Updated: February 14, 2023Published: September 14, 2022
Unusual, isn’t it? Don’t worry. We don’t go around giving romantic kisses to everyone.
I am sorry if I disappointed you, but the truth is that we greet each other with two kisses on the cheek. Let’s repeat this. On. The. Cheek.
I understand you might find this unusual, but it is not the only manner or habit we have in Spain. We have plenty of them. But, the 13 I am going to explain here will help you blend easily into Spanish culture.
So, as Bruce Lee once said, empty your cup, keep an open mind and be ready to take notes. Yeah, you should really take notes if you don’t want to mess it up when visiting Spain.
Table of Contents▼▶
1. We are passionate people.
Have you heard this about us before? I bet you have, and it is true. Passion is present in many moments of our daily lives. For example, this quality is super present when it comes to flirting with someone.
But we have other ways to channel our passion for life. Spaniards are usually very enthusiastic and open-minded. It’s very natural for us to come in “too strong” for some people, but we are not trying to be rude. It’s just our way of expressing our joy.
How does our passion reflect in manners or habits? Well…we can be very loud and interrupt each other when talking. If you ever see an intense conversation between two Spaniards, they’re probably just talking about something exciting for them. Even if it looks like it, we are not fighting. Rather we are expressing ourselves with a loud tone.
Also, we tend to interrupt each other when talking. We know that is a big shock for people coming from the States or northern European countries, but please don’t take it personally.
So, whenever you are surrounded by Spaniards, embrace the right moment to share your opinions or comment about the topic of conversation. Or else you will not talk at all!
2. Always, and I mean, Always Dress To Impress.
It’s time for you to leave the gym clothes for the gym. The flip-flops for the beach and the hoodies at home. For Spanish people, personal appearance is super important. It’s your presentation card to other people.
It’s very usual for us to dress elegantly for anything. Even when we go to do some groceries. Okay… don’t be alarmed. It is not that we wear high heels, shirts and formal trousers everywhere. Some do, but the point is that we take good care of our appearance.
For example, for us, a feminine casual outfit would be some jeans or “vaqueros,” a blouse with a blazer and some moccasins. While for young women in the United States, a casual outfit might be sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt.
See the difference?
3. We are always greeting
Spanish people greet each other with a kiss on each cheek or with a strong handshake. It will depend on the person.
Both are very common, and I’ll try to give you some cues on when to use them. A handshake is very common between men and men, and men and women, in any situation but especially in a professional environment. A handshake is a safe form of greeting when you’re new to a group of people.
Greeting with two kisses on each cheek is mostly common between women that do not know each other, young people, and people you already know. For example, if you go to a bar with your Spanish roommate and he introduces you to his friends, it’s very likely they will greet you with a kiss if they are a woman and a handshake if they are men.
In a nutshell, use the handshake for the first time and professional environments. Use the two kisses for a casual outing.
Some common phrases we use to greet people are:
¡Buenas! (another type of hello)
¡Buenos días! (good morning)
¡Buenas tardes! (good afternoon)
¿Cómo estás? Or ¿qué tal? (how are you?)
My favorite word to say hello is “¡Adiós!” which actually means goodbye! We use this greeting when we walk by someone we know and want to greet them without stopping.
4. Know Your Unpunctuality Limit
We recognize this stereotype is completely true. We are generally late to almost everything, but there is a limit.
So when are we usually late?
Spanish people are usually late for casual outings. If we are meeting with friends, we usually have no rush, and we’ll get there 5 or 30 minutes late. I am sorry to say there is no way to change us. And there are real causes of this cultural issue!
And when are we never late?
We will never or almost never be late for work and important meetings. That’s a guarantee, we like keeping our jobs! We are also very respectful with time when it comes to weddings on first dates.
So, yeah! If you’re going to work here, know you should never be late for a job. Also, once in your city of choice, try to identify your colleagues’ timing. In the south, it’s pretty normal to be 30 minutes late, but in the north, it is better if you reduce that to 15 minutes.
5. Surprising as it sounds, swearing is normal
Please read this carefully! I don’t want you to go around swearing in front of everyone. It is indeed pretty normal for us to use certain words to express ourselves. Again we are very passionate people and need the right tools to express what we mean. Swear words might express admirations, surprise, frustations and strong opinions.
When do we use these words?
We use them every day in comfortable environments. If you find yourself at a bar with a group of Spanish, be ready to hear some good swearing. We are not insulting anybody. We are just expressing our feelings.
