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‘Nobody listens here!’ Ten common complaints foreigners make to their Spanish partners

Cross-cultural relationships are as interesting as they are complex. Here are some of the ten most common moans foreigners have when talking to their Spanish partners.

'Nobody listens here!' Ten common complaints foreigners make to their Spanish partners
"You Spaniards smoke too much", is one of the grumbles many foreigners make to their Spanish partners. Photo: Zach Rowlandson/Unsplash

Spaniards are a passionate bunch. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, speak their minds when necessary and live life to the fullest.

But when it comes to life in Spain, their foreign partners may soon pick up on cultural differences and Spanish habits they don’t really understand.

From their penchant for swearing to how fatty the food is, The Local lists some of the most common complaints foreigners have about Spanish partners and Spain as a whole.

Let the grumbling begin! 

“You Spaniards are always swearing.” One of the things foreigners notice about Spain is the swearing. Everyone from grandmothers to toddlers seems to be at it. Don’t take offence though – swearing is just not as big a deal in Spain as elsewhere. 

“Everything takes so long here.” Whether it’s organising a new SIM card for a phone, opening a bank account or just buying a light bulb, everything in Spain seem to take longer than almost anywhere else in the known universe, foreigners will often claim.

“Do we really have to spend Sunday with your family again?” Many foreigners in Spain have left their home country to get away from their family, but in Spain blood ties are generally strong and family get-togethers are common. Getting stuck with a whole load of aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws – no matter how nice they are – isn’t necessarily what foreigners had in mind for their Spanish adventure.

“The food here is so fatty/greasy/salty.” Many people arrive in Spain envisaging olives, salads and mounds of fruit. Instead they get lots of fried meat and, well, fried meat. “Yes, Spanish food can be amazing, but the occasional vegetable wouldn’t kill anyone, would it?” some foreign partners often grumble.

“Nobody listens in this country!” Spaniards may have fine-tuned the art of all talking over the top of each other, but for foreigners used to a more give-and-take approach to conversation, the free-form Spanish version can be mind-bending.

“Your compatriots are such drama queens.” A lot of Spaniards like a bit of excitement in their lives, and don’t mind hanging out their emotional laundry. This is tough for more reserved foreigners where feelings are stuffed deep down into their souls. 

“Is anyone ever on time in this country?” While some Spaniards take great pains to never arrive late, others have a more fluid relation to time. Many ‘guiris’ find this less than endearing – at least until they give in and start being late themselves. 

“Why can’t I just go out and blow off some steam?” Sometimes northern Europeans just need to go out and drink too much and make fools of themselves. Unfortunately, this sort of unhinged behaviour isn’t as common among Spaniards, which may mean they take this personally and imagine their foreign partner is up to all sorts of mischief. 

“Can’t we do something different for a change?” Spaniards are master (slow) drinkers, eaters and talkers, and really know how to make a drawn out lunch enjoyable. But sometimes it seems that socialising is all they do. This can be tough if you really feel like trying out something new.

“People here smoke too much.” Spain’s bars and restaurants may not be the smoke-filled dens they used to be but around a quarter of Spaniards smoke every day. That figure is around one in ten in the UK and the US, for example. So it’s no surprise that for many foreigners based in Spain, Spaniards smoke like chimneys. 

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¡Salud! The different ways to say cheers in Spanish

You may be familiar with the basic way Spaniards say ‘cheers’, but there are other Spanish expressions and habits associated with clinking glasses and making a toast that you’ll be happy to learn.

¡Salud! The different ways to say cheers in Spanish

Life in Spain comes with plenty of get-togethers and celebrations, and although alcoholic excesses are not generally part of the Spanish culture, booze will be a part of almost all social occurrences.

If you’re a foreigner who’s made Spain their new home, it’s therefore important to familiarise yourself with the language and idiosyncrasies that are part of such occasions.

Let’s start with the word for a toast, in the sense of honouring someone or something with a drink.

The noun for this is un brindis, which apparently originally comes from the German ‘bring dirs’, meaning ‘bring thee’ (as in, I’ll ‘bring thee’ a drink, a speech, etc.). There’s also the verb brindar, which means to toast.

So if you want to give a toast in Spanish, you should start off by saying me gustaría proponer un brindis por… or me gustaría brindar por… (I’d like to make a toast for) and once you’ve finished your speech you should raise your glass and for example say ¡Por los novios! (for the newlyweds) or ¡Por Juan! (for Juan!).

When it comes to clinking the glasses, Spaniards will often use the interjection chinchín, an onomatopoeia which pays heed to the sound, but it’s really the same as saying cheers.

The most common word used in Spanish to say cheers is ¡Salud!, which means ‘health’, in the same way as the French say santé and the Germans gesondheid. Spaniards may also direct their toast specifically at the person they’re drinking with by saying ¡A tu salud! (To your health!). 

You may be happy to learn that Spaniards don’t take the custom of looking into the other person’s eyes while clinking glasses or drinking quite so seriously as in other European countries, where the failure to do so carries the penalty of seven years of bad sex (ouch!).

A quick glance at the person you’re cheering with will go down well, however, as direct eye contact is the standard in social situations in Spain.

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

What is considered to bring bad luck in the bedroom is toasting with a non-alcoholic drink in Spain, so consider yourself warned.

Catalans have an interesting version of the Spanish cheers – ¡salut i força al canut! – which translates to ‘Cheers and strength to the purse’ in order to wish health and wealth, although some people wrongly assume it’s meant to wish people good virility.

While we’re on the subject, there is a very common cheering expression used in Spanish to do with rumpy pumpy.

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’.

Does it make it any sense? Nope, but it does get a few laughs, and before long you’ll find yourself quickly tapping the base of your drink against the table through force of habit.

Another interesting habit that foreigners in Spain tend to find amusing is when a group of friends in a circle move their glasses in four different directions whilst saying ¡Arriba, abajo, al centro y para dentro!, which means ‘up, down, to the centre and inside’, the latter being when you drink.

So there you have it, ¡Salud a todos! (Cheers to everyone!)