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Eleven ways your socialising habits change when you live in Spain

When you really settle into life in Spain, you start noticing some of your social habits changing, even though the pandemic has made things slightly different.

Eleven ways your socialising habits change when you live in Spain
How many of these Spanish socialising habits have you picked up? Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

Anyone who moves to a new country knows it takes a lot of effort to get out there and make new friends.

But as well as connecting with new people, you’ll probably notice some of your actual social life habits change too.

Here’s what you should look out for as you adapt to life in Spain.

You meet for an aperitivo

This pre-lunch routine is an essential weekend activity. It involves a glass of something cold – vermouth, sherry or an ice-cold caña – accompanied by a salty snack such as green olives or roasted almonds and is always enjoyed with friends and laughter.

It’s perfectly acceptable to meet friends just for the aperitivo for an hour or two before heading to your next social engagement, the long lunch.

Day drinking is common in Spain, but it’s rarely taken to excess. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

You spend hours lingering over a meal

Which brings us nicely to the next point, a good meal should include a long leisurely chat long after the plates have been cleared.

Two hours after you first sit down it is not uncommon to be still seated at the table enjoying a sobremesa – the word describing the postprandial chat with your family members, friends or work colleagues.

This is when you will order ‘copas’ such as Gin Tonic.

You learn not to be annoyed by lateness

It may be considered rude in some countries to keep someone waiting but Spaniards will be utterly perplexed if you apologize for anything less than a 20 minute delay to a social meetup. And they certainly won’t understand why you are annoyed when they casually stroll up 20 minutes late.

It’s not uncommon to receive a text at the time you are supposed to be meeting with the phrase “estoy en camino”. It literally translates as “I’m on my way” but probably means they are just leaving the house.

In Spain, most people are fashionably late to the party. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

And you start to do everything later too

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, unless you want to dine with the other guiris.

So a weekend lunch often doesn’t start until 3pm and a dinner reservation could be as late as 10pm or even 11pm.

It’s totally normal to meet friends for a drink after 11pm – just when you might be heading to bed in your home country.

You learn to confirm (and cancel if it’s raining)

Arrangements are not set in stone until you confirm at least on the day and quite often just an hour before you are supposed to be meeting up.

Spanish people often make plans with different groups of friends and then attempt (not always successfully) to combine the activities.

Oh, and in much of Spain where rain is scarce, it’s perfectly acceptable to cancel because of a downpour.

Rainy weather usually means cancelled outdoor plans in Spain. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

You won’t get (too) drunk

Although Spain is full of bars and drinking alcohol is very much part of everyday culture, there isn’t the same culture of binge drinking that exists in northern European countries such as Britain, where it’s not unusual to find a seat in a pub after work on a Friday and stagger out at closing time with only a packet of salt’n’vinegar or a bag of roasted peanuts as sustenance.  

Ordering a pint instead of the more usual ‘caña’ raises eyebrows in the expectation that the drinker is on a ‘bender’.  Tapas is considered an accompaniment to drinking and the phrase “eating is cheating” most definitely doesn’t apply.

The Spanish night out involves touring a number of different venues over the course of an evening, it’s all about the socialising rather than the alcohol consumption.

Spaniards drink on a daily basis but are generally not heavy drinkers. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

READ ALSO:  Nine Spanish culture shocks that I still can’t get my head around

You socialise as a family

Spaniards are extraordinarily social, even to the point that is rare to see someone eating at a restaurant table alone or, god forbid, make a solo trip to the cinema.

And there is little in the way of segregation between generations.  Weekend lunches involve all the family, from great grandparents to toddlers and cafe terraces will be filled until late into the night – at least in summer – with young children playing while their parents socialise.  

During fiestas, an essential part of community life in Spain, all ages get involved in activities and no-one is considered too old or too young to have a good time.

You belong to dozens of Whatsapp groups

Spaniards are amongst the biggest users of WhatsApp and this means that you’ll probably end up belonging to several, if not dozens, of whatsapp groups. There’s groups for work colleagues; neighbours; parents; a particular event such as “Cumpleaños de Juan” or “Friday night drinks”. Mute them to save yourself and those around from going mad with the constant notifications.

You pay for everyone’s drinks on your birthday

Spaniards are particularly generous when celebrating 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. Just as well the drinks are cheap!

