Instituto Hispánico de Murcia | Spanish courses in Spain suggests the following 9 tips to blend in with the people of Spain and experience their culture and lifestyle on a deeper level.
Although taken from a US website, it will help everyone not to be an alien!
1. Dress accordingly
One of the best ways to really fit in when in a Spain or any foreign country is to look like a local. How you dress can either give you away as a tourist or make you look like a citizen of Spain. People in Spain are very conservative, but also fashionable in how they dress. No matter what the season, locals do not wear shorts. As a tourist, you probably think that shorts are an essential part traveling, but you will be categorized as a tourist in a heartbeat if you’re caught wearing shorts in Spain.
Instead, wear jeans or casual pants. Stay away from sweatpants, hoodies, and tennis shoes especially white ones. Again, Spaniards are conservative, so stay away from anything that shows too much skin. If you have a sense of what is fashionably casual and also conservative, then you will be able to fit in with the locals of Spain.
2. Take part in Siesta
Many people know about the Spanish Siesta, literally nap in English, but don’t take it too literal. Around 2 to 5 pm most businesses close down, aside from restaurants and cafes, to relax, talk, and eat with friends and family. Many tourists find it very hard to get used to this since many people, especially Americans, are known for working from 9 to 5 pm.
Don’t plan on shopping or running errands after lunch since most business owners will be found with friends and family at cafes drinking a nice cup of café con leche (coffee with milk). So plan on relaxing like the locals during this time while in Spain.
3. Talk about your Personal Finances
Okay, so maybe let this be the first thing out of your mouth, but don’t be surprised if Spaniards asks you how much you make at your job during your first conversation with them. In Spain, locals are very open about personal finances, and do not find it rude to ask you about what you pay for rent, or what kind of money you make even if they’ve just met you. When trying to make conversation, don’t be afraid to ask them, either. They won’t be taken aback since it is always a part of everyday conversation.
4. Be aware that there are ‘Meal Rules’
Spaniards regard everything about food as a huge part of the culture of Spain. It is a very important concept, that many tourists do not understand. To start, meal times are set at specific times of the day, and no one deviates from that schedule. Breakfast is early in the morning between 7 and 9 am, but locals don’t eat lunch until around 2 pm and is also the largest meal of the day. A light snack is eaten between 10 and 11 am to hold everyone over.
Don’t plan on eating dinner before 9 pm, either. Spain also has another meal of the day known as merienda which is a lighter meal between lunch and dinner. What Spaniards eat is also slightly different from typical American foods, especially for breakfast. No one ever eats eggs or meat, and oatmeal is also rare. Bread, tomatoe, olive oil and fruit are the main foods for breakfast, so don’t be looking to eat an omelet at 7 am while in Spain.
5. Respect and Gain Respect
This tip is very general and applies to any country you may be visiting. Respect is very big in Spain, so it’s important to known to give it and gain it. Many of the other tips on this list will help you do both such as dressing like the locals and taking part in other cultural aspects of the country. Another thing that I think is very important when in Spain, is to learn the country’s language. Having at least a basic understanding of common words will play a big part in giving and gaining respect in any country.
Learn how to say thank you, please, and some other common words such as food names. It’s also a great way to make you feel like you are a part of the country.
6. Use the Metro
Americans use cars to travel anywhere and everywhere. Well, transportation is very different in Spain. The general public use the metro & buses to get around, and are also known to bike when traveling shorter distances. If you really want to become a local of Spain, don’t be afraid to use public transportation systems like the metro and buses.
7. Staring is Normal and not Rude
This is also a very different aspect of Spain that is hard to get used to since American tend to leave others alone. In Spain, people will stare at you. It’s as simple as that. If you’ve taken the steps on this list to fit in, then they are not staring at you because there’s something in your teeth or think your shirt is weird.
It is simply a cultural thing, so try to get used to it. If you want, you can even stare back! It may seem rude in America, but Spaniards tend to be much more open to others which explains the staring and the conversation of personal finances as well as the following tip.
8. Kisses, not Handshakes
Many people have heard that greetings in other cultures are also quite different from America. This is also true in Spain. In America, people will only say hello or shake hands when meeting someone new. When greeting friends and family, a simple hug will do, but it Spain, no matter how well you know someone, a hug a kiss on each cheek is the normal greeting throughout the country unless it is a man to man greeting in which a handshake will suffice.
Try to remember this when meeting someone and be prepare greet others the way the Spaniards do it.
9. Fiesta at 10 PM
Since dinner is eaten so late in the day, when people want to go out and have a good time, it is rarely before 10 pm. In America, since dinner takes place around 5 or 6 pm, the parties will start right after that, but in Spain it’s likely that party goers will stay out until the early morning every time until around 3 am. Adjusting to this is also difficult for tourist, but with a little willpower, you’ll be heading back home late just like the locals.
Which of these tips is the most interesting to you? Do you have any other tips for how to immerse yourself in the culture of Spain?