10 things you should NEVER do in Spain


May 6, 2024

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You can’t do in Spain the same things you do in your country. Do you know what you should not do during siesta time? Apart from noise. Do you know what Spaniards expect from you when you meet for dinner? If you don’t want to have trouble in Spain, if you want Spanish people to like you, read till the end (or watch the full video.)

1. Spanish  Terms of Endearment

In Spain, we talk a lot referring to people with terms of endearment. Guapo (handsome), guapa (beautiful), cariño (honey), mi amor (my love). The cashier lady or the waiter might greet you with an “hola, guapo,” or “hola, guapa,” and it doesn’t mean anything. In Spain we are friendlier than in other countries, we get closer to people, so sometimes foreigners think we have different intentions. Don’t think they are flirting with you each time people call you terms of endearment, we use them a lot. I call all my male friends “guapo,” “guapísimo” or even “mi amor” and they know I don’t want any deeper relationship with them aside from being friends. If they call me “guapa” I know we’re just cool. You have to take into account other kinds of behavior to know if someone is flirting with you. 

2. Spanish Party Time

Ok, they have invited you to a party. What time should you get there? You should be on time to your workplace or school, or the doctor. But when you meet in a group, people take it slower. Don’t go early to a party. Unless the host is a really good friend of yours and you want to help him or her out to prepare the party. I like getting to parties on time, but the normal is from 30 minutes after the time established. You can do as you please, I’m just warning you. When I host a party, usually one of my friends arrives 5 or 10 minutes earlier, I have another friend who is very punctual and arrives on time, and the rest start arriving from 20 minutes later on.

And if you find this a cultural shock, wait until you hear about the Spanish way of greeting in number 4.

3. Siesta

Do you know what siesta is? A little nap after lunch. Usually people sleep maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour, but not everybody. I think the majority of people don't. Well, the thing is that little stores have a break between 2 and 5PM in general, to have lunch and a break at siesta time. Because people don’t usually shop at that time. So the 3rd thing you shouldn’t do is run errands at nap time. At least if you go to small stores. In shopping centers or big supermarkets nothing closes. I like going to the supermarket at siesta time because there is nobody doing their grocery shopping and the whole supermarket is for meee ehhehe 

By the way~ On My Daily Spanish we have a free study guide that offers a step-by-step process to help you learn Spanish faster. You can download it for free here:

4. Greeting Time

Well, greeting time. How do we greet people in Spain? We give 2 kisses on the cheeks. Well, not everybody. Girl greets girl: two kisses. Girl greets boy: two kisses. Boy greets boy: handshake.
But to give kisses, there is an order, and this is very important. First, right cheek. So you lean your head to your left. Second kiss, left cheek. So you lean your head to your right.  
If you start with the other side, you will kiss the lips of that person and have a very awkward situation. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable.
 Also, we don’t really kiss the cheek, it is a kiss to the air, you just touch cheeks. If you really kiss when greeting it is a little weird. Unless you are a grandma. Grandmas really kiss the cheeks of their grandchildren. When I was little I was scared when my grandma came to visit. 

Ok, you should really take notes of the next one.

5. Lunch and dinner

What time do you have lunch? And dinner?
In Spain, you can’t go to a restaurant very early. Here we usually have lunch at 2 or 3PM and dinner at 9 or 10PM. At lunch time, restaurants usually open at 1PM and close around 4 or 5PM. And open again at 8PM and close who knows when. Before going anywhere, have a look at their opening schedule. There will be some special restaurants for tourists which open earlier but they might be more expensive.

6. Eat and go

Now that we are talking about going to have lunch or dinner, something you can’t do when you meet people is eat and go right after. Here we have sobremesa. The normal thing is that after eating you spend a while chatting and having some coffee or ice cream in my case hehe. Taking it easy. You are expected to stay for more than just lunch. If some friends want to meet for lunch but I have something to do right after, I tell them in advance, like “hey, I will have to go at 3:30 or 4.” so they know I won’t be long with them. Last time I said that but ended up coming home at 7pm and I was like “shit, again.”

Hey~ If you like the article, please share it with your friends or loved ones. I hope you’re taking notes because the next tips are quite important.

7. Be polite

Don’t be over polite. We talk informally. Just be nice. Give people a smile and they will love it. Smile, say “please” and “thank you.” Don’t use usted unless you are really talking to the president or an important boss or something. Usted is for really really formal situations. I’ve hardly ever used usted in my life. It might be pedantic if you keep using very formal sentences. Also that creates a lot of distance with the person you are talking to, and in Spain we are friendly.

8. Table manners

At the table, there are some behaviors you should avoid. Your hands should be visible. Having one hand under the table is weird. Like; are you hiding something? Are you touching something you shouldn’t right now? So have both of your hands visible. Anyway it is normal that we eat with two hands. One for the fork and the other for the knife or the bread. We use the bread to direct the food on the plate to the place we want and make it easier. Also, don’t have your elbows on the table. It’s seen as impolite, because you take too much space on the table and there are more possibilities that your food will drop from your plate.  

Number 10 might just change your entire travel experience. So keep reading!

9. Movies

Wifi, Harry Potter, AC/DC, Spiderman, USB…*(English style) Nobody will know what you’re talking about.
We say: Wifi, Harry Potter, AC/DC, Spiderman, USB, PDF, Internet. (*Spanish pronunciation)

You need to pronounce the Spanish way so people understand you. Also, usually series and films have their title in Spanish.

  • Lord of the Rings is El señor de los anillos.
  • How I met your mother is Cómo conocí a vuestra madre.
  • The Simpsons is Los Simpson.
  • Game of Thrones is Juego de Tronos.

So do your research before talking about movies if you want to have a nice conversation, and pronounce things the Spanish way.

Last tip! Very important for surviving on the streets of Spain.

10. Scammers

Sometimes when walking on the streets, especially in big cities, some person might come to you offering something as a gift. “Regalo” in Spanish. If you ask “Is it free?” “¿Es gratis?” they will say “Sí, sí,” but after that they will ask you for money. The gift is a hook to tell you that they have children or that they are hungry, and that might be true, I don’t know, so I don’t want to call it a scam, but they start with a lie and that’s not cool. If you don’t give them any money, they ask to give the gift back. So they force you to volunteer and give them money. I’m sure they need it more than many of us. But they are bands doing the same thing to people on the streets. There was a scam that I saw more than once in Madrid in which a guy asks you first if you are from there. And then he shows you some earphones and tells you that they are closing some store and that they are selling everything super cheap and tell you to pay 20 or 30€ for those and that their real price is 90€ or something very expensive. They probably bought those on Aliexpress for 2€. In Sevilla it is very common to see gypsy ladies giving rosemary “as a gift” and if you take it, they take your hand and read it and later they ask for money. They harass you until you give money to them. You’ve got the information, you can do what you want with it. 


Now that you know the don’ts of visiting Spain, how about we flip the script and dive into the dos? The things that make living in Spain absolutely enchanting. I’m sure you will love those. I've captured my favorites in this article, 'Things I Love About Living in Spain.' Don’t miss it out! Hasta pronto 🙂

About the author 

Lucía is a native Spanish teacher from Sevilla, in the South of Spain. She loves languages and has experience learning various of them. She graduated from the bachelor "Film and TV studies" in Carlos III University in Madrid and enjoys making and editing videos for social media.

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