It is considered rude to say “yes” upon the first inquiry.
Spanish work culture is different from the rat race that most Americans and Brits are familiar with. Spaniards are used to taking frequent coffee breaks because it is an integral part of Spanish work life.
All colleagues take their breaks together, and you are expected to socialize during this time. Avoiding it is considered rude and you might be ostracized by your co-workers.
Always Wear Shoes
As a compulsive barefoot walker, this is a hard custom for me to embrace. But, you will rarely see Spaniards barefoot.
When Spaniards get home, they take off their work shoes and put on special house shoes, which always seem to be red. And this is what they wear around the house. To go without shoes is a major faux pas in a Spanish household.