1. You think noon is at 12pm.
We know it is. Technically. But reality is different in Spain: noon (mediodía) means lunch time, which could be anytime between 1:30 and 4pm. If you’re meeting someone in the afternoon (por la tarde), it will never be earlier than 4:30pm. And, remember, dinner is rarely before 9pm. How do we manage to get there without starving in the way? Thanks to one of our best customs: merienda (an afternoon snack, between 6 and 7:30pm).
2. You tried hitchhiking.
…and waited for two hours by the road. Something strange happens when you cross the Pyrenees: what’s so easy and normal in Central Europe becomes really uncommon in Spain. Don’t worry, someone will eventually pick you up, but you might want to get comfortable while waiting. A good alternative is carpooling, which has become really popular in Spain in the last years thanks to the economic crisis.
3. You try to go shopping at 3:30pm.
Although this is changing in big cities and chain stores, which remain open at lunch time, most small shops close between 2 and 5pm. Who goes shopping at lunch time, anyway? Only a tourist!
4. You only packed summer clothes.
How could we blame you? You were travelling to Spain, synonymous with sun and beaches, siesta, and fiesta! Now you realize your mistake: you’re in the mountains, not the beach, and it’s winter. Enter 10C and rain. Next time you come, check the weather before packing. You might need more than sandals and a swimming suit.
5. You are sure everyone is sleeping between 2 and 5pm.
Siesta is one of the biggest myths about Spain. Because everything is closed between 2 and 5pm, it must be that Spaniards are sleeping, right? Some people take a nap after lunch, true, but not as many as you’d think. Why is everything closed then? Because we love to have a calm meal with our family if possible, and do it right (cooking, having dessert, drinking a coffee afterwards). And, yes, we might also take a nap.
6. You order a bocadillo vegetal thinking it will fit your vegetarian diet.
There are some classic sandwiches (bocadillos) in Spanish bars: with tortilla, chorizo, pork loin, or chicken with cheese, calamari, the list goes on. And then you have the bocadillo vegetal, which should not be mistaken for a vegetarian option. It has tomato, lettuce, onion, and tuna or ham — maybe both. Keep it in mind next time you decide to have lunch at a bar.
7. When introduced to someone, you try to shake hands.
You offer your hand while the person you’re being introduced to leans in to…yes — she/he wants to kiss you! It’s only two kisses, one per cheek; it means nothing to us. But beware: if you’re a man being introduced to another man, you have to shake hands. He’ll be nervous if you try to kiss him.
8. You don’t eat the tapa that came with your drink, because you think you’ll have to pay for it.
Did you order a beer in a bar and also got some olives, chips, or even callos along with you drink? Don’t worry — it’s on the house, that little tapa is for free. But before you start praising how generous Spanish bars are, you should know there’s actually a business strategy behind it — they want to make you thirsty for another drink. In the meantime, you should eat the olives. You will pay the same if you leave them untouched.