Differences in Living in Spanish Culture

22 May 2015 0 Comments Category: Barbara de Swaan, blog, Living in Spain

Since I am from the Netherlands, which is not too far from Spain and both being a European Union country, I didn’t expect too many cultural differences when I came to Spain. Boy you better be prepared for some surprises!


Social Life

In more northern cultures, social life takes part most of the time at home and sometimes in a restaurant but that is so expensive that you can’t do that all the time. The Spanish on the other hand hardly ever invite people to their homes and prefer meetings in the street, a bar, a restaurant, on the beach or the mountains.  Getting together is also less planned than I was used to, they are way more spontaneous. No complete agenda’s for the coming months, the only obligation most Spanish friends have is to have lunch with their family on a regular basis.


Family life

I was taught that you don’t choose your family but your friends and partner, which implicates that family is more of a burden.  The relationship with family is more distanced and most children leave home when they start university.

The Spanish on the other hand love their family, with all their weird and unique characteristics. Children very often stay living with their parents until they are around 30 years old and it’s normal to look after your parents or even take them into your home when they are old and need help.  That the grandparents help out as a babysitter for their children is also more than normal.



Why eat three times a day when you can do this five times a day?!  Breakfast is early in the morning before going to work and preferably light, like some fruit or a coffee with milk. Around eleven in the morning they have a second breakfast in a bar, where they eat a “bocadillo” or “flauta” with another coffee. Lunch is the most important meal of the day around two o’clock with three dishes, a “merienda” around five and dinner not before ten o’clock. In the more Southern parts of Spain the “siesta” can’t be missed: a quick nap after lunch to pass the hottest hours of the day, to regain energy and just because it’s so nice.  In the weekends you shouldn’t be surprised to have to wait for lunch until three thirty or even later, so you better have a good brunch in the morning!


Topics of Conversation

In most cultures the topics that are of limit are: politics, soccer, money and religion. Here on the other hand they love talking about those subjects. It’s not of limit because they don’t fear a good discussion or at least heated conversations. As a foreigner it can be awkward to be a witness of these discussions, but you can just relax and listen, they won’t kill each other and remain good friends afterwards.

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