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British Living in Spain: Spanish Style

Thinking of moving from UK to Spain? Read this informative guide to the weird rules and wonderful idiosyncrasies of living abroad in a Spanish lifestyle.

BRITS IN SPAIN: This simple guide provides an insight into some reasons why so many British expats move from the United Kingdom to begin a new life in Spain.

Follow these top ten references about Spanish customs. Learn how best to prepare for a permanent move to sunny Spain.

1. Bureaucracy

Spanish law, and the traditional bureaucratic system, is commonly referred to as the ‘Law of Falta Uno‘.

This roughly translates into an idiosyncratic situation. It means that you will never have all the documents you need to complete a transaction.

It seems there is always one document, minus its photocopy, missing for completion. It might seem crazy but it is so true!

2. Family Life in Spain

Spanish people are very much family oriented. Children can do no wrong whatsoever in Spain. Parents seem unwilling, or unable, to set basic children’s rules and disciplinary procedures for their kids.

It is not uncommon for children to go to bed when ‘they‘ decide it is appropriate to do so. That is often later than most British adults go to sleep. Unruly children get seen as cute in Spain. They are rarely punished or admonished by their parents.

A happy family life means everything and they will eat and drink as an excuse to be with family and friends.

3. Birthday Celebrations

Celebrating a birthday in Spain is upside down to the UK version. YOU are expected to entertain your nearest and dearest family and friends – and foot the bill for doing so. You will be expected to pay for your own birthday celebrations!

4. Hot Summers: Dos and Don’ts

Spain is a cold country with a hot sun. That guideline means that most Brits will find the Spanish climate perfect for 11 months of the year. But you are in for a shock if you have yet to experience August in Spain.

There are definitely more things you should not do in August than what you should do. August is hot! Guaranteed daytime temperatures peak around 40 degrees Celsius and no-one wants to work. In fact most Spaniards take the whole month off.

August Don’ts
  • Don’t try to buy a property during this month.
  • Don’t plan for a baby to arrive in August (the doctors are probably at the beach).
  • Do not rely on getting a speedy meal if you are near a beach.
  • You will wait hours for a meal and even longer to pay your bill.
August Dos
  • Go to the beach!
  • Take your own food!
5. Cold Beers

Ordering a beer requires some authority in Spain. A simple ‘Perdone‘ or ‘Disculpe‘ said almost excusably with a soft voice will reward you with limited response.

Be brave and try a loud and proud ‘Oiga!‘ instead (which loosely means ‘hey stranger can you hear me’).

6. Tipping

Offering a tip of 10 per cent is fairly standard in Spain. You might increase this to 20% if you had particularly good service.

7. Times of the Day (confusing?)
  • Morning (la mañana) = until 2 p.m.
  • Afternoon (la tarde) = until dark.
  • Evening (Spanish language does not have a word for evening).
  • After midnight (la madrugada).
8. Doing Business

Can you imagine doing business over your first morning coffee at 7? Well the Spanish do it – and very well. In Spain the early bird catches the biggest and most lucrative worm deal. Lunch for most workers tends to be a two hour tradition and taken from 1 to 4 – confusing?

9. Buying a Property

If you are planning to buy a property do not, under any circumstances, try to complete the purchase in August. Spain is closed! (See rule #4)

10. The Attraction for Brits Living in Spain

The attraction for British expats living in Spain is clear to see. We agree that some customs and regulations may seem a little odd to the average Brit. Nonetheless as a rule of thumb, Spanish people are polite, courteous, hospitable and friendly.

If you are not looking to immerse yourself in a new way of life with a few unpredictable Spanish encounters and cultural differences – then perhaps you should stay at home in the United Kingdom?


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