• Spain's news in English

The five strangest things about Spaniards

George Mills · 28 Jan 2015, 16:00

Published: 27 Jan 2015 16:00 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Jan 2015 16:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

 Photo of a lady in Spanish glasses: Shutterstock

Spaniards are a confusing bunch. They're spontaneous but love routine, they're deeply traditional and yet socially liberal, and they can't seem to decide whether Spain is paradise on Earth or some kind of hell designed to test them.

After five years in Spain and two with The Local, I've collected together some of what I think are the strangest facts about this country I've grown to love with a passion I don't always understand.        

Spaniards are very crude indeed

Photo: Shutterstock

As an Australian, I thought I was OK with the odd bit of filthy language. Then I moved to Spain. Little did I know I was moving to the country of world champion swearers. 

Years later, it still surprises me when I’m walking down a street in Spain and I hear an old lady spitting out the word "coño" (think four-letter English swear words starting with ‘c’ and you get the idea).

Some of the Spanish expressions for sex are also pretty colourful (fancy rubbing the spring onion anyone?), and there’s no question they are a lot of fun. But for better or worse I don’t think I’ll ever compete with Spaniards when it comes to being foul-mouthed. 

Spaniards REALLY don’t like being alone

Photo: Shutterstock

I have no problem with going to movies or a restaurant alone. I even like the occasional holiday by myself. In Spain, this makes you a weirdo.

As a rule, Spaniards really don’t like being alone for more than about five minutes, and if they are, they will pull out their phone and call someone or check their Facebook page. The other week I actually saw a woman shouting into her phone while going for an early Sunday morning run.

This sociability is one of Spain’s best aspects. If you make the effort, you’ll never be short of friends. But it also means you can feel very uncomfortable if you’re not standing around with a group of 20 other people.                 

Spain runs like clockwork

Photo: Shutterstock

Like many expats I moved to Spain because I was attracted to the free-wheeling, anarchic lifestyle. Forget it.

I soon discovered that Spain is just like Switzerland in the sun: both countries run like clockwork.

Spaniards tend to do the same thing every day at the same time — just two hours later than anywhere else in the known universe, thanks, it seems, to former dictator Francisco Franco. Morning coffee is always at eleven, lunch comes around at 3pm, and don’t even dare suggest going out to a club before 1am.

It’s not just about daily routines either. Each year in Spain seems designed to be as similar to the last as possible with Spaniards going to the same beach for their annual holidays, meeting up with same people there, eating the same food and talking about the same things.

Spain has a problem with litter

Photo: Shutterstock

For such a clean country, Spaniards are surprisingly relaxed about littering.

Story continues below…

While people spend hours scrubbing out their own apartments with bleach and would never dream of going out in public looking less than immaculate, there are plenty of people  who are quite happy to drop a piece of paper on the street.

It’s the same in bars. I always feel like I’m in the Wild West when I see restaurant floors covered in everything from tooth picks to ketchup sachets.

Spaniards don’t like criticism — from outsiders

Photo: Shutterstock

Spaniards have plenty of reasons to complain and are not shy about having a moan about everything from the country’s high unemployment rate to chronic corruption.

But the moment a foreigner puts the boot into Spain, the defences come up. As many expats have learned the hard way, one of the best ways to lose a Spanish friend — or ruin a night out — is to criticize the country.

The lesson here? Think carefully before you make comments about Spaniards being lazy (or indeed being unadventurous or litter dropping). Hopefully my friends will forgive me. 

And remember: never, ever say a bad word about the food. 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
jobs available