Ok, so you’ve brought the wine, you’re looking good and maybe you’ve even got some Spanish up your sleeve. But beware of these pitfalls, or you may appear like the ignorant tourist. Make sure you don’t…
Mess up the kiss
The etiquette around kissing hello can be confusing and sometimes awkward if you’re not used to it. See it as a way to get into the warmth of the culture. As a first introduction, it’s common to shake hands (occasionally kiss on the cheeks). When people know each other, they kiss on both cheeks. This isn’t an intimate kiss but more of a cheek touch. Men don’t usually kiss men (unless family or very close friends), but they might hug.
During conversation, you can also expect people to sit or stand closer and throw in some body contact. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hitting on you!
Expect your usual meal times
The weird thing is, Spaniards don’t actually eat later than most Europeans. At least, not according to where the sun is in the sky. It’s just that Spain is in the wrong time zone – a change made by the dictator Franco to show solidarity with his German ally.
However, they are late according to the clock. Lunch is between 13:30 – 16:00, and dinner between 21:00 and 23:00. Lunch (comida) is the biggest meal of the day, often having 3 courses. Dinner (cena) is smaller – often tapas, or a simple sandwich or salad. Between meals, you can expect brunch and “merienda” (a snack between lunch and dinner).
Cut short the sobremesa
Meal times don’t finish when the food is gone, so don’t rush to clear up the dishes. Stick around for conversation and coffee. This is the sobremesa (meaning “over the table”). It’s the time to bond and talk without a mouth full of food. It gives you time to relax, enjoy each other’s company and importantly, digest.
Fiesta in the siesta
Not everyone will sleep during the siesta, but it is a time when many people return from work or school to have a long lunch. It was traditionally a break from the heat, but air conditioning has changed that. It’s also fading out as there’s more pressure to work longer hours.
Still, respect it by letting people rest, and save the music for the night – and it will be a late one. Most people party past dawn.
Suggest a shopping trip on Sunday
Not everything shuts on Sunday, but a lot does. In Madrid the shops are open the first Sunday of the month and in December most regions will have shops open. Some museums, bars and restaurants have their close day on Monday. But typically, Sunday is for eating paella and chatting.