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Posted by on Jul 17, 2010 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

You Know You’ve Lived in Spain When…

            tinto de verano

  1. You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is perfectly acceptable. Especially at lunch time. The red wine+coke combo known as “Kalimotxo” from the Basque region was introduced to me early on in Spain and is now my drink of choice, even winning the affections of my friends and fam back home. Red wine+fanta limon=tinto de verano and is from the south. The secret in both is 50/50 and using cheap red wine, the cheaper the better.
  2. You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home – surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out? Nightlife is a completely different experience in Spain. You head out around 1AM (after getting together with friends as early as 10PM) and stay out until 5,6,7…sometimes until the sun rises. Take note this isn’t limited to any age group, you’re just as inclined to see a white-haired man at a bar than a 20-year old.
  3. You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers. One of the most uncomfortable adjustments to make as a foreigner in Spain is the fact that the Spanish are prone to stare unapologetically at you. It’s a bit unnerving when you’ve grown up in a culture that tells you that is rude to do so. Appearance is an important part of Spanish culture. Every evening after siesta, the town empties out onto the streets and people are out there essentially people-watching in their most fashionable clothes, strolling and socializing in the calle.
  4. Not giving every new acquaintance dos besos seems so rude. I would assume most foreigners like myself go through a culture shock, then a reverse culture shock with dos besos. Giving a kiss on each cheek is the standard greeting and feels very invasive, however going back to the States and reverting to handshakes feels so…cold?
  5. You forget to say please when asking for things – you implied it in your tone of voice, right? I think please and thank you is forever ingrained in me, but the Spanish language isn’t spoken with so many sugar-coated words. Saying please and thank you for everything is seen as a touch phony to the Spanish.

  6. You know what a pijo / pija is and how to spot one. I learned this word quickly. It is used to describe a “posh” person, and there’s a dime a dozen where I live!
  7. Every sentence you speak contains at least one of these words: ‘bueno,’ ‘coño,’ ‘vale,’ ‘venga,’ ‘pues nada’… Vale was my filler word to buy me time to think of how I wanted to respond in Spanish. Too bad it’s not used in Mexico, because my Mexican relatives gave me funny looks when I tried to use it with them.
  8. You know the difference between jamón pata negra and jamón de York, and you prefer the first. The Spanish worship ham. They only time they probably don’t eat ham is for dessert. There is a huge difference between jamon pata negra and jamon york. Jamón pata negra or Jamón ibérico is wild black Iberian pig fed only acorns (highest quality) and cured. Jamón de York is like everyday deli-meat ham.
  9. You eat lunch after 2pm & would never even think of having your evening meal before 9. The different meal-times were so hard to adjust to, especially going to bed with a sometimes still-full stomach. This is why the Spanish stay up so late! Usually the lunch is the big meal of the day and dinner is something lighter.
  10. You know that after 2pm there’s no point in going shopping, you might as well just have a siesta until 5 when the shops re-open. My town goes from bustling to ghost-town during siesta minus one little bakery I frequent and restaurants/tapas bars.
  11. You know Bimbo isn’t a slutty woman, it’s a make of ‘pan de molde’ (which, incidentally, isn’t moldy) Bimbo is the Spanish version (though it is from Mexico!) of the white bread you made PB&J’s on as a little kid.
  12. You know the difference between cojones and cajones, tener calor and estar caliente, pollo and polla, estar hecho polvo and echar un polvo…and maybe you learned the differences the hard way! Luckily I was surrounded with a hilarious Spanish and American group of friends fascinated with exchanging bad words/phrases. cojones=balls (yes, that kind) cajones=dresser drawers tener calor=to be hot estar caliente=to be horny pollo=chicken polla=penis estar hecho polvo=to be tired echar un polvo=to have a quickie. So, imagine the potential embarrassment of slipping up and using the wrong word or idiom!
  13. On some Sunday mornings you have breakfast before going to bed, not after you get up. Not completely unheard of, though I’ve never done it.
  14. Floors in certain bars are an ideal dumping ground for your colillas, servilletas etc. This was odd to see at first. People will literally drop their napkins on the floor of bars and restaurants after using them.
  15. You know that ‘ahora’ doesn’t really mean now. The Spanish are so inefficient at times, or should I say just very much do things on their own time at their own pace.
  16. Te cagas en la leche…. This literally translates to: “You shit in the milk.” I know it makes no sense, but it’s a term or exasperation equal to “damn it!” Me cago en la leche, me cago en diez, me cago en Dios…are all different versions I’ve learned through paying close attention, haha.
  17. When you know what a guiri is and have been called one. Guiri is the Spanish as Gringo is to Mexicans. It’s usually used as a term of endearment however, and you’ll always be referred to as “the guiri.”
  18. Blonde girls actually start to think their name is ‘rubia’. I can’t speak for blondes, but after being called “morena” by complete strangers everywhere I go, I can see kind of see what they mean.
  19. If something is great, it’s ‘de puta madre’. Thankfully, being around a Basque 24/7 I’m more inclined to think something is “la hostia.”
  20. You can eat up to 5 times a day – first breakfast, 2nd breakfast around 11.30, almuerzo, merienda, cena. This is completely accurate. I would often wake up and eat breakfast around 8AM, then go out to a cafe for breakfast #2 around 11, then have lunch at 3PM, then have merienda at 5 or 6 then eat dinner at 9 or 10PM. Food is such an integral part of their culture, who am I to argue with that?
  21. If you see someone wearing a T-shirt with something written on it in English, you can almost guarantee it won’t make sense. If I were paid a dollar every time I saw something written in poor English, I would be a rich, rich woman. Best I’ve seen? “Green paper” written on a menu meant to say “Green pepper.”
  22. Who needs a dryer when you have a washing line outside the window of your apartment? I’ve certainly written about this experience before…
  23. You answer the phone by saying ‘Yes’. Or even ¿Diga? The Spanish don’t answer by saying “Hola?” They say “Yes” “Tell me” or even “What?” Not rude, just different!
  24. You prefer UHT milk. No, I despise UHT milk. UHT is a different way of pasteurizing the milk that allows it to be sold without needing refrigeration and gives it a longer shelf life. This milk is unfortunately a huge hit in Spain, and I have to drive all the way to the UK territory of Gibraltar to find anything resembling American milk.

Original list courtesy of and comments courtesy of yours truly!


  1. Brilliantly accurate & funny account of some of the things we love to love & hate when living in Spain!

  2. Love this list and even though I’m an expat (of sorts) living in neighbouring Portugal there are many similarities! The 2 kisses, the staring, the no please or thank you, and the UHT milk… which despite my best intentions, I have actually grown to like, shock horror!!

    • I have forced myself to drink UHT just to ensure I’m getting enough calcium, but everytime I go home to the States, milk is one of the first things I have!

    • I have forced myself to drink UHT just to ensure I’m getting enough calcium, but every time I go home to the States, milk is one of the first things I have!


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