Spain’s Costa del Sol is rich in tradition and steeped in history and heritage, and it has many customs and rules of etiquette unique to the country. To avoid causing offence and to help you fit in on your holiday to the Costa del Sol, we’ve put together a collection of the key things to remember before you jet off.
Family and Religion
The first major point to note is that Spain is all about family. Be careful not to criticize any aspect of a Spaniard’s family on your trip, as this will be considered deeply offensive. Also, remember that your own family is considered an extension of yourself, so be sure to inform them of these etiquette tips so that your entire group is prepared to interact with the Spanish locals.
The majority of people in Spain are Christian, and many people, especially adults, take their religion extremely seriously. If you’re going to be visiting some of the Costa del Sol’s many churches and cathedrals, be mindful of what you wear. At the very least, both men and women should keep knees and shoulders covered, and nothing too revealing should be worn inside a church. Make sure children know not to run around and shout, as many locals will be using the churches to pray.
When visiting restaurants in the Costa del Sol, it is important to keep hands visible throughout the meal. Between courses, it’s best to rest the wrists on the table. Also, it’s normal to eat even fruit with a knife and fork, so if there is any doubt, opt for cutlery over eating with your hands. Laying your knife and fork parallel on the plate, tilted to the right, indicates to the waiter that you have finished your meal and are happy for your plate to be taken.
Do You Speak English?
The Costa del Sol has seen rapid growth in its tourist industry in the past couple of decades, with thousands of tourists passing through the main airport every year, and as such you will find that most people will speak some degree of English. However, it’s best not to assume, and using key words such as ‘hola’ (hello) and ‘gracias’ (thank you) is better than arriving equipped with no Spanish at all. It is polite to ask ‘Hablas ingles?’ (Do you speak English?) so that the other person can prepare for an English conversation. You will usually find that waiters and shop staff offer much better service to those who attempt to speak a few words of Spanish.
Look and DO Touch
Direct eye contact is expected from all parties, and touching during conversations isn’t unusual. The Spanish are fairly free with their hand gestures, and conversations will often be peppered with hand and arm movements to emphasise what is being said. Don’t be surprised if conversations with locals in the Costa del Sol feel very familiar compared to what you’re used to in Britain.
Jaywalking is frowned upon in Spain, especially on the busy eight lane roads. Wait to reach a crossing before attempting to cross these roads. If you’ve hired a car and are driving around, you may find that Spanish drivers can seem a bit agressive, especially when they want to overtake you. It’s best to just let them go!
Also, many Spaniards smoke, and won’t appreciate your obvious attempts to show your distaste. Don’t cough loudly or make comments about smokers. Finally, the Spanish way of life is very relaxed, which is reflected in their timekeeping. Lateness isn’t such a problem in Spain, and if you arrange to meet anyone, you shouldn’t be surprised if they turn up late.
Spanish etiquette isn’t vastly different from that of the UK. The general rule is that if you’re in any doubt, be extra polite, and doing your best to adapt to the Spanish way of life to any degree will be appreciated by the locals.