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Top 5 Culture Shocks in Spain

For some of you, when you arrive you might feel like everything in Spain is magical: everything tastes amazing, the streets are beautiful, the people are friendly, etc.

For others, there might be more of an adjustment phase, or what some like to call “Culture Shock”. This is totally normal if it takes you a little while to adjust to the cultural differences!

Below we’ll discuss some of the most typical differences or reasons people might feel culture shock in Spain, and hopefully if you come prepared your adaptation time will be easier!

Pace of Life:

The pace of life in Spain is slower as a whole compared to many other countries, and other parts of Europe. Spain operates on another schedule; they take their time for everything, spend hours eating meals and socializing, and might not be as punctual with meeting times. Don’t worry, just relax and try to go with the flow!


Schedule of Eating and Going Out:

This is probably the main difference which affects people the most when in Spain, especially for those living with host families. The Spanish typically eat 5 times a day, 3 meals and 2 snacks, and the meal times are not at all like what you are used to. Lunch is eaten around 2 or 3pm, and dinner usually not until 10pm! That being said, the time for going out in the evening is also much later. Bars won’t become crowded until around midnight, and clubs closer to 2 am!

For more information about meal times, check out this article.



Shops and Supermarkets Closing:

Due to the eating schedule, many local shops close over lunch time, from around 2-5pm. If you are planning to go shopping anywhere outside of the main shopping street, make sure it’s not during lunch/siesta hours! They are also closed all day on Sundays!


Sunday is a Rest Day:

Apart from shops closing over lunchtime, Sunday you will find that almost the whole city is closed, apart from restaurants. Supermarkets and almost all shops are closed, the city is very quiet on Sundays. People in Spain usually spend Sundays with their families and relax.


Customer Service:

The speed of service is most likely slower in general than what you are used to. You might sit down for a restaurant for 15 minutes before someone comes to take your drink order. And after your meal, make sure to ask for the bill! They won’t bring it to you without asking because they don’t want to rush you. On top of that, tipping is not common in Spain — you may leave 1€ or 2€ if you think the service was great but it’s not necessary.

If you’d like to learn even more about the Spanish way of life and live it for yourself, try staying with a host family! Or join one of our cultural activities while you’re here! Find out more about living with host families here and our cultural activities here!


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