Kissing people - even strangers
Photo: Simon Blackley/Flickr
Kissing as a form of greeting is an alien and often horrific concept for Anglos, who would much prefer a firm handshake or, even better, a head nod. After living in Spain, however, you’ll become accustomed to greeting total strangers in a much more intimate way than you ever imagined.
Swooning over random kids
Stay in Spain for any considerable length of time and before you know it, you´ll be swooning over random babies in cafes, restaurants and on the street. In Spain, children are treated like royalty and it’s not uncommon to see total strangers stop on the street to fuss over babies, pinching their cheeks and smothering them with kisses. It might be a good idea to tone it down when you go home though, or you might get a few funny looks.
Ok, everyone knows this one, but it is true. After living in Spain, the eating times in the UK, USA and practically everywhere else on the planet seem far too early. Spaniards typically eat lunch between two and four and don´t even think about dinner until around 9pm. So going home to your mother´s 6pm dinner might be a little bit hard if you're used to the Spanish style.
Archive photo: Shutterstock
Forget swearing like a trooper, the real phrase should be swearing like a Spaniard. Everyone in Spain, from sweet little kids to frail old ladies, peppers their everyday conversation with enough swearwords to make a sailor blush. So beware, the longer you live in Spain, the more normal you'll think it is to drop rude words into everyday conversation.
Photo: Francisco Gonzalez/Flickr
Spaniards barely tip, not because they're mean but because there is no real tipping culture here. They might leave a few small coins but more often than not, you will find yourself scooping up the entire plate of change.
Treating everyone else on your birthday
While Spaniards may not tip, they are particularly generous when celebrating their birthdays, but unlike in other countries where you can expect your friends to buy you drinks all night, here it is the job of the birthday boy or girl to treat all their friends. So, the day you take your own cake into work and treat your friends to your own birthday drinks, you know you´ve gone native.
Cancelling if it's raining
Photo: Fernando García/Flickr
Northern Europeans are used to living the majority of their lives under a haze of light drizzle, but it rains so seldom in most parts of Spain, a bit of precipitation is more than enough of a reason for Spaniards to cancel their plans to leave the house.
Spaniards have a knack for telling it like it is and they are certainly not ones to mince their words. Being told you’ve put on weight or are looking a bit rough is all par for the course when working and living with Spaniards. Just be careful not to take your new direct attitude home with you or you might alienate a few longstanding friends when you tell them just how much they’ve aged.
Following seasonal rules
Spaniards are sticklers for following strict seasonal rules. Despite the fact that it’s still swelteringly hot in much of the country in September and even well into October, all the outdoor swimming pools close their doors at the end of summer. Winter rules also apply: even if the beginning of December is quite balmy, Spaniards will make sure they are wrapped up, and Spanish grannies wear their huge fur coats until the official end of winter in late March.
Eating standing up
Photo: Cristina Valencia/Flickr
While the concept of eating at your desk is alien to most Spaniards, who like to enjoy a proper sit down lunch, they do love to eat tapas standing up and, if possible, crammed like sardines into a tiny bar. You can tell the good tapas bars by how packed they are, condensation on the windows and people spilling out of the door onto the streets. After living in Spain you’ll have sharpened your elbows enough to push through the crowds to the bar as well as any Spaniard.
A version of this article was first published in December 2015