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Why do Spaniards find it ‘shameful’ to eat the last bite?

You may have noticed that your Spanish friends refer to the last bite of food on a shared plate of tapas as 'la de la vergüenza' (the one to be ashamed of). 

Why do Spaniards find it 'shameful' to eat the last bite?
The last piece of a serving of 'pulpo a la gallega' (octopus with paprika and olive oil), one of Galicia's most delicious treats. Photo: Noel Feans/Wikipedia

Eating in Spain is more often than not about sharing, so much so that restaurants all over the world refer to their group finger food platters as being ‘tapas’ even though the food isn’t actually Spanish.

With eating being such a social affair here, you may have picked up on the fact that whenever the plate of food is down to its last piece, friends and families will put down their forks and just let that last bocado (mouthful) sit, sometimes even until the waiter takes it away. 

On other occasions some jostling and jeering will ensue as each person eggs on the other to eat la de la vergüenza, ‘the shameful last piece’. 

Just to be clear, this is all done in a comical tone, and eating the last piece won’t bring great shame on you and your loved ones for being such a ‘greedy’ eater. 

It’s simply customary for nobody to want the last bite, or at least to pretend not to initially. 

READ ALSO: Ten things NEVER to do when dining in Spain

Where does the tradition come from?

According to some sources the tradition started in Spain’s rainy northwestern region of Galicia, where instead of la vergüenza it’s referred to as a vergoña , in Galician. 

The tradition is meant as a courtesy for those who are feeling hungrier.

But in antiquity a Galician host would want his or her guests to eat until they burst.

It was a matter of honour back then, and the discreet way out of it for the guest was to leave a single piece on the plate to show they were completely stuffed and could eat no more (Galicians still have a reputation for eating a lot, by the way).

Nowadays the tradition of leaving the last piece of food on the plate is customary all over Spain. 

It’s a way of showing respect and good manners to the people you are dining with, as well as a good way of feeling like a local. 

And if you forget about it and gobble up the last piece – don’t worry – there will always be another ‘one of shame’ to have a friendly debate over.

READ ALSO: The many ways Spaniards refer to your face if you’re being cheeky

Member comments

  1. How customs differ in different countries.
    I’ve always considered that the greatest compliment you can offer the cook is to eat every crumb, and accept more if it is offered.

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For members


What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get around three months of holiday over the summer, but finding childcare options during this time can be challenging for parents, especially if they have to work. So what is available?

What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get to enjoy a ten to 12-week summer vacation, starting towards the end of June and lasting until around the second week in September. This is one of the longest summer holidays in Europe.

In the UK, kids get around half of this time with around five or six weeks, while in France they get around eight weeks and in Germany around six weeks.

Unless you are a teacher or are self-employed, most salaried workers in Spain, according to the Workers’ Statue, can only take up to two-weeks vacation at a time, meaning that parents are often stuck with what to do with the kids for the rest of the summer.

If you’re in this situation, what are your options for summer childcare and how affordable is it?

Summer school camps

Most regular schools in Spain offer campamentos de verano or summer camps. This means that your kids can carry on going to their normal school, even after the term ends. But instead of doing their lessons, they’ll get to do fun daily activities, crafts and games, as well as a variety of day trips.

If your children’s school doesn’t offer this option, then there’s always the possibility of signing up to a campamento at another nearby school.

Remember, you’ll need to enrol your kids in advance to make sure they’re able to get a spot.

The price for these is around €70 to €100 per week if your child is going all day, and this typically includes lunch. Be aware that these school summer camps are usually not available during the whole of the summer, so you may need to still organise childcare for the month of August or a couple of weeks in August, if you’re taking your vacation then too.

The advantage of these is that your kids will often get to be with their friends and will know the surroundings already, however it may not really feel like much of a holiday or a break from school for them, if they’re in the same environment. 

Specialised or themed summer camps

Another option, rather than going to a summer camp at a school, is a themed summer camp, based on your kids’ hobbies or the activities they love. There are many different summer camps across the country, focused on everything from sports and languages to music or even theatre.

For example, in Barcelona, the city zoo offers a summer camp, as does FC Barcelona, where kids can learn football from the pros all day.

In Valencia, the Bioparc offers a summer camp, as do a couple of the local outdoor swimming pools.

Try searching online for campamento de verano (summer camp) plus the name of the town or city where you will be, there are options across almost all of Spain.

As these are private companies, not sponsored by the state schools, they typically cost considerably more than the school summer camps.

Expect to pay anywhere upwards from €200 per week, and double this for popular summer camps. The general rule is that the better the facilities, staff and transport, the more expensive it will be. 

Temporary nanny or Au-pair

If summer camps or schools are not an option, or you’d prefer for your kids to get more attention or be around the house, hiring a summer nanny or au-pair is also a good choice.

There are many young people who want summer jobs in order to earn a bit of extra money and many career nannies who may be stuck without a job with their regular family in the summer.

This could be a good chance for your kids to learn another language, by hiring a native speaker from a different country. Many Spanish families hire native English speakers to look after their kids in the summer, so you could hire a Spanish nanny if your kids need to brush up on their language skills or even a French or Italian nanny, if you want them to learn new language skills.

According to Au-Pair agency, the salary of an Au Pair in Spain is €70 per week if you live in the countryside, and €80 per week if you live in the city, which means between €280 and €320 euros per month, if they live in and more if they live out.  In cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, expect to pay a nanny around €10 per hour.

Ask family members for help

Many Spaniards will rely on family members such as grandparents to help look after their kids during the summer holidays.

If you don’t have family members in Spain then during the summer, you may be able to entice some family members to come over and help look after your kids or your children might enjoy a holiday back in your home country, if family members are able to take them in.