The quirky habits you can't help picking up when living in Spain

The Local Spain
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The quirky habits you can't help picking up when living in Spain
How many of these intrinsically Spanish habits have you picked up? (Photo by JOSEP LAGO / AFP)

If you've moved to Spain, chances are you have picked up some Spanish habits. How many of these do you do?


Kissing people, even strangers

Spain's cheek kissing is an alien and often horrific concept for some foreigners, 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.

Before you know it, Spain will have made you a lot more touchy feely. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Fussing 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.

Children are treated like royalty here and it’s not uncommon to see total strangers (often grandmothers) stop on the street to fuss over babies, pinching their cheeks and smothering them with kisses even (if you allow them to, that is). It might be a good idea to tone it down when you go home though, or you might get a few funny looks.

Spanish politicians such as Mariano Rajoy never miss out on the chance to show that they're family men. Photo: Christina Quicler/AFP



Eating late 

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.

Every meal of the day is pushed back in Spain, if compared to eating times in most other European countries. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)




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.


Swearing is part and parcel of daily life in Spain. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO / AFP)



Barely tipping

Spaniards aren't famed for tipping much, not because they're mean but because there's no fixed tipping culture here.

They might leave a few small coins but more often than not, it depends on whether they received a very good service from the restaurant or bar. After a while, you may also find yourself assessing whether the waiter deserves a tip before reaching deep inside your pocket. 

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

Spaniards are notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to tipping. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)


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, pay for everyone's meal or treat your friends to your own birthday drinks, you know you've gone native.

READ MORE: Why does the birthday person pay for everyone's food and drinks in Spain?

Carlos Alcaraz can maybe afford to pay for everyone's food and drinks on his birthday, but can you?(Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)


Cancelling if it's raining

Northern Europeans are used to living the majority of their lives under a haze of light drizzle, but it rains so seldom in some parts of Spain that a few drops is more than enough of a reason for Spaniards to cancel their plans to leave the house. 

Rain is the perfect excuse to cancel plans in Spain. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Being straight-talking

Spaniards have a knack for telling it like it is and they are certainly not ones to mince their words. They're not as blunt as the Dutch, and comments won't be made with any malice most times, but they won't beat about the bush either.

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 if they're not used to that kind of behaviour, or you might alienate a few longstanding friends when you tell them just how much they’ve aged.

Spaniards can be more direct than some foreigners. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)


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.

If it's winter you have to wear a coat, even if it's warm outside, the Spanish dress code states. Photo: Pawel Szvmanski/Unsplash



Eating standing up

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 (another cultural habit the pandemic has put on hold).

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. And you'll be comfortable tossing your olive stones, prawn heads and paper napkins onto the floor.

Eating while walking or sat at your desk is a big no-no in Spain, but if it's standing in a cramped bar it's completely ok. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)


Mastering the use of a fan

If you are using a fan - not in a vain attempt at seduction (Victorian-era style) or because you are learning how to be a flamenco dancer - but because you've finally realised that it really does provide a puff of a draft to cool you down on a stifling hot afternoon, then congratulations: You have successfully morphed from a guiri into a true local.

Who needs air-con when you can look Spanish by fanning yourself with an 'abanico'? (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)



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