Photo: Depositphotos

You kiss total strangers

Okay, this one may have been replaced by fist bumps, light hugs or pats on the back as a result of the pandemic, but the general rule will no doubt return one day.

Spanish people always kiss each other on the cheeks to greet each other. It is always two kisses and it takes place when you are introduced to someone even if it is the first time you meet them. If the greeting is between two men it’s a thump on the back, or a wave of the hand.

Any other form of greeting in Spain will be met with befuddlement. Attempt just one kiss and you will leave the Spaniards kissing in mid-air and if you stick out your arm for a handshake then expect it to be pulled in and met with the double kiss.

Men don’t usually greet each other with kisses in Spain, but sometimes the situation warrants it. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

It takes ages to say goodbye

By the time you are ready to leave the group, you will be old friends and this means another round of kissing everybody (currently replaced by the pandemic-friendly greetings) and a chat about things. Standing up and waving in the general direction of the group before making a hasty exit is just not a very Spanish way of doing things. And sneaking off without a word is just considered plain rude.

READ ALSO: The most common mistakes foreigners make when greeting people in Spain

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For members


KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

From VAT cuts on heating, a new citizenship law, a change to Spain's Covid travel restrictions, the latest on UK licences, a round-up of festivals and plenty more, become a member to find out about all the important changes in Spain in October 2022.

KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

Spain’s new sexual consent law comes into effect

October 7th brings the enforcement of a government bill toughening the country’s rape laws by requiring explicit consent for sex acts.

In essence, the law reforms Spain’s criminal code to define rape as sex without clear consent. Crucially, that removes the need for rape victims to prove that they resisted or were subject to violence or intimidation.

READ MORE: ‘Only yes means yes’: Spain edges closer to passing new sexual consent law

“Consent is recognised only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will,” says the bill.

The proposed reform comes after of a notorious 2016 gang rape of an 18-year-old woman by five men at the bull-running festival in Pamplona, northern Spain.

VAT cut on gas bills

In yet another bid to ease the pain of the cost of living crisis, the Spanish government has introduced a new cost-cutting measure which aims to decrease the amount both residents and small businesses will pay on their gas bills this coming winter.

The VAT cut, which comes into force on October 1st, will also apply to other items used for heating such as pellets, briquets and wood as the price of said biofuel products has also increased considerably in the lead-up to the winter months. 

READ MORE: How much will Spain’s gas VAT cut save me per month?

Bottled butane gas has not been included in the new measure, but its price have been frozen at €19.55 per canister.

The reduction will mean monthly savings for an average user of between €5 and €19, depending on how much they use and the type of contract they have, according to consumer associations.

Overall, the Spanish government estimates the move will represent a save of €210 million for the Spanish population. 

Clocks change

It’s that time of year again. The evenings begin to get darker a little earlier – and the clocks go back. In 2022, the change will come in the early hours of Sunday, October 31st, when daylight saving time officially ends and winter time begins. To be specific, the change comes at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the 31st of October.

READ MORE: Why Spain is still in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

Fourth Covid vaccines for the over-80s

October will also see the ramping up of the second Covid-19 booster roll-out for people over 80’s and those in care homes, a campaign which also includes the flu vaccine for those who wish to have it. 

As planned, the campaign has started in all Spanish regions on September 26th, except for in Andalusia, where it will begin on October 3rd.

The vaccines to be used will the new inoculations developed by Moderna and Pfizer against the Omicron BA.1 sub-variant, serums approved by the European Medicines Agency on September 1st. 

In Andalusia the Covid-flu vaccination campaign starts on October 3rd, in Aragón and Navarre on October 10th, in the Balearics on October 13th, in Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia and Castilla y León all on September 26th, whereas in the remaining regions the date for the double vaccination campaign is not yet known.

READ MORE: Spain starts fourth Covid vaccine rollout for over-80s

UK driving licences saga to continue as anger grows

As many of you will know by now, UK driving licence holders who have resided in Spain for more than six months have not been able to drive since May 1st. Five months later and there still isn’t a deal within close sight.

The UK Embassy in Spain is no longer speculating about when an exchange agreement could possibly be reached. The latest update posted on their Brits in Spain Facebook group on September 16th stated that: “We are genuinely making progress on resolving the outstanding points but, for reasons we’ve explained before, we cannot be definitive about the timescale.”

