Spanish Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Take the time to engage in some small talk when meeting people. This can involve humour or enquiring into someone’s family’s well-being. It is rude to talk about your topic of interest without showing some thoughtfulness and consideration into people’s lives.
  • Ask where in Spain your counterpart is from and talk about your (good) impressions of that city or region. If you have not heard of the place, show interest to learn about it. 
  • Try to stay for a few hours of talking after a meal (la sobremesa). This can help form close bonds. However, keep in mind that Spaniards tend to stay up late to socialise. If you do not think you have the energy for a late night, simply thank them and say goodnight. Spaniards are generally well aware that they keep late hours and most will understand if you are not used to it.
  • Speak up when you have something to say. Spaniards generally expect that people will take the initiative to interject when they feel they have something worthy to contribute to the conversation. If you wait until there is a pause in the discussion for you to make your opinion known, you are likely to be kept waiting a long time. 
  • Deliver sensitive news or criticism tactfully. The Spanish often speak with a lot of pride and confidence, giving an impression that they are very self-confident. Do not let this lead you to think they are immune to offence. Spaniards can be sensitive to comments that appear to question their dignity (la dignidad). 
  • Try to tolerate a higher volume of noise. Spaniards are generally used to a higher level of noise in social situations or coming from a neighbouring house.
  • Expect Spaniards to give you lots of recommendations and advice. Many people love to give their opinion on things (whether they are asked for it or not).


Don'ts

  • Avoid criticising the Spanish culture, people or nation. Though some Spaniards may openly complain about how their country is being ‘ruined’ by current politicians, remember that they are still very proud of their homeland and its culture. 
  • Do not bring up the topic of Catalan independence. You cannot determine what position your Spanish counterpart has on the topic, whether they are Catalonian or not. If the subject is raised, it is best to simply ask questions and allow them to inform you of their perspective as opposed to sharing your own.
  • Never say anything derogatory about a Spaniard’s family, especially their mother.
  • Do not imply that Spaniards are lazy, always late or bad at their job. This stereotype can be frustrating as the Spanish workforce is competitive and many people have to work very hard to keep their jobs.
  • Avoid mentioning Francisco Franco and his era of power. This can initiate long debates.
  • Do not joke about the Catholic Church or the Pope when in the company of older Spaniards. The younger generations are often quite relaxed about this kind of humour, but it can seriously offend the elderly.
  • Do not criticise someone’s favourite football team unless you want to start a debate. Similarly, don’t imply that football is a bad sport.
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