Double kisses, crazy loud conversations and zero personal space…it can all seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially to a native New Yorker who is used to very little social interaction with strangers, but I’ve come to find the Spanish sincerity and earnestness quite endearing and I miss it desperately now that I’m no longer there. Here are some Spanish habits that are now close to my heart and steps you can take to blend in and ser español o española.
With views like this, who wouldn’t want to take a nice long walk?
1. Take long, long walks after a meal
In New York, I didn’t really enjoy walking too much. I was in too much of a hurry to get to the next place in my jam-packed schedule and the train was the best and fastest way to do it.
But in Spain, a daily walk is very much considered a crucial form of exercise. It makes sense given
Spain’s infamous “street culture.” I’ve gotten into the lovely habit of taking a walk after a meal, and I now don’t understand why I haven’t been doing this before. After a particularly delicious or heavy meal it helps with digestion and it overall adds to a feeling of satisfaction after a satisfactory meal. If you haven’t done this yet, try it one day.
2. Three Hour Long Coffee Dates
I’ve always loved tea dates but I love them even more now. In Spain it’s normal to be in a cafe for at least three hours, at least three times a week. The beauty of Spain is that it’s peppered with cute cafes, some more cozy than others, but you will never not find a cafe, even if others are packed to the brim. Just pick one that suits you and settle in. In España, there’s rarely a reason to rush…which leads me to…
3. Take your sweet, sweet time to do anything
Now I’m not here to take a stance on which extreme lifestyle (New York or Spain) is better or worse. Something in the middle of the two is what I personally seek. But really, you have to give it Spaniards for the ability to not get terribly stressed out. Take your time when you can (and I would add when it’s appropriate, though I don’t know how many Spaniards would, ha) because really, how’s being in a rush going to lead to better results in the end?
It’s that time…caña time that is!
4. Go “tomar algo” in the middle of the week!
Going out during the week is hard for me in New York. With a hectic work schedule I’m usually busy until late at night and by the time my schedule frees up it’s too late to hop on the train to meet anyone anywhere. Happy hour happened once in a blue moon but even then getting up at 6 in the morning didn’t exactly help convince me to go out for a beer on a Wednesday. But in Spain, toss all of that out the window. To truly blend in, head out for some cañas y tapas in the middle of the week, then take a siesta the next day.
5. Lunch at 2 o’clock
There’s no way to stick out more as a tourist than when you head to a restaurant to eat lunch before 2pm, if you’ll even find one open before then. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, there will be places open because they
have so many tourists, but in most cities, the only places open at that time will be cafes. Grab a yummy breakfast in the morning then head to a cafe around noon for a pastry and a coffee to hold you over till lunch.
6. Double Kisses, anyone?
Like any New Yorker, I have my personal bubble and my hair stands on end when people encroach on my space, which is an every second occurrence in Spain. However, there is an openness and friendliness to the Spanish culture that I do enjoy. There’s the double kiss that everyone knows about, but also there just seems to be a genuine interest in knowing who you are and what you’re about. When in doubt, just go in for a double kiss and be prepared for 15 minute small talk where you may be asked about your entire life’s story. The hurried, “Hey, how are you?” as you
continue walking and toss a “Good, thanks” over your shoulder doesn’t fly in Spain. As soon as someone opens their mouth the speak to you, you are standing there for at least five minutes if it’s a stranger, fifteen if it’s someone you know. The Spanish are rarely in a hurry and a conversation can always be had.
One of the many, many, many tea dates I’ve enjoyed in Spain…
But if you really, truly want to blend in as a Spaniard the biggest thing you can do is just enjoy the simple moments of life. In a big city with a crazy work schedule, I found it really difficult to slow down and sit still. I was constantly overwhelmed and stressed. After two year in Spain I’ve learned how to cherish that craft beer, sit in a cafe and be completely relaxed, thinking of nothing but the delicious dessert I have the fortune of partaking in. In fact, some of
the most beautiful days that I remember are the simplest ones…Like the time my friends and I rented bikes in Costa Rica and got caught in the rain
, keeping us holed up in a cafe for hours. Or the beautiful and unforgettable day where I took a fascinating dramatized tour of Medina Azahara and then proceeded to have one of the best meals I’ve had in all of my travels.
My new challenge: how to bring a little bit of the Spanish way of life to the hectic pace of New York…