7 things to know before your trip to Spain
You may have remembered your Spanish teacher telling you to open your textbooks to learn about Spanish culture and phrases. At one point you probably thought, “I’ll most likely never visit Spain, so why do I need to know this?” Now you’re in Europe and Spain is just a Ryanair flight away. Time to dust up on all the knowledge you once knew! If you’re preparing to visit this beautiful country, check out these tips to make your trip smooth sailing.
1. Empty streets during siesta
If you’ve been touring the Sagrada Familia all day and feel yourself getting hungry at 2 p.m., be prepared to wait until 5 p.m. when the restaurants and shops are open again. This is known as siesta hours. Though Spaniards may not be taking their siestas (naps) during this time, most shops and restaurants, unless in a heavy tourist area, will be closed.
2. Beware of pick-pocketers
Though this can happen anywhere in the world, Spain is known for pick-pocketers, especially in places packed with tourists. Be sure to always watch your belongings and be smart about what you pack. Don’t bring your high-end purse if you have one that is equally as nice, but not as expensive. Tip: Keep all your valuables such as your expensive watch, passport and important IDs in the safe of your accommodation.
3. Vale? Vale.
Upon getting the receipt for your dinner, you may hear the waiter say “vale.” Pronounced “bal-eh,” this phrase simply means “ok,” and is used many times throughout Spanish conversations and exchanges. To receive a smile from a local, say it back. They will appreciate you trying to embrace their culture and language.
4. There are languages other than Spanish
Don’t be surprised if you’re walking down the streets and hear a language similar to Spanish. In Spain, other languages such as Catalan and Gallego are spoken. Heading to Barcelona? You’ll hear Castilian Spanish and half of its people speak Catalan, a language influenced by Spanish, French and Italian. If you find yourself in Galicia, you’ll hear Gallego which mixes Portuguese and Spanish.
5. Reconsider visiting in August
Since many locals decide to leave the country to go on their own vacation, many of the shops and businesses are closed throughout the month of August. Of course, most major cities are still open, but public transport is reduced and in some cases, services are shut down altogether. To avoid sweltering hot summers and scare shops/restaurants, the best time to plan your trip is in April, May, June, September and October.
6. Paella isn’t good everywhere
Whenever I’m in Spain, I sometimes overhear tourists asking locals, “Where is the best place to get Paella?” The truth is unless you’re in Valencia or Barcelona, Paella isn’t as popular throughout the rest of the country. What is popular are tapas, small savory dishes that are part of the Spanish diet. Cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Granada often offer these little treats for free when you order a drink at a bar.
7. Everybody stops and smells the roses
Like much of Europe, the locals live life at a slower pace, compared to many Americans who are always on the go. You’ll find Spaniards leisurely drinking coffee with friends, having a late lunch at 2 p.m., not letting the stressors of life affect them. They are very friendly people who have a passion for life and don’t let work run their lives, something we can all learn to do.
Whether you’re visiting Spain for the first time, or many times, it’s never too late to know about the culture and what to expect upon arrival. It will not only make your trip easier but will also teach you the values of learning and respecting another country’s culture.