If youre looking to buy a Spanish property and move abroad, it goes without saying that youll want to enjoy living in Spain to the max. This might include strolling from your beach side apartment to take a dip in the ocean, watching the sunset from your terrace with a glass of sangria in hand, or hopping into your car to go and explore the Iberian peninsula, such as Altea, Alicantes beautiful old town (“casco antiguo”), or Ontinyent, Valencias amazing natural pools (“pou clar” in Valencian, or “pozo claro” in Spanish.)
That said though, its useful to remember that moving to Spain involves a bit of a transition period too. To get the most out of life in Spain, as well as to perform everyday tasks like going shopping, ordering in restaurants, paying taxes or talking to your neighbours, youll need to be comfortable with understanding a little Spanish. In addition, you might find it helpful to learn about whats considered socially normal and polite, and what to say and do in some typical situations to help you settle.
Weve covered a few key elements of etiquette and manners to consider when youre living in Spain.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about social etiquette in Spain is that Spaniards are an incredibly friendly, sociable people. Spaniards love to chat, and its perfectly normal for someone to bump into a friend, neighbour or acquaintance in the street, and spend the next half an hour talking with them.
Indeed, when youre moving to Spain, and especially a large, metropolitan city such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or Bilbao, youll immediately notice that the streets are filled with life. Whats more, youll quickly spot that, when Spaniards chat, they love to chat loudly.
So, when youre moving to Spain, a great tip for social etiquette is to get stuck in and join the conversation! If you dont yet speak Spanish, look for some free conversation exchange (“intercambio”) meetings online.
Youll meet people from all walks of life, and quickly pick up the basics, such as “Hola, buenos días” (“Hello, good morning”) or “¡Hasta la próxima, amigo!” (“Until the next time, friend!”) In addition, you never know, you might meet a friend for life, wholl most likely quickly invite you round to their place for dinner, or to meet their friendship circle.
Another thing to bear in mind about Spanish manners and social norms is that Spain is a far less formal place than the UK. Spaniards dont pay so much attention to their Ps and Qs, whether thats when theyre speaking to a friend, or ordering drinks in a bar.
For example, its quite normal for someone to enter a bar, and say “Dame una coca-cola” (“Give me a coca-cola”) without saying either “Hola” (“Hello”) or “Por favor” (“Please”). If youre spoken to this way, dont be offended, its just a more relaxed culture.
That said, dont feel like you must give up your English etiquette if it makes you uncomfortable – you might sound a bit funny to most Spaniards, and youll almost certainly stand out as an “extranjero” (“foreigner”), but so long as youre friendly and respectful, they wont mind.
There are other tips about social manners to learn in Spain, when youre at the bank, post office or public administration buildings too. For example, when you visit your local branch of the Royal Mail in the UK, its normal to form an orderly queue, and its immediately clear whos last in the line.
By comparison, when Spaniards are waiting at the post office, theyll likely be spread around the room, and its not obvious who youre behind. To find out, you must shout “¿Quién es el último?” (“Whos the last one”?) and someone will shout “Yo” (“Me”). Thats who youre behind.
In addition, when youre resolving an issue at the bank or public administration in Spain, its good practice to bring every conceivably relevant document you can think of, with photocopies. This might include your passport, NIE (“Número de Identidad de Extranjero” or “Foreigners Identification Number”), plus multiple copies of the documents related to the issue youre resolving.
This is because you never know what youll be asked for, and Spains “funcionarios” (“civil servants”) often like to look at everything. However, this process can be a lottery, and will depend on who you speak to and where.
Lastly, another piece of handy advice about social etiquette in Spain is to show that you want to integrate into Spanish society and learn about the country youve moved to. Spain is a country with an incredibly rich culture and history, well beyond the tourist attractions the beach, bull fights, sangria and flamenco.
For example, theres Galicia in the North-West, which is a Celtic region not dissimilar from Scotland, where Spaniards wear kilts and play the bagpipes. Or theres Andalusia in the South, with its Mudéjar, Arab-influenced architecture in Granada or Seville.
When you move to Spain with an open mind, youll discover a warm, generous people, happy to help you learn the language and integrate, to make living in Spain a tremendous success. Youll find that life in Spain is a lot different from the UK, from the warmer climate, vibrant social life in the street, relaxed attitudes in bars and restaurants, plus bureaucracy at the bank.
However, by embracing these changes and going with the flow, youll quickly pick up the local etiquette and manners, and find that theres more to discover and enjoy than youd ever thought of.
For more useful tips about moving to Spain, download our handy Moving to Spain Guide, by clicking the button below.
Do you intend to open a bank account in Spain? This might be because you’re planning to emigrate to the Iberian peninsula with your family, to start a new life in Marbella or the Costa Blanca. Alternatively, this could be because you want to buy a Spanish holiday home, to enjoy year-round escapes to […]
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