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things to know about spain

Things to Know About Spain Before Visiting It

Growing up in a Latin based culture, could sound like a cliche – especially for people who live outside Europe. But even though having a quite strong Latin lifestyle background, I had some surprises when I visited Spain. Our lifestyles are very similar, so I didn’t encounter too many culture shocks as people outside Europe would do. But here are some things to know about Spain and its culture before visiting it.

 Related: How to Deal With Cultural Shock

Things to Know About Spain Before Visiting It

things to know about spain

1. Greetings with a hug and cheek kisses

Spanish people are very affectionate people. If you met someone like 2 seconds ago, you’re eligible for a big hug and cheek kisses. Most of us are used to shake hands when we meet someone new, but this does not apply to Spanish culture. They will not shake hands, they will hug and kiss you every single time they see you. 

I’m not a hugging person. I mean, I don’t feel comfortable hugging strangers. It was definitely an experience that put me out of my comfort zone.

2. They don’t speak English

You would think that a Western European country will have English wrapped around its little finger. Well, that does not apply to Spain. And just for the record, Romanians speak better and lots of English compared to Spanish people.

I don’t know why they refuse to learn English, to be honest. I found it quite difficult to communicate with the Barajas airport (which is the largest international airport in the country) staff when I wasn’t able to find my luggage. Fortunately for me, I do speak some Spanish and I managed to find my luggage, eventually. You won’t find English speakers in public institutions so don’t have too big hopes for locals as well.

So, don’t rely on your fabulous English skills, because Spanish people are not impressed. They translate everything into Spanish: including dubbing movies in theaters – why would you do that?! So brace yourself and put some effort to learn some Spanish, or even buy a conversation guide as well.

3. Shops are closed in the middle of the day

They have this weird working schedule, when most of the shops, restaurants and institutions are closed from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. During this hours they don’t work with the public, they do some internal affairs or something like that. Not all of them are closed, but most of them won’t be able to help you during those hours, so keep that in mind.

4. Spain is a constitutional monarchy

Yes. There is a Spanish King and a Spanish royal family, just like in Britain. King Felipe the VI is the current king and the royal palace is in Madrid and it’s called Palacio Real de Madrid. As any other monarchy, they show great respect for their king, so be sure at least to be aware of the existence of the royal family.

5. They are passionate

The Spanish are passionate people. They are roman catholic, so religion is quite important for them. They love their culture and their king. They love their culture so much, that they translate everything to Spanish (movies, brands, names, everything).

Because of their great love for their culture, Spanish can get easily offended by cultural remarks, so show them the respect for their culture as they expect you to.

I am sure that there will be more shocking differences, especially if you live outside Europe or have never got in contact with any Latin country. These were the top points of Spanish culture that I found different and I thought it would be useful to share them with you.

I hope you’ll enjoy Spain as much as I did and please share this article if you liked it!

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  • Mackenzie

    This is all so helpful!! I can’t wait to visit Spain one day! The hugging and kisses would definitely take some getting used to for me. I’m also not used to hugging complete strangers. But I do love the message behind it and how welcoming it seems.


    • I think I’ll still need some time to get used to it too, even though I’ve been through this experience once.

  • I have traveled to Spain, and absolutely loved it! I would also add how different their meals are for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They eat very minimal for breakfast, a HUGE lunch (which can be difficult if you’re trying to go out to eat when all the restaurants are closed at 2) and an extremely late, small dinner around 8 or 9. That was definitely a little different for me!

    • Well, that is not so different for me because we have quite the same eating routine here.
      It is kinda annoying that restautants are closed at lunch time, though.

  • I have never traveled to Spain yet, but will be briefly traveling there next year so I was so excited to read this! Thank you so much for sharing! It is my first time stopping by your blog (stopping over from BPP) and am excited to connect with you more!
    Rebecca :)

    • So glad that you find it useful, Rebecca! Hope you’ll have a wonderful time in Spain!
      Also so glad to meet you! Hope you find other useful articles around here as well.

  • I definitely want to visit Spain sometime! Fun facts!

  • AHHHHH. My heart aches for Spain! It looks amazing there. I’ve been to France,Germany, and Austria but Spain is definitely on the bucket list. Spain and Bosnia.

    • I’m sure that you’ll love Spain as well! It’s an amazing country with great culture & people.

  • Traveling around southern Spain is at the very top of my bucket list! One of my best friends lived there for many years, and I’ve heard wonderful things. She often mentioned the passion of the people!

    • Then you have a great source for info about Spanish culture, Brittany! Hope you’ll enjoy your time in Spain. :)

  • Spain is high on my travel list and these tips are so helpful. When we went to Paris I literally googled how to not be an annoying American tourist and found similar tips that were so useful! Such as, it’s really important to greet a shopkeeper when you walk into an establishment even when you don’t see them. It’s considered polite and we often saw it in action from locals.


    • Oh, I don’t find the greeting-the-shopkeeper so new, because we are used to do this here as well. Maybe is an European custom since lots of people from other countries are used to it. I was never aware that this is not an issue to everyone.

      • Yeah, that isn’t really an “American” standard. Or at least where I’m from in Chicago.

  • Rachel Ritlop

    These are really great tips! My friend told me about the shops for their siestas! So interesting!

  • Interesting info! How strange that shops are closed in the middle of the day!

    • Yeah… I dunno why they do this.

  • I actually love that they close up shops during the middle of the day for a short siesta. I wish everywhere adopted this-haha. Great post with some very helpful tips! :)

    • Thank you so much, Cara!
      I have mixed feeling about closing the shops and institutions in the middle of the day. Although during summer sounds like a nice safety measure, to prevent people from going out in the sun at mid-day.

  • I’ve never traveled to Spain but I run some online brands out of there, boy are you right about them being passionate! I’d love to visit there to finally enjoy the culture I’ve spent so much time learning about.

    Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

    • Hope you’ll get there soon, Laura and meet these lovely people.

  • I love this! Spain is on my travel bucket list. I’d love to travel around the country one day soon, preferably in August so that I can make sure La Tomatina is on my itinerary.

    • Haha, hope you enjoy La Tomatina!
      Although August is not the best month to travel, especially to Spain, mainly because is super hot and the plane tickets prices are high rocket.

  • Oh my gosh this made me miss Spain SO DANG MUCH. I spent a summer abroad there in college and ABSOLUTELY LOVED every second. And these tips are all spot on!

    Coming Up Roses

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