Expats From Around the World Share the Spanish Norms They Find Strange

It’s inevitable to move to a new country and not begin noticing all the little things that are different from back home. Of course, what is ‘normal’ is completely relative. That’s what makes moving to a new country all the more exciting. Expats get to experience the small or sometimes sizable differences firsthand, opening their minds up to cultural differences and local norms. They may even realize, “Wow, they do it so much better here than we do!”, (European public transportation versus American, duh).

Personally, I’ve found myself adapting to many of the Spanish norms. In Hawaii, we greet people with one kiss. What’s so difficult about adding one more to the other cheek? Want to have a barbecue on Sunday? We better go grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday when it’s open. Beers before lunch? let’s go. Oh and that price tag? It’s the exact amount you’re going to pay at the register. Tax included.

Check out what other expats found weird when they first moved to Spain:

1. Jaywalking

Jaywalking Spanish norm

“Everyone crosses the street when the light is red, even right in front of the police. In Germany, this is really uncommon.”

Sarah Jakuszeit, Germany

2. Cleaning with bayetas

Kitchen bayetas spanish norm
These cheap yellow cloths come in packs and can be found in most shops.
“I’ve been living in Spain for a few years now, but I still have not gotten used to the slimy ‘bayetas’ that everyone uses in their kitchens and bathrooms to clean. In the US, we use rags that a) are washable and reusable and b) are not slimy and disgusting to touch!”
-Ryan Simoens, Wisconsin, USA

 3. Saying hola on a hike

Hike Spanish norms

“There’s so much sunshine in Spain! But the most surprising thing for me was that people greet each other when hiking in the mountains.”

Elizabeth Shilova, Russia

 4. Toplessness & Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball
I must admit it, these are on the bookshelf at my apartment.

“There’s so many things that were weird for me in the beginning when I moved to Barcelona: everything is closed on Sundays, women go topless on the beach, you see far less men wearing suits, and you always have to look down when walking on the street otherwise you step in dog poop. Lastly, I’d say that Catalans know Dragon Ball a lot better than the Japanese do!”

-Ryota Kamio, Japan

5. Enjoying every meal

Enjoying every meal Spanish norms
Basque style pintxos where diners pay per piece.
“My mindset when it comes to food has always been “I’ll eat when I feel hungry or when I have time”. For this reason, I’m still pleasantly amazed at how Spaniards take time out of their day (at the same times everyday) to enjoy a nice lunch and dinner.”
-Ryan Simoens, Wisconsin, USA

6. Trying to be tan

Topless on the beach Spanish norms
Since going topless on the beach is completely normal, why not tan that underboob? Free the nipple!
“In Thailand, it’s always sunny, so we’re constantly looking for shade and wear hats to avoid the sun as much as possible. We even go into shopping malls just for the air conditioning or if we feel we’ve had too much sun during the day. Here, everyone is looking for sun, they try to have lunch or a beer on a terrace when it’s sunny, they go to day parties and are always trying to get a tan.”
-Nanar Tgoson, Thailand

7. Fishmonger at grocery store chains

fishmonger Spanish norms

“I was really surprised to see whole fish and seafood at chain grocery stores, even the cheap ones. For no extra cost, a fishmonger conveniently cleans and cuts the fish however you want so you don’t have to make a mess at home. I wish we had this in Hawaii! It was also strange to see milk, eggs and some types of meat being sold outside of the refrigerated section.”

-Kalena McElroy, Hawaii, USA

Are you an expat in Spain? What Spanish norms did you find different from your home country? Leave a comment below and tell me what you’d add.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.