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Top Ten Things That Shock Brits In Spain


This post has come as a response to a feature article from an online newspaper/magazine, which reports Spanish news in English. The publication is called ‘The Local’.

The article by reporter Alex Dunham; ‘Top Ten Things That Shock Spaniards In The UK’, made me immediately have a response with the opposite opinion.

What is shocking for us ex-pat Brits in Spain?

Well ponder no longer as I have constructed a list for you all to peruse!!!

Here are the top ten I have come across; not just me though, I am not that biased folks! Others I know have raised these points too, and they definitely make a worthy top ten.

Manners: Let us forget Spain as the traditional, quaint and quiet little idle, full of flamenco and sangria. This is not the Spain of today! The people in Madrid can be grumpy, rude, ignorant, pushy and annoying like any other nation’s inhabitants can be!! It is a shock to realise they say ‘speak to me’ upon answering a telephone or greeting a customer. People will normally reply with ‘I want’ and ‘give me’, which are demands many from the UK might be uncomfortable with! Yet, odd manners are replicated out on the street, metro and in general too. People will quite happily barge you out of way, won’t think twice about hogging the isles in supermarkets, and of course jump queues; all of which is quite normal in most countries though! They may not be Spain specific, but are still annoying!

Time: Lateness is normal in Spain. Meet friends and expect to wait at least 30 minutes for them to arrive. OK, the relaxed atmosphere surrounding social gatherings encourages this, but in business, not a good idea. Most nations respect and expect punctuality, otherwise how would any deal get done, and any work get completed? It is just common sense, be on time to the office!

Vacations: Some companies apply a summer timetable. In effect people begin work early and finish early. Great, and yet I don’t know anyone in the UK who finishes work at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, just because it is summertime. Not to forget the long lunch hours! Oh, and that some places close for the entire of August!

Binge Drinking V’s Drinking Everyday: Spaniards drink daily. They are allowed to have a drink during their lunch break, even on company premises! They can buy alcohol in the cinema! Drinking is encouraged; a sherry after dinner, followed by beer and wine and then finish off with cocktails after 1.00 AM. Alcohol is sold in any cafe, bar, restaurant and club until the small hours, but you won’t be able to purchase it at the supermarkets after 10.00 PM. That rule makes ALL the difference!

Shopping: Certain shops run on a repeat loop; every street you walk down seems to have the usual suspects – Tiger, Starbucks, H&M, Zara, Lefties, Cafe & Te, Bijou Brigitte, Bershka, and so on. Also, Pharmacies are BIG in Madrid. You cannot purchase a little pack of paracetamol from Carrefour (Supermarket), ONLY from a Pharmacy. Yet, from that same Pharmacy you can be sold a pack of highly addictive Codeine based painkillers without a prescription.

Skimpy Outfits: Now Spain has ample excellent weather for the women of the country to parade around in skimpy outfits, so just because they have to wear a coat in winter to cover up on the streets, doesn’t mean their dress sense has suddenly become demure. No-one is that easily fooled!

Home Design: Home decoration tends to favour flounce and frills, brown and pinks, flowers and dark wood. It is quite traditional, and dare I say, a little 1980’s! The other odd thing I have noticed is that wherever there is a bathroom, the make of the suite is always ROCA! A little weird!

Food: Wholesome and healthy, well, I suppose in some places it can be. Yet, a favoured Madrid dish, fried Calamari on baguettes, doesn’t constitute as such! Olives, processed pork, tortilla, chips and fries don’t fit that bill either!!

Make Under: Women in Madrid ARE tan fanatics. They sunbathe in local parks, and break the cardinal rule by not applying sun-cream! Women don’t often dress up (as in going out on the town) or differently. Let me explain; I see plenty of plain clothes such as jeans, shorts, little skirts and tee shirts. These are all over Madrid, they are the norm for summer and winter. Fashion seems to be quite regimented in many parts of Madrid, and for those who like to embrace expressing themselves via fashion, they will find people staring at them oddly! Britain’s urban chic is however slowly catching on in certain areas within Madrid, which is good news!

Tea: great if you happen to favour the green variety or flavoured fruit teas, not if you want milk and sugar! Oh, and they aren’t fan of kettles here in Madrid; microwaves are used to heat up drinking water. Their coffee, well, it is the same as ordering a coffee in any other bar (etc.) in any other country, it is just coffee!

OK, I had to add in another point for good measure, hehe!!

Personal Space: Now the Spanish air kissing or facial kisses are fine with me, well, ordinarily. Yet, meeting people for the first time, and them expecting to get up, close and personal, is a little off putting. I like close contact and am not afraid of hugging people, but I do love my personal space too. On the Metro people will come and sit right next to you, even if there are ample seats available elsewhere. They are there up and close to you; talking loudly, snogging their boyfriend/girlfriend, allowing their children to stamp all over your feet, or applying their make-up. Oh, and in the parks, expect to see extreme make out sessions in full swing!!

Don’t get me wrong here, I do enjoy living in Madrid. It is just that NO country is perfect!!! I would be THE first to stand up and say that UK has it’s own issues too!

Hope you like the list? Please let me know what are your top ten shocks from the countries you have visited or lived in. I would be interested to know your experiences and of course, opinions!

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6 thoughts on “Top Ten Things That Shock Brits In Spain

    • Thanks, I appreciate that 🙂 Hopefully it will shed some light on life here, it’s not all sun and fun! Thanks again!

  1. I can totally understand the personal space issues you are having. That seems to be a cultural difference between the Nordic (Germany, Britain, Scandinavia) and the Romanic peoples. Germans used to be terrible line-jumpers, too, but that seems to have changed over the past 20 years, with an increased import of British/American television series.

    • Yep, it is a shock to get to grips with blurred boundaries! Ah, and there was I thinking that Germany would have always been into the queue thing. Seems the UK must have invented that orderly set up then!!

  2. In another lifetime when I was a student I had a summer and Easter job as a courier, taking groups of American high school students around Spain. I often did the Madrid/Avila/Segovia tour and learned to love the people. It used to be such a civilized place and I remember everyone having such good manners. I wonder why it has changed. Is it the economic situation or what?

    • Hey Malcolm, I have no idea what has happened. They are the same driving around, so I think it is a lack of patience and respect for one another. Not everyone is bereft of manners of course, but it is becoming more normal, and so much more noticeable than perhaps it ever was. Just for example; two days ago I was shopping, shopping cart groaning from the weight of all the food, but still I was having to dodge everyone as usual on the walkways. As well as watching out for people, I had to ensure my cart didn’t get stuck, topple over or hit anyone. I tried to manoeuvre passed an elderly lady, when another man came and walked straight into me, on purpose, and barged me out of his way with such force, I almost cried! I was so shocked, and a little frightened as it was so unexpected, and done with such disregard as though I was nothing. So, who knows what they gain from doing such things as they go about their day, perhaps it makes them smile.

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