What is expat life really like in Spain? This week we are looking a little deeper than the bare facts, exploring what makes Spain special and how it might affect a day in your life in the country.
Rural versus urban
As a general rule, life in rural Spain is still quite basic. You will notice a marked difference in rural life, with many areas lacking basic amenities like mains power, water and landline telecoms. But if you’re in a city or town, you probably won’t notice much difference, with the infrastructure and facilities you’d expect from any developed western nation.
An entirely unique working day
The biggest difference you will notice is the way the Spanish working day is organized. Lunch is the main meal of the day, taking place mid-afternoon between 2-3pm. Lunch used to be followed by the famous Spanish siesta, in other words a nap, but with more people commuting to work and fewer working near to home, the siesta tradition is slowly dying out.
The global economy is also having an effect on old traditions. With most of Europe working a standard 9-5pm day, Spain is slowly coming into line with the rest of the continent.
The Spanish tend to eat supper, which is a lighter meal than lunch, late evening, between 9-10pm, a dramatic difference compared to many western countries. In the hot summers, the evening meal gets later and later, taking advantage of the cooler evening temperatures.
Obviously this affects working hours, retail opening hours and school timetables. You might find yourself taking a long break – as much as five hours or as little as two – in the middle of the day. Smaller shops close, businesses shut their doors and there’s very little traffic. This is also the time when people hunker down to watch TV, with the country’s most popular programs and main daily news coverage screened early afternoon. The working day resumes again between half past four and five pm, and you’ll carry on working until around 8pm.
Varied food by region
What about meals? Spanish cooking varies enormously between regions because of popular local products and strong traditions. Galicia is famous for seafood, Catalonia for rich casseroles, Valencia for paella, Andalusia for gazpacho, and the Castile region for its world-renowned air-dried ham. However Spanish cities offer an international culture, with US fast food chains and a wealth of foreign foods in supermarkets.
Alcohol with meals
Like the French, Spanish people often drink wine and beer with their meals. You might find drinking alcohol mid-day takes some getting used to, but luckily the tap water is perfectly safe to drink in most places. After meals, strong coffee is universal. And while regular tea is rare, herbal teas are popular.
What about relaxation?
Spain is a haven for American TV series and films, which make up the bulk of Spanish TV. You might easily find yourself watching a dubbed episode of CSI at lunchtime, followed by a classic US cowboy movie, thriller, soap, documentary or romcom.
Local and national holidays
What about public holidays? Most Spanish holidays have religious origins. Nationally you’ll find they celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi, the Feast of Saint James and All Saints’ Day. Children get Christmas gifts on the Day of the Three Kings, also called Epiphany, on the 6th January, very different from much of Europe and the USA. Locally, the Spanish are famous for their numerous festivals, parades and street parties, which you’ll be able to join in with.
A fascinating place with a unique personality
Whatever you move there for, you’ll find it a fascinating place with a unique personality all of its own, giving you a chance to live a surprisingly different life from your current one.
Are you an expat in Spain?
If so, do you have any experiences to share about living in this fascinating city? Why not leave a comment below, or connect with us on Twitter @now_health?