Spain

Quick Facts

Government

Type: Constitutional monarchy

President: Pedro Sánchez

King: Felipe VI

Religion

Catholic Christianity

≈69%

Language

Spanish

≈99%

Currency

Euro

€10.00 ≈ $11.65

Location

Southwestern Europe

The Iberian Peninsula

Bordering The Atlantic & Mediterranean

Food

Paella

Croquettes

Climate

Hot, dry summers

Mild, rainy winters

Cost

Beer ≈ €1.99

Ice cream ≈ €1.65

Read More About Spain

Not-So-Quick Facts

Stay Safe

Generally speaking, Spain is a very safe country for travelers. One of the biggest threats is pickpockets, specifically in big cities like Barcelona.

Keep a close eye on your bags and valuables!

Present Day Snapshot

Catalonia: Spain is made up of 17 autonomous zones. One of those being Catalonia – where Barcelona sits. In 2017 Catalonia held an independence referendum – in other words, they voted to be free from the rest of the country. The referendum passed, however the government of Spain declared the vote unconstitutional and imposed direct rule on the region – while also detaining a number of people involved in organizing the vote. In other words – Spain ignored the results. The relationships between Catalonia (where 32% of the population speak Catalonian – which is very distinctly different to Spanish) and Spain remain strained.

War: Spain has continued involvement in the war against ISIL in the Middle East and the conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Follow Laws

Identification: When asked for an ID by officials you must produce one – the police have the right to detain you if you can’t or don’t.

Drugs: Possession of any amount of illegal substance can result in detention or persecution.

Alcohol: 18 is the legal drinking age in Spain. On-street drinking varies by region.

LGBTQ: Same-sex relationships are legal in Spain. Citizens are allowed to choose their preferred recorded gender but a third gender is not recognized.

Speak Spanish

Hello: Hola /ola/

Please: Por favor /por fuvor/

Thank you: Gracias /gurahseeus/

Can I have a beer please: Una cerveza por favor /oonu serveysu por fuvor/

Where is the train station?: Donde esta la estacion de trenes /donday esta la estaseeun de traynays/

Historical Snapshot

Founding: Spain as we know it today dates to 1978

Origins: The same plot of land that Spain now sits on has been referred to by similar variances since the Romans called it Hispania in the 2nd century B.C. The Spanish Empire led Europe for some time and was at its height in the 16th & 17th centuries.

Recent History: The Spanish Civil War, in the mid 1930’s, ended with Franco’s party, the “Nationalists” came to power. There are still multiple generations of Spaniards alive who lived under the military dictatorship of Franco, who died in 1975. During that time Spain remained neutral during WWII. After Franco’s death Spain transitioned to the liberal democracy it is today. More recently, Spain joined the EU in 1986 and is now considered a middle power in the EU with tourism as the countries largest economic sector.

Clothing Rules

Swim suits: Certain regions do not allow men nor women to walk through the streets in just a biking or swim trunks.

Burka: Some government building do not allow entrance with a burka on.

woman in white shirt sitting along brick wall looking out over white houses and ocean in the background
Andalucia
mussels in bowl net to glass of red drink
Seafood
Beach running
Galicia

Facts According to a Local

General Rules of Etiquette

In Spain, there are a few rules of etiquette you may be able to put into practice while travelling. Most of them will look familiar to you if you have travelled to Europe because they are similar to other European countries. 

 

When meeting someone for the first time:

If you don´t know them, offer your hand. If it´s a woman, she may offer two kisses on the cheeks, left to right. You don´t really kiss her, just gently touch cheeks while kissing the air.

 

When visiting someone:

Your host will guide you to a seating area and will make sure that you are seated and taken care of before they sit down.

 

Hosts always offer something to drink depending on the time of the day. 

 

If you are invited to stay at someone’s home you should bring a gift.

 

If you are invited for lunch or dinner you should bring a bottle of wine or dessert.

 

Don’t visit or call people right after lunchtime. That time of the day is used to clean up the kitchen and rest. Some people nap too. 

 

Taking your shoes off is not necessary when entering someone´s home

 

Dress code:

Spaniards always follow the latest trends and dress on point even for casual occasions. You will only see people in sports clothes if they are working out. If you are invited to an event make sure to wear the appropriate clothes. 

 

The beauty standard is to be tanned, people even compare tans and they’re considered of certain social status. Tan equals enough money to go on holidays. 

 

Flipflops and socks don’t go together. Spaniards can identify “guiris” (western tourists) by looking at their feet.

Read more the customs Patricia left behind in Spain.

Gender Relations

Like many other western countries, there is no legal discrimination based on gender. However, we are still fighting the prevalent gender stereotypes in today’s society. Violence against women is a worldwide issue, therefore, I would say it is generally as safe as it can be to travel solo in Spain as a female. A study carried out by Asher and Lyric determined that Spain was the safest country to travel to for female travellers. Nevertheless, travellers, especially women, should exercise caution and avoid unsafe parts of town, go to clubs or walk alone at night. Going in groups is the best practice.

