Traveling to Spain opens new doors to discovering the country’s rich history, culture, and fun-loving people. More than the picturesque destinations, the trip to Spain is a chance to interact closely with the locals, hence, getting to know their culture is a must to establish good relations. There are definitely things you must not do in Spain to avoid conflicts with locals in different regions.
The key to understanding cultural differences is by distinguishing the things that are acceptable and those that are considered taboo. Tourists visiting Spain need to embrace certain norms like air-kissing and take time to study the way of living of Spaniards.
The things travelers must not do aren’t extraordinary, more like respecting other people’s time and being decent. Spaniards are famous for being friendly, and interacting with them is easy. Practicing a few Spanish words are perfect for starting conversations and asking for directions.
Top 10 Things You Must NOT Do in Spain
1. Don’t wear bikinis on the streets
Walking around coastal towns wearing a bikini top or one-piece swimsuit is against the law. Barcelona, to be exact, bans wearing of swimwear in streets, and orders all tourists and locals to cover up or face up to €260 fine.
Throughout the country, a modest and conservative dress code applies to all genders. Longer shorts and skirts are encouraged in the summer, and crop tops or tight miniskirts are discouraged for religious reasons.
In major cities like Madrid, overly casual pieces like tank tops and denim shorts aren’t common. Most restaurants, bars, museums, and other public establishments don’t allow entry of individuals wearing overly casual clothing.
2. Don’t get uptight on time
Punctuality is still observed in Spain, however, being late is not considered disrespectful, especially in social gatherings. For tours, arriving on the exact announced time is okay, but expect to wait for more than 10 to 15 minutes before the tour starts.
Spaniards aren’t usually strict about time, because they tend to be laid-back. Of course, this isn’t always the case, so arrive on time as much as possible. There are times when tour organizers arrive at the meeting place fifteen minutes later than announced time. This is acceptable, therefore, don’t get uptight on time and simply enjoy Spain.
3. Avoid discussions about regionalism
Travelers need to be careful when addressing the locals and not generalize everyone as ‘Spanish.’ People from the Basque Country and Catalonia preferred being called Basques or Catalans and not Spanish. There are regional differences in the whole country, and addressing the locals properly shows respect to their culture and identity.
Engaging in talks about regionalism is considered a taboo, especially in the Basque Country. Locals from different regions have stronger identities and want to be referred to as Basques, Catalans, Valencians, Galicians, or Castilian.
To avoid conflicts, be sure to address the locals properly and not compare different regions and areas in Spain out loud.
4. Do not drink the hot chocolate
To not get weird looks at restaurants, be sure not to drink the Spanish hot chocolate. This is usually very thick and is made for churros, or as a pudding. Local eateries serve this with crispy churros or other pastry.
The Café con leche is also a popular option, but just like the typical hot chocolate, it is way better for dipping and not drinking. The chocolate is brimming with sugar and chocolate that it tastes sweeter than regular hot chocolate. Plus, it is not made with water, rather milk only.
5. Never assume anybody speaks English
One of the things not to do in Spain is assuming everybody speaks English. Spaniards’ level of English varies between people and locations. So, don’t expect everyone to understand the language. As a tourist, it is better to learn key Spanish phrases to converse with locals easily.
Key phrases such as hola, mucho gusto, gracias, por favor, disculpe, estoy perdido, cuánto, and dónde are basic and easy to learn. These words are enough to ask for time, the value of goods or services, ask for direction, and to say gratitude.
There are some locals who can understand common English words too, so don’t be afraid to approach them and ask, “Habla Inglés?” to know if they can speak in English.
6. Don’t wear flip flops
As mentioned earlier, overly casual clothing like wearing flip flops isn’t recommended, unless at a beach or poolside. Tourists need to wear the proper attire, closed-toe shoes or sandals to avoid the risk of being refused entry to bars and restaurants.
Wearing proper attire also helps tourists to blend in the crowd and not get the attention of pickpocket thieves in major cities. Instead of flip flops, wear running shoes, sandals, or ordinary sneakers. The key is wearing something comfortable and appealing and not overly casual.
7. Never flash belongings
The ostentatious display of wealth is one of the things you must not do in Spain. This is highly frowned upon by locals, especially those in the countryside. While it is perfectly fine to wear signature items or clothing, too much display of wealth is considered taboo. For instance, layering jewelry and dressing too much for public places is inappropriate.
Safety is another reason why travelers need not flash belongings and wealth. This is especially true in Madrid or Barcelona, where pickpocket thieves are common in tourist spots. Walking around with a bag half-open is a huge mistake to avoid.
To be safe, showcase a low key profile while traveling and always be vigilant in open, public spaces. It is definitely okay to be stylish but keep it down a little and always attend to belongings.
8. Don’t be timid
A little advice when traveling in Spain is, locals can be pretty friendly and may give air-kisses to anyone they’re meeting for the first time. They are particularly warm, open, and touchy that it can feel a little awkward at first. Regardless, Spaniards are nice people that travelers can easily get along with.
When going to different places, flashing a smile to locals can go a long way. In flamenco bars, some locals even give free drinks and tapas or snacks to a group of foreign nationals.
9. Don’t use the phone while driving
Travelers who have an international driver’s license need to be careful on the road, especially not using a mobile phone while driving. Spain has stricter laws on hand-held smartphones used while driving. It is illegal to wear headphones or earphones while driving and is punishable by law.
Driving barefoot or wearing flip flops also comes with a fine up to €200. The list of what not to do in Spain is simple, and that is to follow the laws of the country and never cause any trouble. Speaking on the phone is acceptable only with a hands-free system.
10. Don’t expect big breakfasts
Unlike in other parts of the world, breakfast in Spain is not a big deal, and often, locals-only chump on biscuits, chocolate milk, or a ham or cheese sandwich. Sometimes, coffee and a piece of toasted bread served with tomato and olive oil are what travelers can get from hotels in Spain.
A full English breakfast isn’t popular in Spain unless there’s a breakfast buffet offered by the accommodation. While in the country, simply observe the way of living of locals and find out the things not to do in Spain for a carefree and memorable trip.