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The Culture Guide – 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Spain

Are you ready to laze about the beaches of the Costa del Sol, explore Gaudi architecture in Barcelona, or check out the vibrant nightlife of Ibiza? You’ll enjoy yourself in Spain if you avoid doing these five things.

Eating When You Want To

What time do you normally eat? Well, that’s too early for Spain. Lunch usually happens from 2 PM to 4 PM and that’s the main meal of the day, and the only time you can order such stomach-filling specialties as paella. Dinner begins at 9 PM or 10 PM and is usually a light share of tapas among family and friends.

You’ll do better at breakfast from 7 AM to 9 AM, which is usually grab-and-go if the Spaniards eat anything at all. You might as well fill up during the mid-morning snack from 10:30 AM to noon, or the afternoon snack, which happens from 5:30 PM to 7 PM.

Being On Time

Spaniard like to enjoy life. They don’t see the point in running around and trying to get a million things done every day. If you’re going to be someplace anyway, what is the point of rushing to get there? It’s not uncommon for events like tours to start 10 or 15 minutes later than advertised. Being late doesn’t show disrespect or carelessness. It’s just the way things are.

Calling Everybody Spanish

In the US, everybody is American. In France, everyone is French. In Spain, the person you’re talking to can be Basque, Castilian, Valencian, or a member of any of the 17 autonomous regions and 2 autonomous cities. Each of these areas has a strong sense of identity, its own culture, and often, its own language. Knowing who is from where shows respect. For example, those in Barcelona are called Catalans.

Avoid comparing one region with another and talking about regionalism in general. Instead, focus on what makes each area unique.

Speaking English to Everyone

Everyone speaks English in Europe, right? Maybe not in Spain where only about 27 percent of the population knows some English. And most of them live in the large cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga, or tourist resorts like Marbella or Ibiza. In fact, about 60 percent cannot speak, read, or write English at all.

Fortunately, Spanish is the easiest foreign language for English speakers to learn. You probably already know a few of the words, such as hola, gracias, and bueno. Speaking to the locals in their own language is always appreciated and makes them more likely to try to communicate with you.

Shopping in the Afternoon

After a morning of sightseeing, you’re eager to do some shopping in the afternoon. Don’t. Shops in Spain typically shut down from 2 PM to 5 PM. The custom originated from the Spanish siesta, when the locals took refuge from the hottest part of the day by sleeping.

Nowadays, very few are sleeping at those times. Instead, most are relaxing and taking their long lunches, which is why most restaurants and cafes are open in the afternoon. Large department stores and supermarkets may be open in the afternoon but government offices usually close for the day by 2 PM.