A brief note on being a conservative Brit in Spain

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I survived my first week in Spain. Hurrrah! I have much blogging to catch upon – recounting tales of Madrid, Church in Spanish and my first day of school. But for now, here are some good general life lessons if you’re coming to integrarte en la cultura española as a buttoned-up Brit…

In the words of The Spice Girls…

Tell them what you want. What you really really want. No, seriously – saying “I want” in a restaurant or whatever isn’t rude. It’s just getting to the point.

No seas sosPECHOso

Beware that in any public situation that may involve showering (i.e. gyms or indoor swimming pools) the showering will also be all public. Act like you have no problem wandering around naked as the day you were born and try not to go red as a frambuesa with embarrassment.


Cheek kisses are always appropriate (as far as I’ve discovered so far). With people you’ve only just met, with work colleagues, todos – and it’s usually two over here (in my region, at least). I made the awkward mistake of automatically going in for a handshake when I met my flatmate for the first time. Here’s to hoping he didn’t think he gave me the impression of having some dreadfully contagious disease…

Just in case you’re not sending mensajes de WhatsApp…

Back to point number one, so many people answer the phone in what would seem to be a rude manner; things like “dígame” (talk to me), “si” and “pues, que quieres?” (well, what do you want?)


As I was told many times at the British Council meeting, Spanish people often talk and laugh LOUDLY, but don’t worry if you don’t understand – THEY’RE NOT ANGRY AT YOU. They’re just, er, entusiásticos.


The Spanish being the friendly sort they are, will often take a cigarillo out to smoke and promptly offer one before lighting up themselves. Even if you don’t take one they will probably continue to smoke. It’s as if the rule is “well, you had your chance to join in”.

Hablar-ing away the horas…

Also be prepared to schedule in an extra few minutes if you arrange to meet up with someone on a tight schedule. The friendliness of the Spanish will also mean that they won’t necessarily be in a rush to scoot you out…

One thought on “A brief note on being a conservative Brit in Spain

  1. Aaaaah it’s all so true! This kissing hung gets complicated as an Erasmus student because you have to assign a different number of kisses to every nationality and every gender… Therefore: two for Spanish women, handshake for men; two for French women AND some French men, depending on where they are from (from the south it’s 3 and always with the men); none for Germans/ Brits/ Americans/ Canadians unless they are particularly keen on the culture or simply forget where you come from, and sometimes the men will dar besitos to the women; the same goes for Finnish, Danish, Lithuanian or Russian, although usually you introduce yourself with a handshake. Finally, Italians; basically just kiss, a lot, and deal with it. Then smile, shake hands and hug, and then kiss some more, then hug, then ask about their great aunt’s dog’s puppies, then hug, then kiss then start an actual conversation.

    Needless to say the Chinese just say hello and are done with is.

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