The most common one is “¡Joder!” (f*ck). This one is absolutely normal. So much so that you might see a grandma swearing at a kid. For example, if the granny is trying to get the kid’s attention for the fourth time, she might say “¡Joder muchacho!” which actually means “Hey boy!”.
When not to swear?
Avoid doing that at work or in very professional environments. We try to contain ourselves and avoid getting fired.
So, yes, swearing is usual in Spain. If you are an expat, I would recommend waiting until you have a closer friendship with your Spanish squad before swearing like one.
6. Yes, people interrupt each other.
This is another manner related to our passion. Spanish people tend to interrupt conversations and don’t take them personally. Again, it might seem like we are fighting, but we are not.
Interrupting mostly happens in familiar and relaxed environments than in a business meeting. But, if you ever get interrupted while statint your point, then you should know it’s instinctive.
Interrupting is very typical to use, and we know it can be a shock for other cultures. For example, in the States and Japan, people usually wait for the other to finish talking before expressing their opinions. Going even further, the Japanese take a moment, like a silent death moment, before intervening.
7. Its okay to drink in the afternoon
Yes, you’ll never, and I mean NEVER, be judged for drinking in the afternoon. Causal, day drinking is very rooted in our culture. Especially during our “merienda” and our after work.
Ever heard we like living in the moment? Very true, we enjoy the present, and that means not having to wait until Friday to have some beers with friends. It is entirely normal to see groups of friends from Monday to Sunday having “cañas” (beer), wine, or tinto de verano at 18:00.
8.Litter on the floor is normal
We are not proud of this habit. We don’t know where littering bars come from. I think it just happened. It became a common thing to throw dirty napkins on the floor and then had someone clean it all up.
I believe this is because we are used to eating our “tapas” at the bar’s counter and not on tables. So, we would go to a bar, eat our tapas, and let our space clean for the other customers.
I am adding this not-so-nice habit here, so you are not completely scared when you come to Spain. You should know it happens in the most traditional, small bars. We have improved a lot, and now others have added a lot of tiny bins.
9. We are very hospitable
I personally think this is what makes us such a popular destination. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I promise you’ll always feel welcome in Spain.
The level of hospitality will vary depending on the province; it’s pretty high everywhere. I would say especially in Andalucia. Even with a broken English, Spaniards from the south will make you feel at home and help you in any way possible.
10. It’s your birthday? You pay.
Yes!!! You read it right and I don’t think you would like to adopt this manner. In Spain the birthday person PAYS for his friends. We know this seems very weird for other people, but it will be helpful when you make plans for your birthday.
So, be careful where you invite people to celebrate you ‘cause it might be the most expensive night of your life! Personally, a caña (beer) at a local bar will do for me!
11. It’s okay to use bread as a knife
In other countries, people are used to having a small, separate plate and a knife for the bread. In Spain… that’s not how it works. We eat bread with almost every meal, and its purpose is to push our food.
There will be bread when you go to a restaurant or eat at a friend’s house. It is usually set in the middle of the table, and once you get your piece, you place it on the table close to your plate.
We usually use our bread to “empujar” or push our food to the fork. That way, there is absolutely nothing left on the plate.
12. Table Manners
Very important to know this. We are not very picky, but there is a little Spanish etiquette to know before you come.
First of all, don’t start eating until everyone is seated or the host has wished everyone a “¡Buen provecho!” (Enjoy!). Then, when passing the dishes, do it to your left. What else? No elbows on the table, it’s better if you avoid chewing noises, and you are supposed to eat everything on your plate.
Just like I told you before, the bread is placed next to your plate, and it’s okay to put it directly on the table. I believe these are the most important table manners for us. Besides that, enjoy the moment! I really like talking to each other while eating (after chewing, of course).
13. Tips are optional
This might come as a surprise to a lot of people. And, yes! Tipping is not mandatory in Spain, and we won’t judge you if you don’t.
Do you know why? Because the service charge is already on the bill. That way, no one is hurt. Waiters get their part for the night work, and you don’t have to feel bad for not having cash.
Okay! These are the 13 most important manners and habits you should know when visiting Spain. Don’t worry if you don’t remember all of them. We are very friendly and understand that they are a bit unusual for a lot of people.
Spain is super rich in culture, traditions and customs. You better save these posts for your visit, and come back to check if your daily experiences are normal. Until next time, ¡hasta luego!
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.