Cultural shocks or cultural quirks—differences you that will notice on your visit to Spain

When asked to write a guest blog by expatsmadrid.com the topic was on cultural shock.

 The fruit markets are fun to visit—just remember DONT touch the fruit

The fruit markets are fun to visit—just remember DONT touch the fruit

Obviously, I knew there would be plenty of differences when I came, I am simply stating some of the things that I found the most different and perhaps other visitors to Spain would be happy to know in advance what to be aware of.

My biggest cultural shock was, has always been, and continues to be the schedule of eating and sleeping in Spain. 

Here is my article if you want to find out how the Spanish schedule is different from the rest of the world: “Cultural shock in Spain-6 things that drive foreigners crazy.”

Admittedly the driving a foreigner crazy was more of a headline catch to draw readers in, they are more like some of the quirks that I have grown used to (for the most part) over the years.

Shopping in Spain

A few other quirks that didn’t get mentioned in that article is how you can’t buy all your groceries in one store. (I have to admit this is changing in the cities—but you will still find this in small-town Spain.

I find it quaint, but rather annoying that if you want to buy fish you have to go to a fishmonger, if you want meat, to the butchers, bread at the bakery, vegetables at a fruit and vegetable stand, toiletries at a drugstore.  It could take the entire morning to just get a few basic ingredients to make your favourite stew. This trend is changing, at least in the cities. Mercadona became my lifesaver when it arrived in town. It is an authentic grocery store. You can buy all the products under one roof. How novel!

Personal space isn’t very personal in Spain

People here stand very close and often touch when talking. It took me some time to adjust to limited space and the whole kissing thing. Greetings with friends and acquaintances are done by kissing them on the cheek—twice, 1st on the left and then the right. 

It's loud

Spain has one of the largest noise factors of all of Europe.  Unlike in North America where a classy restaurant is equated with low voices, here almost all restaurants are loud. People go out in large groups, tell long stories and jokes, laugh heartily and get louder as the meal continues.

Classrooms in Spain are always over the acceptable decibel level. After spending three years in Canada we moved back to Spain and my son’s comment about his first day of grade 3, was “it is LOUD.”

Whenever you get two or more Spaniards together you will be amazed at the noise. 

What about you? Have you come across anything that you find different, enduring or just plain strange when you have visited Spain?