Learn about life in southern Spain

Mind your manners!

Created: Tuesday, 29 October 2019 Written by Julie Savill

It pays to know how a few things work if you want to fit in with local culture. Here are our top tips on getting off on the right foot!


The Spanish are not like the Americans when it comes to tipping, however it is normal to leave the change to the nearest Euro in a bar or restaurant. Since a service charge is rarely added in a restaurant, most people will leave a Euro or two for the service if they are happy with it. The same goes for a taxi or other services, but you should be aware that some taxi drivers in tourist areas may expect a tip.


Believe it or not, the Spanish are really quite formal until they get to know you well. Unsurprisingly, this applies more to the older generation than to the youngsters, but good manners are generally considered important. Women are greeted by men with a kiss on either cheek, men shake hands even if they know each other well and if they know each other extremely well, then a hug is expected! Quite unlike the British, Spaniards are very tactile and this can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings between the nationalities. You may often find your arm touched to emphasise a point - do not confuse this as an invitation of any sort.A

Attitudes to “please” (por favor) and “thank you” (gracias) differ too. You do not need to add “please” when ordering a coffee in a bar. Just a simple “dáme un café” will do as it is tacitly understood that it is the waiter’s job to bring you a coffee and it is certainly not rude to omit “por favor”.

The Spanish are rather direct people and will tell you if you are not looking particularly good as that’s what they think. This is not rude in Spanish culture and I do wonder quite often if we, the Brits, don’t go overboard with politeness and niceties? Well, perhaps not so much the younger generation, but is that such a bad thing? If I meet a friend who appears very tired and stressed, is it right to ignore it and continue talking as if she/he were obviously on top form?


Surprisingly, the Spanish are generally very orderly when it comes to queuing. Well, I suppose they are quite adept at it since a queue is very much part of day to day life. You go to the post office, your bank, the chemist, the baker and you will find a queue. It is normal and considered polite to say “hello” (buenas días) to those already waiting and to also ask who is the last person in the queue is (¿quién es l’último?) - it is very likely not to be in a straight line. In my experience there is not a lot of queue barging here and people are generally friendly and chatty while waiting to be served - and that might be a long wait - so talking helps to pass the time.

Taken from The Spain Buying Guide

Image by Ingeborg Kråka from Pixabay

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