Social Etiquette

How Spanish People Are

Social Etiquette

Spanish people are generally very friendly and welcoming. However, as in every culture, there are some aspects that would be useful to know before moving to the country, for easier and quicker integration.

Firstly, tipping is normal, although not as common as in other countries. On the other hand, it isn't viewed as impolite to tip a modest quantity, for example, 20 cents. 

Punctuality isn't profoundly significant in Spain. Individuals can show up thirty minutes late to a social gathering without any inquiries raised. In the event that somebody turns up late and apologizes, individuals are probably going to react with something like "no pasa nada" – meaning "It isn’t so important". Nevertheless, it’s always nice to arrive on time and don’t make other people wait for you, especially at the beginning if you don't know them that well. 

All meals in Spain begin later than what English-speaking westerners are used to. Lunch (comida) is often eaten somewhere between 2 pm and 4 pm. Foreigners often think that Spanish people have two breakfasts. In fact, it’s just a snack (almuerzo) before lunch. Depending on the person’s schedule and preferences, it can be more opulent than the actual breakfast. Similarly, between lunch and dinner, people usually have another snack (merienda), which traditionally consists of a sandwich (bocadillo) or a sweet pastry. Later on, dinner (cena) is seldom eaten before 9 pm. It can start at 10 pm on weekends or even later. 

In Spain, people toast by saying "¡Salud!" (Health!). It is inconsiderate to throw away food, so attempt to eat everything on your plate. If in doubt, better decline a large portion or second serving. After the meal, people usually sit around the table talking for a while, which is referred to as sobremesa

The way Spanish people request something is commonly quite direct. For instance, when asking for a coffee, you would say, “Would you give me a coffee?” (¿Me pones un café?) or “Give me a coffee” (Ponme un café). This contrasts with the English-speaking West where it is considered rude to address someone like that.

Spaniards are very gesticulative, expressive and comfortable with physical touch. Open displays of affection between couples are normal. In conversations, people may tap your elbow, arm or leg to emphasise their points. It’s normal for people to put an arm around your shoulder or hold both of your shoulders to show appreciation. All these gestures and physical interaction are meant to symbolise approachability and friendship. Make sure to avoid pointing a finger at someone as it’s considered to be impolite. 

Further reading

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