So you’ve packed and shipped your belongings, and you’re moving to Spain – for work or retirement. Whatever your reason for moving to Spain, there are plenty of social and cultural nuances you simply won’t master from reading your guide book. These tips and tricks are straight from the mouths of expats, so why not learn from their mistakes? Absorbing as much of the language in advance of your move to Spain will help smooth out the creases during your settling in period, but there are plenty of other quirks and foibles worth knowing about in advance.


Don’t bother trying to go shopping between 2ish and 5ish unless you’re in a big city or heading for a big-name store. Lots close for lunch, or siesta. Lots of people who work in retail, therefore, work a ‘jornada partida’, or a split day. Banks also close at midday every day, for the rest of the day. So get your banking done early.

Working hours

You won’t get an office siesta, sadly, but lots of businesses and even schools operate an ‘horario intensivo’ during the summer. You’ll start work early, push on through lunch and finish for the day at 2 or 3pm.The rest of the day is all yours for a lazy late lunch, an afternoon at the beach, or a well-earned siesta. Perfect.

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Get used to sharing your food now if you want to make friends in Spain. Ordering tapas is all about having a lot of little bits of what you fancy, and not hoarding a plateful to yourself. Got that? Pintxos are a slightly different version of tapas, served on top of a small piece of bread with a toothpick. Don’t be all polite and leave that last olive or empanadilla – nobody will think any less of you for diving in and grabbing it for yourself.

More food tips

Unsurprisingly, lots of faux pas in Spain revolve around food. Don’t season your food without at least tasting it first – better not to at all – and don’t ever, ever ask for ketchup. Pulling faces at yours or at other people’s food choices is also considered frightfully uncouth in Spain. If your Spanish friends insist on paying for your meal, don’t accept too readily. But do accept, and show lots of gratitude.

Mwah mwah

If the unwritten rules of how to greet people in the UK still flummox you, you can get it right in Spain by following this simple rule of thumb. Two kisses for friends and new friends. Handshake for new business associates. Don’t get all continental and try to kiss your new boss, ok?

Avoid embarazada

And if after all this good advice you still manage to stuff things up, don’t whatever you do start blushing and tell everyone how ‘embarazada’ you are. Lots of Spanish words translate easily from English (and you’ll be forgiven for reverting to Spanglish a little in your first few months in Spain), but this one actually means ‘pregnant.’ So unless you have a big announcement to make, check your vocab first. And if you catch a cold in Spain, the word for your ailment – we promise – is ‘constipado’.