Spain has been occupied by a few religions and cultures over the years, which means its modern culture has many quirks that you won’t find anywhere else, specifically when it comes to style and cultural norms. So how do you look like a local when you’re surrounded by Spaniards?
Spaniards don’t wear flip flops
This is a dead giveaway. You will never see Spaniards wearing flip flops. Ever. This was a good lesson for me, coming from the state where we wear flip flops on Christmas Day! Flip flops are not only too casual for such a fashion-forward culture, but the walking culture means that flip flops wouldn’t last very long.
While we’re at it, better ditch the athletic shoes, too. In other words, throw out the idea that it’s acceptable to dress for comfort. Spaniards prefer flats, boots, and sneakers for any and all occasions.
Spaniards are slow
Spaniards walk everywhere. And they do it slowly. Therefore, you can always pick out the American in the crowd because they’re always in a hurry. The Spanish culture is slow and calm (tranquila [calm] was one of the first words I learned when moving here), so unless they’re about to miss the metro, a Spaniard will walk slow as molasses. Running to get where you’re going or stressing about getting there five minutes early won’t help you get anywhere – you’ll get there when you get there and, if you’re a few minutes late, you’ll be in good company.
Dress for the season, not the weather
As aforementioned, Spaniards dress to impress, not to function. Another thing to point out, though, is that this culture dresses for the season, not the weather. Even if it’s April, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon, the sun is out, and you’re sweating in your jeans, you better believe your Spaniard counterparts are still decked out in a coat, scarf, and boots. A trip to Spain in the spring is a challenge of wits: how much are you willing to sweat before you admit you’re a foreigner and strip your layers?
…But dress for Spanish seasons
Don’t wear shorts, especially those of the booty variety. Unless, of course, it’s cold outside. In that case, rock the shorts with a cute pair of tights and, somehow, it´ll look good. Again, Spaniards are very fashion-forward, so even those rocking the slobbiest of styles usually still look better than I do. However, shorts paired with tights in winter is a trend I haven’t yet been able to understand. Yes, you look wonderful dahling, but aren’t your legs cold?
Don’t be blonde
Sorry girls, but the American fascination with blonde hair doesn’t exist in Spain. In fact, I can count on one hand how many blonde Spaniards I’ve met. I’m fortunate to have the hair and skin coloring of a Spaniard, so once I got my bearings on living on this culture I started getting people asking me for directions!
Remember how I said the Spanish culture is social? If you enter a room – from a classroom to a store to your home – greet those already in the room. Hola (hello) will do, or, if you wanna show you know your stuff, go for the buenas of buenas dias (good day). If you’re leaving the room – even if you’re leaving a store you know you will never be in again or a laundromat sparsely populated with Spaniards – leave them with a simple a-luego (a shortened version of ‘see you later’). The Spanish culture is very friendly, so you won’t upset anyone if you fail to follow this rule, but when in Spain…!