The unwritten rules of partying with Spaniards

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
The unwritten rules of partying with Spaniards
From the glitzy DJ sets of Ibiza to the local festivals where dancing grandmothers steal the show, Spaniards love and know how to party. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Spaniards of all ages love to go out and enjoy drinking, chatting and dancing with friends and family. However, things are done differently here to what you'd expect from a night out in other parts of Europe or the world.


How should you dress when you go out for a night on the tiles with a group of Spaniards?

How do you greet someone you've never met before, and why is it bad luck not to look someone in the eye when toasting?

The answer to all these vitally important questions and many more are answered in the following ultimate guide to partying a la española.


Modesty, not OTT

Most Spaniards are quite understated when it comes to all matters clothes related, so leave your sequinned mini-dresses at home and don’t forget to wrap up: Spaniards are also good at dressing weather-appropriately and would not go out in winter without a warm coat. Unless it's carnival of course. In which case, anything goes!

Fancy dress is for carnival in Spain, not for a regular night out. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)


Pace yourself

Tapas culture means that drinking goes hand in hand with eating in Spain: order a drink and you’ll more than likely be given a plate of tapas to nibble away on. That should help you pace yourself during long Spanish nights out, important given getting very drunk in public is frowned upon. Interestingly, Spaniards call the fast-paced boozing found in Ireland and the UK el modelo anglosajón (the Anglosaxon model). 

Line your stomach with some food and don't do 'Anglo-Saxon' drinking. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)


Kiss me quick

Greetings are always a bit of a social minefield, but in Spain a couple of basic rules apply. In a social context, women generally kiss each other on both cheeks when they meet for the first time, while men will shake hands. If you're meeting a member of the opposite sex, or anyone for that matter, for the first time and you're not sure what to do, you can always play it safe and shake hands.

READ MORE: What are the rules of kissing in Spain?

Do not do a Rubiales and kiss a colleague on the lips. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)



Last orders

Spaniards are a superstitious lot and never have a 'last drink' thinking it sounds unlucky, more your last drink on earth than last drink of the night. Instead Spaniards always suggest having la penúltima, or second-last drink, no matter how late it is.

'¿Me pone la penúltima?' (Will you serve me the last-but-one?) (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)



Party like it's 1969

Spaniards cherish their elders and adore their children and it is not unusual to see many generations of a family socialising together. Children stay out late here and are welcome everywhere so if you have got kids, take them, and grandmother, along to the party.

There's no age limit on partying in Spain. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)



Seven years of bad sex

When it comes to toasting in Spain, some people under 40 look each other in the eyes in a relatively newish tradition, taken from the German legend that says if you do fail to do so, you will have seven years of bad sex. 

After cheering, whether by raising a glass or clicking glasses, many Spaniards will then take their glass and quickly place it down on the table before lifting it again to take a swig.

Bemused foreigners will then be reminded that el que no apoya, no folla, ‘the one who doesn’t place it (the glass) down, doesn’t have sex’.

READ ALSO: ¡Salud! The different ways to say cheers in Spanish

Play it safe by look at the person in the eyes and say '¡Salud!'. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)


Bring your own booze

A botellón (Spanish for big bottle) involves socializing while drinking outside. It can mean anything from hanging around in a doorway to going to a mega, council-sponsored event with thousands of people. You should take your own booze either spirits and mixers (rum with lemon is a firm favourite) or Kalimotxo, red wine mixed with cola. Botellones start to wind down around 3am when people tend to move on to clubs.

'Botellones' are more a thing young people in Spain do in order to save money and drink to their liver's content. (Photo by JOSE LUIS ROCA / AFP)


Holy smokes

Smoking is viewed as more of a sociable activity than a dirty vice in Spain and Spaniards have a tolerant attitude towards smoking with many of them lighting up indoors when at a private party. In restaurants and public buildings however, smoking is banned.

Whether it's a vape cloud or cigarette smoke, smoking in public is still very much socially accepted in Spain. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)


All night long

Be prepared to stay out very late. Everything starts later in Spain: mealtimes are much later than in English-speaking countries, lunch is around 2pm while dinner can be after 10pm. Most clubs open their doors at midnight, but you will find that people generally do not turn up until 2 or 3am and can stay out way past sunrise.

READ MORE: How to sound cool on a night out in Spain

Expect the sun to be up by the time you stop partying in Spain. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)


Paying up

In many Spanish bars you pay up at the end of the night, so splitting the bill is more common than buying rounds. In terms of tipping, while Spaniards do sometimes leave small change, tipping isn't compulsory.

READ MORE: What are the rules on tipping in Spain?

A 'propina' isn't compulsory in Spain, especially when having just drinks rather than food. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also