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The Definitive Guide to Behave Like A Local in Spain

The Definitive Guide to Behave Like A Local in Spain

Old Sep 30th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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The Definitive Guide to Behave Like A Local in Spain

Giving my experience as a local guide for the Basque Country, I´ve encountered many guests that, before their visit, have expressed their interest in "behaving like a local". Well, that´s quite complicated, moreover on short visits, but I´ve been observing the different behaviors of my visitors and have arrived to the following conclusions, on how to behave like a local (being American, although it´s the same for the 17 nationalities I´ve had this year). Yes, the title of the post may sound preposterous and presumptuous, but hey, I´m a local...

1- Don´t order "espresso" coffe. It´s "solo". Espresso is in Italy and other countries, no locals will ever say "espresso". A "cortado" is a "solo" with a little milk on it.
2- If in northern Spain or Madrid, please don´t wear bottles of water in your hands. Locals drink from public fountains, perfectly safe and purified water, the same we drink at our homes. A tourist is quickly identified by a plastic water bottle.
3- Not to mention the North Face shorts, white socks and white sneakers...a no-no for locals...
4- Flip flops in the city are also a rarity for locals.
5- We don´t wear formal clothes in top restaurants...casual is the word, even in the best restaurant in town.
6- No, we don´t have butter to spread on bread while waiting to be served. Not even olive oil. We don´t spread anything on bread, it´s just to go with the meal.
7- Tipping is not obligatory, but of course do tip...but just the amount you feel comfortable with. No 15% or 20%, just spare change or small notes.
8- We drink water in restaurants, but without any ice on it. And normally, it´s not sparkling, it´s flat. Ice is not part of our water culture.
9- If you are in the north, pintxos are never a way to a meal. We have them BEFORE lunch or dinner, never as a main meal. And normally, one per bar and never, ever, sitting down or on a plate.
10- Dinner time for a restaurant, as standard, may be 10pm.
11- Chicken is considered cheap and low quality, as salmon. That´s why it´s never on the à la carte on 99% of restaurants (except on daily menus).
12- No, we normally don´t order Coke with our meal. A big no-no.

Hope this helps a little to those that want to behave like a local while in Spain. There are some regional differences (I live in the Basque Country), but it may serve for any other regions too.

Saludos,

Mikel
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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Sorry, I think I should have said "to behaving"...not my mother tongue, my apologies!!
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 09:36 AM
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What happens to tourists who don't act like locals?
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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Are your referring to the ones who wear the cute little flip-flops and loud Hawaiian shirts? Or the ones who want to have lunch at 11:00 and dinner at 5:00? Wait, I guess they are the same.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:24 AM
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No wonder I keep going to Italy.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:31 AM
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I thin this was sort of copied from something I read not too long ago, only for Italy, very similar.

People should drink what they want, shouldn't they?

This is a bunch of nonsense for insecure people who are not remotely going to convince people they are Spanish.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:44 AM
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"People should drink what they want, shouldn't they? "

Finding ice in a restaurant or bar in the Basque country could prove challenging, and even more so in the south.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:46 AM
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Mikel-- I think "behave" is fine.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:53 AM
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Thanks Mikel
It corresponds to my experiences and I apply grosso merdo the same behaviour in France an Belgium (flip flap, water, ice, tips, casual dining)...
Sounds like civilzed counrty.
Except for dining at 10 pm and having no butter on my bread...
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 12:03 PM
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Christina, I have not copied it from anywhere...in fact I´ve been absent from Fodor´s for a long time. Just based on my experiences...visitors ask me how to behave like a local and they don´t want to look as "tourists". I know it´s impossible, but some hints on our local behavior may be of some help to some people.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 12:18 PM
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Seems Christina is not in a good mood today..
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 12:28 PM
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Ok, mikelg, but it sounds like more fun to go to Sardegna. I am glad though to know how to order coffee.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 12:29 PM
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Well, much of that I'm fine with, regardless of whether I'm in Spain or not. But I will continue to carry a refillable water bottle in an outer pocket of my day pack, and I will continue to eat pinxtos (or tapas or raciones or whatever comes with my wine) instead of waiting until after 10:00 for dinner every night.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 12:56 PM
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My wife and I have visited Spain for over 40 years and I have spent over a year as an accumulative time in Spain, my wife more. None as a student or on business.

While most of Mikel writes is true, we have found the Spanish to warm and gracious about violating these unwritten rules of etiquette and culture. And there seems to be a generational gap on some issues. For example, when a young cousin came to NY, she really wanted a North Face jacket. And I was almost shocked that my young cousins had Sangria with ice. First Sangria was thought by most older people as poor quality, but that has changed. And they can thank the ice loving Americans for the other change.

Also I have been drinking Cokes with my meals for the longest times with any scowls or admonitions. The Spanish also are quite accepting when you speak their language no matter how poorly.

Our cousins also tease me because they say water is for frogs.

Finally, you are a tourist. And if you are polite, not demanding, and not boisterous many of these sins are forgiven.

There are some restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona that cater to tourists and are open for offer dinner at the hours of others are accustomed to, but they are usually not great culinary treats.

Breakfast is usually light and quick.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 01:03 PM
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with my colouring and lack of [fluent/any] spanish, no-one is ever going to mistake me for a local anyway.

same as in the UK, I can spot a tourist at 50 paces. so what, they are very welcome, and I really don't care if they wear flip-flops, North Face jackets, and demand ice in their drinks.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 01:09 PM
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I perfectly blend as a local, either in Europe, China or Egypt.

And I never, ever, ever wear flip-flops.

But I can forgive this. What I can't forgive is people putting ice in wine. That is a MAJOR CRIME wherever you are, whoever you are.

And I drink local wine - Spanish wine in Spain, German wine in Germany, Chinese wine in China - err, no, scrap that.

What's a north face jacket ?
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 01:32 PM
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The North Face is an outdoors company from the Pacific Northwest (USA). And yes, you can buy their clothes in Paris - The North Face Store Paris Saint-Germain.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 01:53 PM
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Some of these are correct, but I've seen Spanish youth with North Face gear-quite the in thing.

And at least in Seville-people wore their best outfits-business type to restaurants.

As for identifying oneself as a tourist-well I can tell tourists in DC from a distance but who cares? They come, spend money and help the economy..I'm sure most Spaniards feel the same.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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I think some posters lost sight of mikelg's initial point of responding to those who want to behave like a local. He never implied that one should behave as a local.

Thanks for the tips. I have no compulsion to behave as a local but will order a "solo" instead of an expresso.
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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 02:03 PM
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A woman friend and I just had dinner at Albora in Madrid (the bar area, not the upstairs restaurant).
The food and the service were were good...my friend wanted to leave 15+ % tip
... I tried to explain to her about tipping in Spain, she did not care. ...
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