Customs: Spain Through the Eyes of a Guiri (Foreigner)…

After spending almost 4 months in Spain, I’ve made many observations about the people and way of life here…Granted, I don’t call myself an expert on all things español, but I’d like to consider myself at least somewhat knowledgeable regarding the culture–I mean, I’ve been here for a semester!!…Hence, for everyone who has never been but wants to go to España, I’ll expound upon some of the major social mores/behaviors…

Interpersonal Relations:

  • Don’t smile at everyone–In Spain (and, well, the rest of Europe) you’re walking in the street, you don’t smile at people you don’t know…You can only smile at friends/family, someone you find fetching, and babies (and let’s get real–who can resist smiling at a cute baby)–unless, of course,  you want to mark yourself as the overly-smiley American idiot…Smiling generally indicates that you have, *em*, a certain interest in someone, therefore, it can be taken the wrong way…Granted, I have had people in stores, restaurants, and the post office smile at me occasionally, but for the most part, people keep a solid poker face…It basically boils down to this:

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  • I mean, I knew about this before coming here, but still–I’m from the South, we’re people greet you with a “How ya’ll doin’?” and friendliness to strangers is just…what we do there…I don’t know, I just feel that the people here don’t really know how much a nice, friendly smile can mean to somebody who might be going through a really sucky day…
  • There is no “politically correct”–In general, Europeans don’t really censor what they say about anything (ethnicity, politics, gender, you name it)–and Spaniards are no exception…For instance, one time I was talking to my host mother about food, and she said she gives me more food because I’m más grande than her, and so I need the nourishment…I wasn’t offended, because it’s true (I’m, like, 5’9″ and she’s quite shorter than me), and I knew that Spaniards tend to air their thoughts without any hesitation–But still, you know that if a Spaniard said that to the average woman americana who isn’t aware of the frankness people have here, they would get their tail whipped…I don’t know–I personally think that people from the U.S. as a whole are too sensitive…
  • People don’t say “Thank you” or “Your Welcome” as often–But, hey, people from the U.S. are often viewed as too polite, anyway…
  • Greetings with 2 kisses–When a guy and a girl (or a 2 girls) meet each other–whether they be family, a coworker, a friend, or a new acquaintance– they give each other dos besos–which really aren’t even kisses–you normally just touch each other’s cheek while making kissy noises…Note that you always start with the left cheek…

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Eating:

  • The whole eating schtick is completely different–For breakfast, people normally only eat some cookies (or a pastry) and fruit, with juice and/or coffee (sometimes cereal and milk, but not that often [oh, how I miss non-McDonald’s pancakes])…Lunch is around 2-4 p.m., and it’s the largest meal of the day–there’s normally 1 or 2 savory dishes and postre (dessert) afterwards…Dinner’s eaten at around 8-11, and it’s not quite as big as lunch, but it’s more substantial than breakfast…It took me a few days to adjust to this schedule–I used to be starving before lunch rolled around!!
  • There’s no such thing as an attentive waiter–In restaurants, if you want something, you have to take the initiative and ask for it…Unlike in the U.S., the servers don’t periodically pass by your table and ask, “Hey, Sweetie, do you need anything–a refill, dessert, anything”–you have to capture their attention in order to get what to want–same thing goes for the bill…
  • The bread is NOT free–Yeah, you heard right–people charge up to 2 E for a basket of bread–even if you don’t eat any of it!!…Also, there’s no such thing as free refills…

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…(My exact initial reaction)…

  • Don’t ask for the menú, get the carta–Unless you want limited food options…Let me explain: The menú is a selection of a limited # of items you can choose from for your 1rst and 2nd course, your drink (usually either water or wine), and a dessert–all for somewhere around 8-15 E, which really isn’t a bad deal…

Miscellaneous Observations:

  • The drivers are overly rash idiots–Like, literally, I remember my first day here, some fool nearly ran me over while I was walking the crosswalk–and then had the nerve to blow at me when I clearly had the right-of-way…So sorry, Sr. Prick, but I’m thinking when the hombrecito verde (little green man) pops up, that means I have every right to cross the street–I don’t know, I think it might be an international symbol, or something…
  • Never go through the house barefoot–Otherwise, you’ll get a catarro (head cold)…Gee, if that’s how you really get sick, then I should probably just throw the Germ Theory and almost 200 years of microbial research out the window (I tease, I tease)!!…
  • The children here are so blasted cute–I honestly have to resist the urge to just take one–a little chubby one–and raise it as my own (hey, I speak their language [if they’re young enough, I might be able to pull it off])…
  • Wizened old men are in abundance–You see them everywhere, sitting in park benches and walking in the street, almost always with a newspaper boy hat and/or cane–but if they don’t have a cane, they always stroll with their hands clasped behind their back…I often wonder what they muse about…

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  • You meet 50 million guys named Javier, Juan, or José–Granted, I don’t know how that’s numerically possible in a country of 47 million, but I mean, you always hear the same names…Granted, it’s like that in the U.S., too (think about it–how many Jasons, Michaels, and Daniels do you know??), so I can’t really say anything…
  • Apparently people can’t do subtitles–Every live-action show/movie here is dubbed–and as a person who prefers to hear things in their original language (even if it isn’t my native tongue), this majorly irritates me…It’s like, illiteracy is not a problem in this country anymore–stop being lazy and read subtitles…I mean, Jeremy Irons’s voice cannot possibly be dubbed properly in any language…

Well, that’s all the big things I can remember now–Am I missing something???…

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7 thoughts on “Customs: Spain Through the Eyes of a Guiri (Foreigner)…

  1. darwinontherocks says:

    So many things I didn’t know about Spain ! But I’ve realized that in Europe, people don’t smile very often, compared to the US. When we were there, we’ve met people so easily, everyone was so friendly. When we were hiking, everyone we met said hello and smiled, it was so nice 🙂

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