Culture Shock in Spain

Coming to Spain to live, work or study abroad can feel like a dream come true. The cuisine tastes amazing, the windy streets are magical and full of history, the beaches are spectacular and the list goes on.

However, there can also be an adjustment phase, or what some like to call “Culture Shock”. This is totally normal as it takes a little while to adjust to the cultural differences before feeling comfortable in a new city.

Here we talk you through some of the most typical differences or reasons people might be exposed to culture shock in Spain:


Of course the language is a big shock to most internationals. If you don’t speak Spanish, the speed at which the Spaniards talk may overwhelm you or if you do speak Spanish, the Castellano Spanish can throw you off in terms of the accent and the vocabulary they use here. It’s definitely a learning process, but if you’re up for the challenge, it can be very rewarding learning this beautiful language.

Pace of Life:

The pace of life in Spain is slower as a whole compared to many other countries, and other parts of Europe. Spain operates on a different schedule; they take their time for everything, spend hours eating meals and socializing, and might not be as punctual when it comes to scheduled meeting times. Don’t worry, just relax and try to go with the flow!

Schedule of Eating and Going Out:

This is probably the main difference which affects people when moving to Spain. The Spanish typically eat 5 times a day, 3 meals and 2 snacks, and the meal times are not at all like what you are used to. Lunch is eaten around 2 – 3pm, and dinner usually not until 10pm! That being said, the time for going out in the evening is also much later. Bars won’t become crowded until around midnight, and clubs closer to 2 am!

For more information about meal times, check out this article.

Shops and Supermarkets Closing Time:

Due to the eating schedule, many local shops close over lunch time, from around 2-5pm. If you are planning to go shopping anywhere outside of the main shopping streets, make sure it’s not during lunch/siesta hours! They are also closed all day on Sundays too, which is definitely different to other countries.

Sunday is a Rest Day:

Apart from shops closing over lunchtime, Sunday you will find that almost the whole city is closed, apart from restaurants. Supermarkets and almost all shops are closed, the city is very quiet on Sundays. People in Spain usually spend Sundays with their families and relax. If you can’t beat them, join them!

Customer Service:

Lastly, the speed of service is most likely slower in general than what you are used to. You might sit down at a restaurant for 15 minutes before someone comes to take your drink order. And after your meal, make sure to ask for the bill! They won’t bring it to you without asking because they don’t want to rush you. On top of that, tipping is not common in Spain — you may leave 1€ or 2€ if you think the service was great but it’s not necessary.

These are just some parts of the culture we think may alarm you at first. Don’t worry if they do, take the time you need to adjust and learn as you go!

If you have any questions about Spanish culture or customs don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’re here to help!

Categories: Moving abroad

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