Spanish Culture to Make You Smile
The following are some observations of Spanish people and culture that I’ve made over the last years living in Valencia, Spain. They are generalizations about Spaniards but not true of everyone. My family and I love living in Spain, we love the culture, and people. None of these observations are necessarily negative or positive…they are simply our surveillance of a few idiosyncrasies that we now think are “soooo Spain”.
1) THERE’S A SH*T TON OF SWEARING
Sweet grandma’s calling little kids assholes and store clerks calling a customer a son of a bitch. Totally common. It’s not just limited to Spanish either! Swearing in English is just as cool thanks to uncensored English rap songs. Kids as young as 5 can be heard on the playground tossing around the F bomb like a soccer ball.
Also, a famous phrase here is “I crap on ______”. In Spanish “Me cago en _____”
Fill in the blank at will. Common items of which to crap on: the salty sea, God, the Holy Host, the number 10, everything, mother effers, your forefathers, and really anything you can think of – even if it’s literally impossible to crap on that thing.
2) SEX ED
No flyers home, no parental signature required. Sandwiched between units on photosynthesis and long division, 3rd graders will surprise you with interesting new Spanish vocabulary like: “ovarios, pene, esperma, and testiculos”. It’s not a big deal because it’s not treated as a big deal. Bravo España.
3) PUBLIC URINATION
Gotta go? No problemo. Unzip in the alleyway or pee on a tree at the public park. Adults, kids, drunk, sober – public peeing is not frowned upon.
4) DOGGIE STYLE
Most dogs are not neutered or spayed in Spain making me think that Bob Barker might have had more of a hold of us than we give him credit for. I have never seen so many dog balls. After almost 3 years I’m still shocked. Some Spanish think it’s expensive, will alter their pet’s personality, and that it’s just not necessary.
5) HOT COPS
Straight out of the intro scenes to a classy porn the Spanish police uniforms make being locked up abroad half appealing.
6) STAYING UP LATE
Lunch is at 2:00 at the earliest and dinner is at 8:00 if you’re lucky. 3-year-old kids playing on the playground at 1am is completely normal.
7) AMERICAN STEREOTYPES
We often hear: “You’re from America? Why are you here?!” The Spanish think that most Americans live like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone: rich and in big houses. Also, they’re obsessed with NYC and LA. While Spaniards know more about American geography than most US citizens, they are enamored with all things LA, Hollywood, and the Big Apple.
8) ENGLISH IS COOL
Here are some favorite t-shirts from around my hood recently: “Not Too Much” and “Don’t Tell Me Dramas”. I also love that brands will make shirts with fake university logos/seals. Places like “Michigan State Badgers” “Los Angeles State” and my favorite – a complete replica of Brown University but written as “Brownie”.
Same goes with tattoos like “Dream” or “Follow Your Heart” in English – much like Americans do with appropriating Chinese characters and words. This goes for brand names and logos too. It doesn’t have to make sense. Here’s a favorite…my friend’s daughter’s bike. The brand is “Strong Weed 200” These R+D or branding teams need to be fired.
Below: I took these pictures in Sevilla (a luxury women’s wear store and a kids shoe store) haa
9) THE CIRCUMCISION DECISION
Most penis heads are tucked away in chic Euro turtlenecks. As is with most of Europe: If you want to circumcise your child here, you’ll be hard pressed (unless you know a Rabbi), to find a doctor who will perform a circumcision.
In 2018, Iceland proposed a bill to ban circumcisions claiming that they were genital mutilation serving no medical purpose. The Jewish and Muslim communities were outraged as this ban jeopardized their fundamental traditions and it didn’t pass.
10) WE’RE FOILED
Everything can be wrapped in foil. Sandwiches, leftovers, money, pills. It’s the duct tape of Spain.
The Spanish like to do double kisses (pre-Covid) and double and triple, even quadruple words. Example, your friend asks if you would ever want to try to skydive: “no no no no no no. Yo no.”
Another example. The word “guiri” (pronounced hee-dee) which is the Spanish word for “gringo” basically. If you say it once it’s probably in reference to someone that might be fare skinned with light eyes. If you say it three times it means that person is likely SUPER new to Spain and has a bright white complexion, know 3 words of Spanish, and is probably wearing socks and sandals. Repetition like this sometimes is for severity.
Phone conversation repetition is just “soooo Spain”. Use any combination of the following words in any order but just make sure you say at least 30 of them at rapid speed without inflection: Vale. Hasta ahora. Venga. Ciao. Bueno. Adios. Hasta pronto. Hasta luego. Turn this monotone string of words into a steady hum and hold out until the phone disconnects. Boom, you’re Spanish.
12) THEY SEE ME ROLLIN’
The Spanish roll their own cigarettes with wee little filters. They can do it while they’re walking and talking on the phone – quite resourceful.
Like most Mediterraneans, the Spanish are intense. Yelling is seen as a perfectly acceptable and effective form of every day communication. They’ll yell about anything, it doesn’t have to warrant intensity. Overheard by two men at coffee: “MY BANK CHARGES 30 EURO A YEAR. WHAT??!!! NOOOO DUDE MINE CHARGES 32!! THAT IS A PEICE OF SHIT!!”
If you have thin skin, the Spanish might break you. Don’t mistake their intensity or decibels for hatred or anger – it’s pure passion and culture.
If I’m going into battle, or a DMV appointment, I’d draft a Spaniard 1st round every time.
There you have it, a few random and interesting facts about Spain that are neither good or bad – just different. I love that we get to experience and talk about these differences as a family and compare cultures.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading amigos.