Arriving in Spain, whether for work, study, or to live, feels like stepping into a dream. The flavors of the cuisine are unparalleled, the winding streets tell tales of magic and history, and the beaches are nothing short of spectacular.
Yet, as with any new adventure, there comes an adjustment phase, commonly known as «Culture Shock.» It’s entirely normal to need some time to adapt to the cultural nuances before truly feeling at home in a new city.
Let me walk you through some of the typical differences or reasons you might experience culture shock in Spain:
Undoubtedly, language is a significant shock for most internationals. If you don’t speak Spanish, the rapid-fire pace of Spanish conversations might initially overwhelm you. Even if you’re familiar with the language, Castellano Spanish, with its unique accent and vocabulary, can throw you off. It’s a learning process, but if you embrace the challenge, mastering this beautiful language can be incredibly rewarding.
The pace of life in Spain is generally more relaxed compared to many other countries and parts of Europe. Spaniards operate on a different schedule, taking their time for everything, savoring lengthy meals and socializing. Punctuality may not be a top priority in scheduled meetings. The key is to relax and go with the flow!
Arguably the most significant difference impacting people when moving to Spain is the eating schedule. Spaniards typically enjoy five meals a day, including three meals and two snacks, with timings that differ from what you’re accustomed to. Lunch is served around 2-3 pm, and dinner often doesn’t start until 10 pm! Similarly, the nightlife starts much later, with bars filling up around midnight and clubs closer to 2 am!
Due to the unique eating schedule, many local shops close during lunch hours, typically from 2-5 pm. If you plan to shop outside the main streets, avoid doing so during lunch/siesta hours. Additionally, most shops are closed all day on Sundays, a practice distinct from other countries.
Beyond the lunchtime closures, Sundays in Spain are a day of rest. Almost the entire city shuts down, except for restaurants. Supermarkets and most shops remain closed, creating a serene atmosphere as people spend Sundays with family, embracing relaxation. When in Spain, consider joining this Sunday tradition!
Lastly, be prepared for a generally slower pace of service than you may be accustomed to. You might wait at a restaurant for 15 minutes before someone takes your drink order. Remember to ask for the bill after your meal, as it won’t be brought to you without prompting—they prefer not to rush you. Tipping is not a common practice in Spain, but leaving 1€ or 2€ for exceptional service is appreciated.
If you have any questions about Spanish culture or customs, feel free to reach out—we’re here to help!