Millions of people visit Spain every year on holiday, but there are a few faux pas’ everyone seems to make. Take a look at our top tips on what not to do in Spain to save yourself the unnecessary embarrassment and a few intimidating stares.
What not to do when visiting Spain
1. Say ‘Adios’
You will inevitably feel the overwhelming desire to blurt out adios amigos! when leaving a room, but don’t. No one does unless they’re staring in a Western. In fact, no one really says adios either. They’re more likely to say hasta luego, which means ‘see you later’.
2. Assume everyone speaks English
English-speakers are spoilt when it comes to travelling, but a few words in the local lingo can get you far. Plus, while English is widely spoken in shops and restaurants, don’t assume everyone speaks English. Speaking louder won’t help either.
3. Drive in Spain’s historical cities
If you’re travelling around the country, picking up a car rental is a good idea – particularly if you’re travelling inland or between coastal towns that aren’t on the train network. But if you’d like to visit places like Granada or even the historic heart of Seville, leave the car elsewhere. The roads are narrow, the one-systems are confusing and you’ll often come face-to-face traffic-free zone, with nowhere to go. Queue many headaches and a few tears.
4. Call Catalan a dialect
Yes, it might sound similar to Spanish, but it isn’t a dialect. When in Catalonia, shouting hablar español? isn’t the best way to make friends. In fact, listen carefully and you might be surprised to find that it actually sounds a lot more similar to French. For example, in Spanish ‘morning’ is mañana, in French it’s matin and in Catalan it’s matí. The language can be broken down into six dialects too, divided between eastern and western Catalan.
Around nine million people around the world speak Catalan, with more than four million speaking it as a native language. It’s mostly spoken in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, as well as areas in France (Pyrénées-Orientales). In Barcelona, you’ll notice that signposts are written in Spanish and Catalan too.
5. Expect to eat before 8:30pm
At 10.30 pm in northern European countries, most chefs will be hanging up their aprons and getting ready to finish off for the night, but in Spain, it’s all getting started. Most people eat after 9 pm, and it’s common to see people rock up at a restaurant after 10 pm for dinner. So if you’re feeling peckish at 6 pm, get snacking. The only restaurants that will be open will cater exclusively for tourists.
Most people think that it has something to do with the hot afternoons or a more laidback lifestyle, but according to the BBC article, Spaniards have been living in the wrong time zone for more than 70 years. In 1940, General Franco changed Spain’s time zone, moving the clocks one hour forward in line with Nazi Germany. So, lunch and dinner shifted back an hour. After World War II, the clocks never changed back.
6. Wear beachwear anywhere other than the beach
Spain boasts a lot of beach – an impressive 4,964 km (3,084 miles) – so it’s inevitable that you’ll be spending some time at the beach. But just because you’re spending part of your day prancing around in a bikini in public by the sea, doesn’t mean you can get away with it elsewhere. Try wearing swimming shorts in town or your swimming cozzie, and you’ll likely be told to cover up. Keep it smart people.
7. Expect a big breakfast
If you think you can make up your hotel fee by eating your way around the breakfast buffet, think again. In Spain, desayuno (breakfast) is very light. It usually consists of a steaming cup of cafe con lece (coffee with milk), with a pastry or a piece of toasted bread with tomato and olive oil. Lunch is the main meal of the day, eaten between 2 pm and 4 pm. It will usually feature several courses, including a salad and soup following by meat or fish. Dinner is later and lighter, usually a salad or selection of tapas.