Your new local habits in Spain

Hello everyone,

Living in Spain is a great way to immerse in a new culture and lifestyle.

Have you embraced local customs since you've lived in Spain? If so, which one(s)?

Did local customs change the way you see things, appreciate life or organize your daily routines? As far as the language is concerned, did you learn new expressions or words and do you use them?

What do you like most about the lifestyle in your host country? Are there any local specificities you are still struggling with?

Thanks in advance,


There are two major cultural differences to embrace.  The first the siesta and the second is eating later.  However, as soon as July and August bring the blistering heat, these begin to make sense.  Mid afternoon the heat and humidity can make life difficult but most of the shops will be shut so why not do what natives do; take a light lunch and get some shut-eye for a couple of hours.  You will feel all the better for it and ready for to tackle the shops in the early evening.

The extreme heat can also take the edge of your appetite and and eating outside when it starts to get cooler is a delight.  Whether you can go completely native and eat at 10.00 at night is perhaps taking it a step too far but 8.30 is a pretty good time.

There's one cultural habit that you shouldn't embrace and that is letting your dog foul the pavements and making no attempt to clear it up.  Dog ownership is something that Spain has taken to a little later than the rest of Europe and they have yet to accept that if you have a dog, you have a duty to ensure you clean up after it. 

The Spanish are incredibly social and no other race enjoys life quite as much as they do, so join in and relax.  If things don't happen quite as quickly as you would like or you get frustrated by all the form filling, don't let it wind you up.  Take a deep breath and enjoy this wonderful country and its delightful people (and if you have a dog, set a good example - they will catch on eventually).

I've taken to siestas like a duck to water! At first it used to drive me bonkers that the shops closed in the afternoon but now I relish the afternoon break. Knowing that I need to get things done in the morning, forces me to be better organised which isn't a bad thing ;)

I don't know if it's just our village, or whether this applies to all of Spain, but I find the Spanish extraordinarily generous people. Not only are they exceptionally welcoming and broad minded, they also are extremely kind and generous. Throughout the year we are given bags of nuts, box upon box of fruit, tons of tomatoes and peppers, garlic and sausages to name but a few. By way of a Thank You and to show my appreciation for their wonderful bounty, I return the compliment with cakes and jam. We also run a free art class for the children on Saturday mornings which has proved to be very popular and has really helped us to integrate in to village life and become an active part of the community.

Más o menos is a phrase that I've picked up. Its used a lot round here and seems to cover a multitude of sins especially when it comes to getting quotes from builders, or getting a precise time for a delivery!

The only Spanish habit I can't get to grips with is the eating late. Lunch is fine, we eat at the Spanish time of 2.30-3pm but by 8pm I'm clawing the walls for supper and since I'm not really a night owl, I'm generally tucked up in bed by 11pm, just when the Spanish are coming out to play!

I have done my best to immerse myself and embrace the local culture. I very much enjoy the Spanish way of living as it pertains to quality of life.

As for the language, I've learned so many wonderful expressions and fun ways to communicate my feelings in an interesting way. I live in Navarra and I have accustomed myself to using the diminutive suffix -ico/ica. I also am partial to the word "venga", as it makes me feel me Spanish to lead with this word whenever I am exclaiming something.

As someone who constantly needs to update his visa, I have to say working with government employees at the foreigner's office does not get any easier. Es lo que hay :-)

Iam.staying in spain since 10 years ago and my opinion where you are always learn a new things and got new experience ... all of that make me ao excited alwyas traveling .. regards for everybody who is read my mesaage

It's very difficult for non Spaniards to get a handle on Spanish culture because, almost by definition, everyday culture is something that just flows into you every day. Obviously the five times a day eating or the split day (not to be confused with the siesta per se which most Spaniards don't have time for) are pretty obvious but most of it is something that is difficult learn. For instance you're unlikely to know famous personalities or songs from the past which can be a bit limiting conversation wise and even keeping up with the news is often difficult for people who have limited Spanish. Obviously being able to speak Spanish is a key to unlocking many of the secrets but, then again, it will take a lot of work for you to be able to speak knowledgeably about Spanish language films or books. On a simpler level there are plenty of things that you can find out in English if you think of yourself as being a child and needing to pick up all of those things that children are introduced to as they grow - the geography of the country, a bit of its history - stuff like that

I've been blogging about these things for ages and as my blog is registered on this site I'm sure it's OK to mention it - there are hundreds of little things from ideas about inheritance through to road rules that are completely alien to me as a Brit. For instance Spaniards generally prefer to get their information by talking to people so written information tends to be sketchy and Spanish people like to eat food they understand so international cuisine is a bit tricky to find even in largish cities. Spanish culture tends to be pretty monolithic - you won't find much celebration of Diwali or Eid but expect the Catholic Church to bless the new police car bought by your local force. I live in inland Alicante in a village with a large British population yet the number of winners of the design a fiesta poster or the local playback session without a double barrelled Spanish surname are few and far between. Knowledge of non Spanish culture tends to be limited amongst most Spaniards.

As people have said Spaniards are pretty generous and very friendly in a superficial sort of way (I don't mean that in any bad way. They will quickly take you under their wing but it takes a lot of work to form a deeper relationship) and it is pretty easy to join in with the things that are going on. Joining things, car clubs, choirs, gyms, pilates groups, dance groups, book clubs etc is a good way to get into things that are going on.

I should, of course, add that second and third generation Brits have far fewer problems. They've grown up with Spanish telly, Spanish youtube and Spanish popular culture so their problem is knowing anything about Dickens, Glorious Goodwood, Morecambe and Wise or Duran Duran rather than Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and Risitas.

I can only say this, that the Health System is very good = not sure about the comparison to the UK as its nearly 7 years since we left.

Anyone coming here to live I would definitely say, downsize in the UK and then buy a property in spain.  You must be 100% sure that you are not EVER going back to the UK.  Unfortunately we did a stupid thing.   We were determined to buy a character property which we did. trying to sell no-one wants a character property, they want a modern homes in a block of flats! 

Dont have a mortgage to buy a bigger property.   

I think also rent before you buy. get to know the area where you want to live too.

Having said this the locals here in the village all know us and when we had our car stolen (just to tell you that VW & Skoda cars are easy to break into - get a car lock  !!!) and are very kind. One particular family comes and invites us into his home for dinner or when one of his relations are there.  Unfortunately the last time, it was an Agentinian man and not very nice to me in particular (i was the nearest person talking to him) and you can guess what his subject was.

We try to mix in and we love Moros y Christianos, Bull Running and Bull Leaping and can tell you which weekend and which town is having a display, but unfortunately all the notices coming out of our the Town Hall are all in Valenciano but we soon pick it up.

I did not see at first the difference between Valencians and the people of Alicante :  prefer the latter. Sorry!!!

I am sure there will be someone with questions or someone with different points of view.....

Spanish market days have been a revelation to me and I often go just to take in the whole atmosphere.

I actually just wrote a blog entry on why I love the markets so much:

Hey Barnie,

I agree with all your comments - bar the mention of bull running etc.
Spaniards treat animals generally quite badly (especially here in Andalusia), although things are slowly improving... I won't be attending such events any time soon.

I had no idea that VW and Skodas were easy targets for criminals, maybe I'll be getting extra security as a result - thanks!

Hasta luego.

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