1. Go in for a hug or a handshake.
Like most Europeans, Spaniards favor a bi-cheekal* kiss greeting. Go in for a hug or handshake at the wrong time and you’ll likely end up accidentally grazing someone’s crotch with your outstretched hand or hugging their pouting lips in a peculiar headlock.
2. Go barefoot anywhere.
Spaniards have an aversion to bare feet. Even in their own homes, Spaniards wear slippers, so don’t even try to traipse around the pool at the gym without flip flops on!
3. Dress sexy rather than scary on Halloween.
Halloween is a relatively new holiday in Spain but even so, it has developed an identity quite different from the US version. American Halloween is an occasion used for making tongue-in-cheek pop culture references or to sex-up literally any animal or character you can think of just so you have an excuse to wear lingerie in public. Spanish Halloween is an opportunity to dress in the most horrific outfit you can muster up in order to creep out, gross out, or scare the crap out of your friends. Show up to the bar in your sexy Dora the Explorer costume and you’ll be laughed out of the party by bleeding zombies, snaggletoothed witches, and gory demons.
4. Dress weather appropriate, rather than season appropriate.
Spaniards dress according to the season, not the weather. This means that even if it’s 80 degrees in February, you’ll likely be gawked at on the street for wearing shorts and sandals. No matter how high the winter temperature, that is summer attire only!
5. Wear gym clothes outside of the gym.
In the States, it’s completely fine to run errands in sweatpants, walk down the street in your less-than-best outfits, or even grab lunch with a friend in yoga pants. In Spain, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you so much as enter the grocery store in your gym or lounge clothes. Don’t do it.
6. Eat while on the go.
Spaniards like to make every meal a sit-down meal. Chow down on the street or in the metro and you might find yourself the subject of baffled gazes, feeling like the oft-stereotyped “fat American” who simply can’t wait to get to a table before shoving food down her gullet.
7. Exit the building wrong.
Spanish apartment buildings are filled with various switches, some of which turn on lights, some of which ring doorbells, and others that open the front door to the building from the inside. The problem is that all these switches look the same! Getting around a friend’s apartment building is a high stakes game. When you accidentally ring the neighbor’s doorbell while trying to illuminate the dark hallway on your way out, take advantage of the opportunity to ask the neighbors which switch opens the front door.
8. Try to get dinner before 9 pm.
Most Spaniards don’t even start thinking about dinner until around 9pm and usually don’t eat it until 10 or 11. Show up to a restaurant around 7 or 8 pm expecting to get dinner and the restaurant will either be empty, closed, or filled with Spaniards enjoying some after work drinks well before dinner.
9. Order the wrong drink at the wrong time.
Spaniards love to drink a variety of beverages, and each one seems to have its own occasion. Coffee is to be ordered alone or after a meal, never before; vermouth is for Sunday afternoons; gin and tonics are for after dinner and before going out; and ordering tinto de verano (red wine mixed with lemon soda) in the wintertime is a surefire way to get a lecture from the bartender. Luckily, beer seems to be appropriate anytime.
10. Show up to the club before 1 am.
It’ll just be you and the bouncer, baby.
*The writer acknowledges that this is a made-up word. However, she firmly believes it won’t be long before bi-cheekal enters the modern lexicon.