It goes without saying that every country has a unique culture that is influenced by many factors, like its history, location and climate. As an expat, it can be very entertaining, and at times confusing, weaving your way through it as you try to make sense of everything new. You can do your research before moving, but nothing really prepares you fully until you set your foot in the new country- and of course, Spain is no different. These cultural differences have fascinated me so much that I decided to write about them. So, here are some things that I find quite quirky about the Spanish people.
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: These are my own views and I’m in no way mocking the Spanish culture. Anyone who knows me well enough can bear witness that I’m obsessed with anything that is Spanish- I have my Instagram as evidence (follow me: @navigating.without.borders).
OK, here we go:
They modify certain English words and chuck them in their sentences when speaking in Spanish.
Sometimes it’s the meaning that’s modified, something it’s the spelling, but it comes across as rather funny to an English speaker. For eg:
- Footing (which actually means jogging)
- Tuit (tweet)
- Mosto Greip (which is a non-alcoholic grape drink)
- Esmoquin (pronounced as ‘esmokin’- a variation of ‘smoking’, which means a tuxedo..)
- Vater (pronounced as ‘water’, which means a bloody toilet!). I teach English to young 7- year olds here and imagine their faces when I told them in class one day ‘I like to drink water.’ HA!)
There is a certain aversion to following rules at times, like
- Not being too strict about picking up their dogs’ poo
- Trying to cut the queue
- Not waiting for the pedestrian sign before crossing the street
It does make you stick your head up whilst you’re out and about, rather than being glued to your phone to watch your 100th tik-tok video of the day.
Their profound desire to interact with humanity is what drives them from day to day:
- People ask you for directions instead of checking their google maps, although I think it’s because google maps doesn’t work very accurately at times in Spain.
- This one always warms my heart. People always ask you if you need help. The only exception: salespersons in retail and government officials! Those people really don’t want to have a conversation with you, which is a pain since those are exactly the people whose help you always end up requiring!
- You know what’s cooler than leaving text msgs on Whatsapp? Leaving voice messages! They do it as they need to express a lot and the addition of emotions is VERY important to a Spaniard.
- You will be subjected to conversations in a lift. There will come those glorious moments when no one will speak to you as cage yourself with strangers, but it is perfectly normal to greet each other, maybe even make small talk and not be awkward about it.
Every Spanish person has their ‘pueblo’ or village…
…which isn’t necessarily where they are from, but it’s basically where their family originated from. It’s also the place where some of them return to, every summer vacation, as some sort of an obligatory ritual.
Spaniards have interesting naming traditions, such as:
- Nearly everyone having a nickname, and these nicknames are set in stone depending on their formal names. A José will always be known as Pepe to his friends and family, a Francisco is always a Paco, an Ignacio can never be anything BUT a Nacho where as good ol’ Dolores will be called Lola.
- The boys have the same names as their fathers’, who have the same names as their grandfathers’, who have the same name as their great- grand…you get the gist. I don’t know the history behind this lack of creativity, but it is something very common- and if you ask them if they add ‘Junior’/’Senior’ to differentiate, they roll their eyes saying ‘Of course, not! That’d just be lame.’ Ok then.
- People always have two last names. They use their father’s as well as the mother’s last name. Go gender equality!
‘Buenos días’ (good day/ good morning) is said right up until 2-3pm i.e. their lunchtime.
They smoke a lot.
And they might just blow it in your face accidentally and not apologise about it. I’ve always found it difficult to tolerate smoke, but now I’ve learnt to live with it. It just comes with the territory of siestas and fiestas.
And that’s it (for now)! There are plenty of other quirky and interesting things that I’ve noticed, and I’ll write about them soon. Are you a Spaniard or maybe an expat living in Spain? Which of these do you agree and disagree with? Do you have some quirky things from your culture that you would like to share? Let me know!
Cover photo: Viewpoint from Parque de la Alameda, Santiago de Compostela (Galicia).