As we all know, good manners go a long way… So if you’re planning to travel or live in Spain here is a small guide to social dos and don’ts, I hope you’ll enjoy:
Meetings in Spain
- ‘Hi’ or ‘hello’ (¡hola!) is used among close friends and young people, often accompanied by ‘how are you?’ (¿qué tal?). In more formal language, ‘how are you?’ is ¿cómo está usted?, to which the reply is usually ‘fine, thank you, and you?’ (muy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?);
- Elderly friends are often addressed as ‘male’ (don) and ‘female’ (doña), followed by their name (considerable courtesy and respect is shown to women and the elderly in Spain);
- When someone thanks you (gracias), it’s polite to reply ‘it was nothing/you’re welcome’ (de nada). When talking to a stranger it’s polite to use the formal form of address ( usted) and not the familiar form (tú) or someone’s name until you’re invited to do so. Nowadays the tú form is much more widely used and usted is reserved mainly for business and when addressing older people;
- When introduced expect to shake hands. Many men use a two-handed shake where the left hand is placed on the right forearm of the other person. A common reply when being formally introduced is ‘delighted’ (encantado/a);
- Female friends kiss each other on both cheeks, starting with the left;
Dining in Spain
- If invited to a local’s home, you can bring chocolates, pastries, or cakes; wine or flowers to the hostess. If you know they have children, a small gift for them is always appreciated;
- Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat;
- Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table;
- Do not begin eating until the hostess starts with a ”Buen apetito!”. Also, the host gives the first toast;
- Use utensils to eat most food (even fruits). The knife remains in the right hand, and the fork remains in the left. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate. If you put both utensils down on the plate for any real length of time, it is a sign to the waitstaff that you are finished, and your plate may be taken away from you. If you lay your cutlery down on either side of the plate, it means that you haven’t finished;
- Do not get up until the guest of honour does;
- Never cut the lettuce in a salad. Fold it with your knife and fork into a little bundle that can be picked up with your fork;
- The one who invites usually pays the bill;
- In Spanish restaurants, a gratuity is usually added to the bill. If it is not included, leave a minimum tip of 10 percent.
Tabernas are family-run restaurants. Marisquerias serve only seafood. Asadors usually serve cooked meats. In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table.
Food plays an important part – lunch (la comida) is the biggest meal of the day, lasting from 2 to 4pm. It’s common for shops and whole villages to come to a standstill for the afternoon meal and siesta, especially in more out-of-the-way places. Evening meals are usually preceded by a leisurely stroll, or paseo, when you may take in an aperitif in a bar or two.
The law now bans smoking in all public places, including shops, public transport, bars and restaurants.
Talking on the phone
Spanish-speakers tend to be a bit more formal and polite on the phone, phrases that you’ll frequently hear used (overused?) on the phone are things like:
- Si es tan amable = If you please
- Si no es mucha molestia = If it’s not too much trouble
- To ask for someone = “¿Me puede comunicar con _____?” or “Está por ahí _____?”