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The Definitive Guide to Behave Like A Local in Spain

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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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