Tipping

In Spain, tipping etiquette is reduced to services in bars and restaurants for the most part. It is not common to leave a tip when receiving services like beauty treatments. However, it is becoming more frequent for some businesses like salons to display a tipping jar. There is no stipulated percentage for tipping but certainly, for most Spaniards, 10% will be deemed too much. For a small order in a bar, like breakfast or coffee, people usually leave the small change received after paying, around 10 or 20 cents. For bigger parties at bigger meals, like lunch or dinner, people chip in a bit more. 

 

Tips are always given in cash, you cannot add them to your card payment. 

Rude or Offensive Things

Here are some things that are considered rude in different situations:

 

At the table:

  • Any sort of action that will show your food in your mouth: eating with your mouth open or using a toothpick without covering your mouth
  • Burping at the table
  • Making noises like slurping while eating
  • Stretching 
  • Putting your elbows on the table
  • Eating before everybody has been served

 

At Someone´s Home:

  • Browsing around the house without your host
  • Helping yourself in the kitchen by opening cabinets or the fridge
  • Yawning

 

When conversing with people:

  • Avoid sensitive topics if you don’t know the person: The Civil War, Franquismo, and the Catalonia independence issue. People can get very agitated.
Religious Customs

There aren’t any religious customs that travellers need to be aware of if they don’t belong to any particular faith. 

 

Two national Catholic celebrations that you should check out are:

 

Holy Week: Semana Santa takes place during the week of Easter, Easter being the last day. It is a period of reflection for Christians that revolves around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Processions of religious images of Christ and Virgin Mary go through the streets of many cities and towns across Spain. Behind them, devoted penitents will follow. The outfits look like the KKK in different colours, which might upset Americans, but it is totally unrelated.  The biggest Semana Santa processions are in Andalucía, especially Sevilla. 

 

Christmas: Christmas is all about the birth of baby Jesus and, although globalisation has brought Santa Claus to some homes in Spain, Christmas is still very traditional. All of our Christmas songs are only related to this Christian event, there is no place for songs about Santa, Rudolph or receiving gifts. 

 

Christmas extends from the 24th of December to the 6th of January. Some interesting things to do as a traveller are:

  • Visit miniature Bethelem towns representing the place and moment of birth of Christ. 
  • If you are in Andalucía, visit or even participate in a Zambombá party, a gathering where people sing Spanish carols with the typical Christmas instruments: zambomba, tambourines and an empty bottle of anisette. 
  • See the Three Wise Men parade on the evening of the 5th of January. 

 

There are many other local one day festivities in honour of the Saint Patron of any city or town and a statue is taken out in procession. 

My Time in Spain

Catalonia

My very first visit to Spain was to Barcelona. I traveled there for a few days on my own (it was also my first ever solo trip) in January of 2008.

Andalucia

My first visit to Andalucia was in 2011 to Granada. I was back in 2012 to Seville. I then lived along the Costa del Sol for the summer of 2017 and visited Cordoba and Cadiz.

Madrid

During a 2012 trip to Spain I spent several days in the capital, Madrid. I remember being less than taken with the cleanliness of the city and craved some respite from the heat.

Galicia

In 2015 I started dating a Galician - in 2016 & again in 2017 we traveled there and stayed with his family for several weeks. He was from Vigo but we traveled all around the region.

Asturias

Once in 2016 & once in 2017 I made the drive from Vigo to San Sebastian and back again - each time stopping off in Asturias to drink some cider.

Cantabria

On those same 2016 & 2017 road trips that brought me through Asturias, I passed through Cantabria - it is a small but stunning region of the country.

Basque Country

In 2016 & 2017 I spent time in both Bilbao and San Sebastian. I at more pintos then I knew what to do with and topped them off with plenty of Tinto de Verano.

Beaches and water
Galicia
The Arab fort
Andalucia
Hair adornments
Andalucia

Additional Resources

LGBTQ

Moshe, The Top Ten Traveler says:

Spain is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. As such it hosts some of the biggest gay parties, like the Pride in Madrid and the Circuit Party in Barcelona that welcome millions of visitors from all around the world. Gay life in Spain is not only about pride month, it exists all year long and it is alive and kicking. Chueca in Madrid and Eixample in Barcelona are the gay neighborhoods with bars, clubs (great drag shows!), cafes and restaurants. It’s also easy to find gay-friendly accommodation (hotels and apartments), which really makes you feel at home.

More LGBTQ Bloggers:

 

 

BIPOC

 

 

Accessibility

 

 

Locals

 

 

Read More About Spain

Galicia
Galicia
Mountains in Galicia
Galicia
Kayaks
Andalucia

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