Another Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” has since been set up where members are threatening to stage a protest unless the matter is soon resolved. 

Will October bring a major change? Progress may well be made in terms of negotiations but the legislation has to be approved by several branches of the Spanish government before it actually comes into force, and keeping in mind the speed at which bureaucracy in Spain usually moves, it is unlikely to be streamlined in the next 30 days.

Domestic workers law

Following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) and pressure from trade unions, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez adopted a reform is to introduce a bill aimed at ending the “discrimination” suffered by these workers.

READ MORE: The new rules for hiring a domestic worker in Spain

Under the changes, which come into force on October 1st, domestic workers are now entitled to claim unemployment benefits and cannot be dismissed without justification.

They will also be covered by healthcare “protection” and be able to access training to improve their “professional opportunities” and job conditions.

Grandchildrens’ citizenship law

A law that makes it easier for the children and grandchildren of Spaniards to gain citizenship will be debated in the Spanish parliament in October.

The bill, also known as the Historical Memory Law, proposes that the children and grandchildren of Spaniards (born in Spain) can gain Spanish citizenship without needing to live or be resident in Spain for any minimum period of time.

“Those born outside Spain to a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who would originally have been Spanish, and who, as a result of having suffered exile for political, ideological or belief reasons or sexual orientation and identity, have lost or renounced Spanish nationality, may opt for Spanish nationality, for the purposes of article 20 of the Civil Code,” the text of the proposed bill states.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Spain

Covid temperature checks for travellers end

The Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting international travel to Spain – especially if you’re from a non-EU country. 

On Tuesday September 20th, Spain scrapped the requirement from all international passengers arriving by air or sea in the country to complete and show a Covid health control form.

Now, on October 20th, Covid temperature controls and visual checks will be scrapped, sources from Spain’s state airport manager Aena told Spanish daily El Periódico.

READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

However, it is important to note that non-EU tourists such as Britons, Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders still have to show one of three documents to be able to enter Spain, following an extension of the rule until at least November 15th. These are: 

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate –  Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior of departure or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior of departure. 
  • A recovery certificate –  This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status.

Face masks are also still required on planes which are bound for Spain, but you don’t have to wear one at the airport.

October weather forecast

Spain has experienced some extreme weather this summer. With record temperatures, record rains and flooding in the Canary Islands, drought conditions, and flash floods in Murcia, Spanish weather has been changeable and unpredictable in September.

READ MORE: 640 flights cancelled as storm Hermine hits Spain’s Canary Islands

But what’s the forecast for October?

In terms of temperature, the average temperatures are set to be between 4-7 ° C lower than in September, which saw some of the summer heat linger into Autumn. Despite that, forecasts from Meteored suggest that the coming October will be warmer than usual, with temperatures up to 1 ° C above the average.

Expect some rain too as October is normally one of the rainiest in Spain except for a few regions of the country including the Canary Islands, the Balearics, the southern most points of Andalusia and the Upper Ebro.

Forecasts suggest that the rainfall will be primarily focused in the second half of the month, but the southeast and Balearic Islands will experience average rainfall throughout.

What’s on in Spain in October?

The turn in the weather doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on in Spain in October. Zaragoza celebrates one of its main fiestas, the Fiestas del Pilar.

Beteen the 4th and 12th of October, the fiestas of San Froilán de Lugo, one of the most popular celebrations in Galicia also takes place.

October is also a great time for foodies in Spain. Galicia hosts its Fiesta del Marisco (seafood festival) and at the end of the month is Castilla-La-Mancha’s Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán.

Elsewhere in Spain, October is an artsy month. In Alcalá de Henares, they celebrate Semana Cervantina – a weeklong celebration of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and there’s a nighttime performance of Don Juan in Alcalá.

Fuel prices still high but falling

For drivers, you’ll be pleased to know that petrol prices are steadily falling but still nowhere near the level before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The price of petrol has dropped by 20 percent to €1.70 per litre from the €2.15 price it reached in June (before the government discount) but still 12 percent more expensive than before the war began. Diesel prices have fallen by 15 percent to €1.81 on September 24th, before the government’s 20 percent discount is applied.

READ MORE: REMINDER: How drivers in Spain can get 20 euro cents off every litre of fuel