A Brit’s perspective of Spain

by John Bascombe on Thursday, January 31, 2013

Living in Spain

If you are planning a visit to Spain, it may be worth reading the following 5 pieces of advice.
As a British girl having lived and worked in Spain for almost six months now, I feel that some of the experience I’ve gained may be useful to other Brits embarking on a trip to Spain themselves…

  1. Don’t be fooled by the crisis talk – Spanish people are not living on the streets and eating out of rubbish bins. In fact, as you walk down the street, you may start to wonder if all this talk of a crisis has been a bit exaggerated: the people don’t appear at all scruffy; on the contrary, everyone seems to be more smartly dressed than back in the UK! What’s more, bars and restaurants are busy all day long until late at night. What’s more, people seem to go out for breakfast on a daily basis which is a luxury most Brits don’t indulge in.
  1. The Spanish aren’t rude just because they don’t say “please” and “thank you” all the time – In Britain, we are accustomed to saying “please” and “thank you” at every given opportunity. In Spain, these words are used much more sparingly. However it is not due to a lack of respect, it is simply a different culture. For example, since being in Spain I have learnt that it is not normal to say “please” and “thank you” when speaking to close members of your family and friends, although it is important to respect your elders. Moreover, when ordering in a restaurant, or receiving your change in a café or bar, it is not customary to use these words. When you think about it, it actually makes more sense – why would you say thank you to a waiter for giving you your money? After a little while in the country, you will find that this “less polite” way of life is actually much more comfortable. One more thing – if you accidentally brush past someone in the supermarket, there is no need to apologise profusely – this will just cause an awkward situation.
  1. Eating times – mealtimes in Spain are later than they are in England. For example, lunchtime is usually 2pm and dinnertime can be as late as 10pm. At first this may prove a little difficult for a Brit to get used to. However, what I have come to realize is that by eating breakfast a little later – say 10am rather than 8am when I get up – I can last through till lunchtime without having to snack. A great thing about having a later lunch when you’re at work is that it makes the afternoon go quicker and before you know it, it’s home time!
  1. Shop opening times are also a little different in Spain in comparison to the UK: more often than not, there is a siesta between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. For a nine-to-fiver like me, this new schedule is really convenient as it means I still have 4 hours of shopping time left after work as shops generally shut at 9pm.  As a result, grocery shopping can be done during the week, freeing up my weekends to do whatever I like.
  1. Prices – one thing that has struck me whilst living in Spain is that the pricing seems a little odd. For example, some things that you might expect to be expensive are surprisingly cheap. Equally, some items seem ridiculously overpriced. However, what I will say is that quality of goods seems to be higher here. Though some things might be more expensive, the materials used here appear to me to be of better quality. Things here seems to be built to last, at least more so than in the UK. In my opinion, I would rather pay more for something that is going to last me than buying something cheap that I am going to have to re-buy in a month or two.

Finally, I have to say that the people here are incredibly helpful, caring and friendly. Coming from a busy town just outside of London, I am used to people going about their daily business without a care for anyone or anything else. In Spain, it’s like a different world: people say hello to you on the streets and generally go out of their way to help you (a lady once let me use her mobile phone to call my landlord when I locked myself out of my flat and waited with me till he arrived to let me in!) In restaurants, total strangers say “Buen provecho” meaning enjoy your meal and bar staff sometimes give freebees to loyal customers. All the types of behavior I have mentioned above are simply unheard of in the UK, at least the part that I am from.

Coming to Spain has been a breath of fresh air, and although I experienced a bit of culture shock at first, I know that I am going to be sad to leave.


Keywords: live in spain,british in spain,living abroad,trip to spain,living in spain

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