Having lived and worked in Spain for more than half a year I made a few interesting observations and thought it might be worth sharing some facts – at least according to my experience they are. So let´s jump right in.
1) Before you go to Spain just learn two sentences
- “No pasa nada” = “It doesn´t matter/ It´s alright “
- “No te preocupes” = “Don´t worry”
I feel like those are the most used sentences here and they just perfectly portray the relaxed attitude towards anything -well most things. For me though this is a welcome change, as I tend to overthink and stress myself out. If you don´t have a plan you can always improvise. Just take it easy.
2) People always say they´ll do everything “ahora”, so right now
“Right now” seems to have a different meaning here, cause if someone tells you they´ll do something “ahora” what they actually mean is “sometime this day”. Or week. Or maybe month. Spanish people don´t seem in a hurry, ever.
3) Parking rules don´t seem to exist
I always think the German traffic police would be living happily ever after giving parking tickets all day long, as everyone parks on the wrong side of the road, on the sidewalk or in a no- parking zone. But as we already know: “No pasa nada”.
4) Life has a different pace
On my first day down in Madrid I noticed pretty quickly, that the days start later in southern Europe. When we already left the city to head back home for lunch (my hostfamily had made an effort getting up early to show me the city without the crowds I guess) there was quite a traffic–jam building up on the lane into the city.
People tend to get up later, eat later, start work or school a bit later and also go to bed, yes you guessed it … later. And the same goes for store opening hours – lots also close for a few hours from around 2PM. Everything seems to be like an hour or a couple of them delayed.
5) Everyone´s helpful and inclusive
So far I haven´t had a single bad experience with Spanish people. Everybody is always very friendly and helpful. The same goes for including you, so you can build up a life here. I´ve spent nights out in Madrid with friends I got introduced to by my hostfamily and they never made me feel like “the new one”.
6) Spanish people are all different
And by that I basically just want to say, that your opinion of and experience with Spanish people greatly depends on which part of the country you visit.
7) Food is an important part of life and culture
Usually going out at night, before we do anything else, we meet in some bar/cervecería to drink, eat some small tapas and chat. And it happens sometimes, that we stay in that place doing so until it is too late to go anywhere else. What I´m trying to say though is, that coming together oftentimes also means eating together. And since the people come together a lot they happen to eat together a lot as well. As dinner is probably the most important meal of the day – and the most extensive – it is usually part of a night out.
8) Going to drink a coffee is actually just a phrase for meeting up
So don´t say no, if you´re asked if you want to “tomar un café”, just because you don´t like coffee. It´s a phrase and you can get whatever you want obviously.
9) The malls are big and modern
The truth is, that the first time I went to a Spanish mall – actually it still happens to me everytime I go shopping – I felt like I was in USA 2.0 – back in the States. It was a strange feeling, as this was what I had gotten used to in the US. If you´re in Madrid go to Gran Plaza 2 in Majadahonda for example and I think you´ll see what I mean. The supermarkets have a lot of products as well, that I had never seen in Germany, but eaten many times whilst living in Chicago. So now I´m enjoying to have some of my American favorites back!
10) Spaniards dress for the season
A sunny day with 20 degrees in January and the parents picking up their kids from school, still wear their boots and coats while I´m out and about in ballet flats and a dress with a cardigan. I´m just going to blame it on being accustomed to cold temperatures after having spent a winter in Chicago. No, honestly, people tend to dress for the season, rather than the weather here.
11) Madrid is underrated
In contrary to many other countries, travelling to Spain you probably wouldn´t consider the capital your first or only stop, but rather Barcelona, the southern cities or one of the beautiful islands. You´re missing out on something. Madrid is a beautiful city full of cute little streets and squares, restaurants and great opportunities for fun nights out, especially as it isn´t ruled by tourists. Moreover it is the greenest of all European capitals I´ve been to, with tree-lined streets and an abundance of great parks.
12) People talk loudly and discuss lively
I´ve never had such a hard time to understand what the others were saying, as in a full Spanish Bar. And there wasn´t even background music – or at least over the noise level you couldn´t tell. BUT I love the intensity of conversations here, partly because I was raised in a very loud family and here I never get told “You don´t have to scream. We understand you, if you talk normally”.
Anything to add? I´d love to hear about your experiences with Spain and its people.