Don't Be the Ugly American

Barcelona's Gaudí-imbued architecture may be twisted, but its traditions aren't. Act accordingly. (Corel)

The Spanish love to party—sometimes staying out until right before work the next day—but they are also a conservative nation. What you do in the clubs of Spain, you don't do in the streets of Spain. Avoid the unnecessary by following these simple rules:

  • In keeping with their love of long nights, dinner is generally eaten late at night (at about 10 p.m.) so don't expect to show up at a restaurant at six o'clock and get served.
  • Everyone—and by that, we mean quite literally EVERYONE—takes a siesta from 1300hr (1 p.m.) to 1500hr (4 p.m.) in order to avoid the hottest part of the day. As such, the streets will empty and many town centers will come to a standstill at these times.
  • Most banks are only open Monday to Friday from 900hr to 1400hr (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and until 1300hr (1 p.m.) on Saturday. Note that Cajeros Automático (ATMs) are available, but not necessarily as prevalent as they are in the U.S.
  • As in other countries, if you're invited to someone's home, it's customary to bring a present with you.
  • Guys should be careful when approaching Spanish ladies. Fathers, brothers, and boyfriends can be unusually sensitive, and even aggressive, if they think you're trying to smooth their womenfolk.
  • Spain does get hot and sunny, but keep your shirt on! It's a conservative country (especially in the rural areas) and locals frown on such behavior. And you should always cover up when visiting a church or cathedral. Not everyone appreciates rippling flesh, no matter how buff you are. Well, except the clubbers of Madrid or the beachgoers of Ibiza…

Published: 13 May 2005 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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