Moving to a different country is never easy, especially when there are some more prominent culture differences between your home country and your desired country. So if you are planning on moving to Spain any time soon, be sure to check out some tips and advice on how to fit in better, learn some of their customs and learn how to adjust your day-to-day life as much as you can to theirs:
1. Latin American Spanish taught in American schools is much different than the colloquial language
Be prepared to experience another version of the spoken language, and hear expressions such as “tio”, which has nothing to do with the word “uncle”. Also, you will hear a lot of expressions with “la leche“, that have nothing to do with milk, but are a part of their slang which is almost never literal. So be prepared to hear the word milk or “la leche” being used as and both an adjective, verb, noun, etc. It’s not that drastic but some expressions in their colloquial language will take some time for you to get used to. Maybe it would be easiest to compare it with the difference between British English and American English. There are some words that are pronounced differently, some that will be new, but do not fret, because you will soon get used to them and even start to like and use them.
2. Feeding time
Whatever your meal time routine is, you can forget about it. In Spain, lunch is at 3pm and dinner at 9pm, so be prepared to adjust to their way of doing things. Of course throw in some midday snacks and you will become more like a Spaniard day by day.
3. Do not plan on running errands during a siesta
Whether or not you want to engage in one, the siesta is very important for people in Spain. So during the siesta hours (from one to four in the afternoon), a lot of businesses will be closed. People choose to go home and have lunch or grab a cup of coffee or take a nap.
4. Maria Teresa García Ramírez de Arroyo
Yes, that is an actual Spanish name. Spanish people have a lot of names. Usually it’s three, since they all inherit two surnames: the first one of their father plus the first one of their mother. However, it is not uncommon for them to have two names as well, or in cases such as Maria Teresa García Ramírez de Arroyo, to add their spouses’ names to their own (de Arroyo, which would mean of Arroyo). So be careful and give nicknames, because it will take you some tome to get used to this.
5. If you are expecting your paycheck to be on time- don’t.
People in Spain are pretty relaxed and they like taking their time doing everything, from eating to walking or sometimes even paying you the money you have earned. It does not always happen, but it is not unusual that your paycheck is a couple of weeks late, remind your employer of his duties and keep doing a good job (if you are lucky, you won’t encounter such an employer).
6. Jackets on a sunny day are not that uncommon
Spaniards have a special way of doing things; we have learned that so far. But you may find yourself asking: “Why do they wear jackets on a sunny autumn day?” Well, you have just answered your own question. People in Spain do not dress by weather, but by season instead. So even if it is pretty sunny outside for a typical autumn day, and all the tourists are wearing light, summer clothes, the Spaniards will still dress for the season they’re in.
7. “Let me get this clear, you want coffee BEFORE your meal?”
If your waiter is confused, now you know why. If you are planning on moving to one of the bigger cities, then you may avoid getting strange looks, because the waiters will probably be used to the tourists ordering coffee before their jamón bocadillo (a sandwich made with Spanish bread), but that is not how the Spaniards do it. Coffee comes after.
8. “Hey, excuse me… waiter!”
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are sitting in a bar, trying to get something to drink, but it is too crowded or the waiter is too busy or not even looking your way, what do you do? Just respectfully raising your finger and uttering ‘perdone’ or ‘disculpe’ (excuse me) will probably not be enough. But do not worry, because this is how you get their attention:
Don’t be shy, make sure that your throat is clear and just yell, “¡Oiga!” , which means “Listen”. However impolite it may seem to you, Spanish people are very passionate and direct, and that will not be taken as an insult. Just don’t forget to smile, and sound as polite as possible.