CULTURAL FAUX PAS IN SPAIN – THE FOOD
The food in Spain is taken very seriously and is a very important part of the culture. Read our advice carefully to avoid embarrassment
Eating at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.
Starbucks? You’ll find a few of them and only in the city center, designed for tourists I think. None, absolutely no Spaniard I know dines at McDonalds or drinks Caffè Latte with soya milk at Starbucks.
It is seen as a lack of knowledge of the local lifestyle and easily defines one as a person from outside of the circle of cultural heritage.
Eating on the run
This typical American lifestyle doesn’t have many supporters here. Do not buy take away coffee and march with the cardboard cup through the city. In Spain, one only drinks coffee in cafeterias or bars and I have to admit that the Spaniards know how to prepare a good coffee. Probably the only one to disagree here would be the Italian.
Everyone in Spain will find a moment to sit down and have their cup of “cafe solo” (espresso) or “cafe cortado” (espresso with a dash of milk).
Meals are eaten together with the family or friends and during them they are always having loud conversations.
Modifying served food
Do not dare to change served food especially if you are in a place that serves traditional Catalan food. Do not even think about it when you are at someone’s place! Do not add salt, pepper and please… never ask for ketchup. You will be perceived as ignorant, a guiri (a foreigner tourist) not appreciative of local culture. Also don’t ask for butter. Probably they won’t even have it, or you’ll get margarine instead. It’s best to use olive oil, it’s plentiful and often local. Just eat it and compliment on it (by the way ,asking for more is the best way to do so).
Performing gestures of disgust
Just don’t… do not comment, even if you have something you really don’t like. In Spain in this way you are referring not only to what landed on your plate, but also to all the region and the people living in it. If you are offered food that you might not like (a) if possible make an effort and taste it, (b) if not, just refuse with a smile.
The food in Spain is taken very seriously. Food in Spain, just like in France and Italy, is a very important part of the culture.
Avoiding Eye Contact
Always make eye contact with your table-mates during a toast. Salud!
Not being appreciative about home-made food
It’s a sign of bed table manners. In many times it’s the only way to talk through a shared lunch. That is how ice-breaking works in Spain.
Being too appreciative about foreign food
Forget the mere existence of Italian olive oil (do not even mention it!) French, Californian or any other wines: your comments will be seen as malicious. They will be glad to know about you, your country, your culture… but don’t be too pushy about how much better life is in that places… even if it is. Like I said, Spaniards love their food and their lifestyle and are very proud.
Coming too early (on time)
If you are invited to someone’s home (say, for a party) it is likely that you will be asked to arrive at 9pm for example. That means: DO NOT arrive at 9:00. Your friends will be getting dressed, laying the table or taking a shower, and they will hate you! Also, you’ll be the only one coming on time.14