Spain is an awesome country, but like every other country, a few things are considered rude, and you want to avoid them when you travel there.
There are many unwritten social rules that I’ve learned the hard way, so you don’t need to.
What are do’s and don’ts in Spain? Follow this guide and you will certainly have a better experience traveling around this wonderful country.
What is rude for the Spanish?
Tipping with US dollar
It’s very insulting, and no one will appreciate your tip. Read more on tipping etiquette in Spain.
Being too loud in public places
If you see a place where people tend to be quiet, do the same. Although there are many cafes and restaurants here in Spain where people are enormously loud, it’s not always a good idea to be noisy at dining, especially on working days. Watch the restaurant’s atmosphere — if it’s quiet, then be quiet also.
Sending food back in the restaurant
The rule of “customer is always right” is not working in Europe the way you might expect, and if you really want to, you may say, “Hi, the food is delicious, but do you think you could put it under the grill for another 10 minutes?.”
Being fussy about punctuality
In Spain, you should always arrive half an hour later than you’ve been told, and it is accepted as the norm. If you turn up on time for a dinner party at someone’s house, it’ll be seen as you being rather pushy.
Being serious about “tomorrow” word
In Spain, there is that epic tradition of telling tomorrow (“mañana”), a polite form of saying goodbye or something vague about plans, without any certain responsibility.
What do Spaniards mean by saying “Let’s meet tomorrow” or “Let’s do it tomorrow” or whatever they say about tomorrow? It’s just a typical method of ending the conversation without any obligation. It can happen or not, and nobody will be offended. It is not rude to say “tomorrow” without doing what you promised, and it’s rude to expect the other.
Asking about someone’s work and salary straight away
It’s not appropriate to begin the conversation with questions about work and money here in Spain. Just follow the relaxed and natural flow of dialogue and be cool.
Although it might be seen as appreciation in some Asian countries, it never does that in Spain. It’s just rude.
Generalizing on Spain
Don’t generalize about Spain because each region has its particularities, and it’s not traditional to dance flamenco or go to watch bullfights. Also, many Spanish are very sensitive about their regional customs and languages (there are other spoken languages in Spain, e.g., Catalan, Valencian, Basque, etc.)
What are do’s and don’ts in Spain?
These are odd and sometimes rude things that can avoid doing in Spain. Let’s begin with the food and dining etiquette because a lot of life in Spain revolves around it.
Don’t eat early
Don’t go for lunch before 1 p.m. and for dinner before 8 p.m. Even if you arrive at the restaurant at 8 p.m., it could be a bit early. The Spanish eat late, so be aware of that when planning your meals in Spain.
Don’t eat a light lunch
When you’re going to lunch — eat up! As I mentioned before, the Spanish eat late, and they don’t want to go to bed with a full stomach. They usually have lighter food for dinner, like tapas, salads, and seafood dishes. Consequently, lunch is going to be the heaviest meal of the day in Spain, and that’s where you’re going to find things like paella, pasta, and other heavier foods that we normally associate with dinner.
Don’t eat paella for dinner
Spanish people eat dinner pretty late, usually at 8:30 p.m., and paella is considered too heavy to eat that before the night. If you find a place that serves paella for dinner, it’s probably geared towards tourists, and it’s not going to be a good paella.
Don’t eat paella with the fork
You should always eat paella with a spoon, but it is okay if you’re using a fork. It will never be rude to the Spanish, and most of them just don’t care much about travelers not knowing the traditions.
Don’t expect an American-style breakfast
Spaniards don’t eat what many of us consider breakfast food, and it will be a toast with olive oil and crushed tomatoes or a toast with butter and marmalade in the morning. And some coffee. So don’t expect to find a breakfast spot where you can eat up with bacon and eggs, pancakes, etc. If you do find it, you’re lucky then.
Don’t expect fast service in Spanish restaurants
Eating in Spain is an event. First, you have a drink. Then you have some bread, olives, and jamón (the Spanish ham). Then you have some wine. Then you have your main course. Then you have some coffee, desserts, and you continue to chat, etc.
Do ask for a check in the restaurant
Nobody is going to bring you a check in a Spanish restaurant unless you ask for it. You can sit around for many hours, and you’re still not going to receive the check. So, ask for it, and that is absolutely normal here.
Don’t think you have to tip in Spain
The most popular traveler’s question—is it rude not to tip in Spain? No, it’s not rude.
Tipping is not expected in Spain. Did you like your meal at the restaurant? Now you can leave some extra to show how much you appreciated the service. Or you may not. Not a big deal, absolutely!
What should I avoid in Spain?
You should also avoid doing these things, but don’t follow these rules strictly and literally. Each person is a world unto themselves, and there are many exceptions to the rules.
- Avoid saying “thank you” and “please” constantly.
The tone of voice is essential in Spain. You may talk with a portion of respect, and that is how you show your gratitude to the people you’re talking to.
- Don’t go shopping, run any errands between 2 p.m and 5 p.m.
It will not work, you will find that everything is closed except for supermarkets.
- Don’t give two kisses, starting on the wrong side.
If you’re the person who gives two kisses, you need to start from the left side.
- Don’t ignore the meal times.
You can have dinner at 6 p.m., but if you want to make plans with local people or go to a restaurant, it will not work well.
- Don’t just eat and leave right away.
If you have time, the after-dinner conversation may last for many hours.
- Don’t take it seriously or take it to heart when they call you handsome or pretty in the shop (“guapo”/”guapa”). It’s very common in Spain when they say that.
- Don’t pronounce English words as they are really pronounced.
The Spanish always try to Spanishize everything. If you ask for a WiFi password in the cafe, they may not understand you because you have to say “wee-fee” instead of English or American pronunciation.
So now that you know a little bit about what is considered rude in Spain, what do you think? Were there any surprises for you? Let me know in the comments below! And if you’re traveling to Spain, keep this list of do’s and don’ts with you.
Hello, my name is Nadia. I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality).