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10 things you get used to when you live in Spain

We’re about to approach our 5th year of living in Spain, and can’t quite believe where the time has gone! In some ways it doesn’t feel that long since we said goodbye to our families at Bournemouth Airport, but in other ways it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer.

Life in Spain is very different to life in the UK (mostly in good ways!) but it’s surprising how quickly you adapt to a new way of life and things that first seemed strange become normal.

Here are some of the things you get used to when you live in Spain…

Eating late

If you’ve ever been on holiday to Spain you’ll know that Spaniards eat their meals much later than the UK, and than most of Europe. Lunch is usually from 2-3pm and dinner around 9-10pm.

We used to have lunch around 12-1pm in the UK and dinner at 6pm. At first we kept to the same times but we soon got used to eating later. In the summer it’s way too hot to even think about eating before 10pm.

Appointments and after school clubs are later too which has a knock on effect on meal times – school finishes at 2pm so the kids can have lunch at home and kids’ classes are often around 7pm. Because of this we’ve gotten used to eating at 8pm at the earliest but more often 9pm.

We don’t mind it as it definitely makes the days seem longer.

Going to bed late

Of course if you’re eating later then you end up going to bed later.

Kids often don’t get home from clubs and classes until around 9pm, and in the summer you can be out having a drink or in a park until 11pm.

While school starts at 8am for us, shops don’t often open until 10am so later starts are definitely the norm.

You can also go shopping at the malls until 10pm so more time in the day to get things done if you go to bed later!

Noise (fireworks, parties, talking)

The Spanish are known to be pretty noisy, you can often mistake a normal conversation for a heated argument!

We live in a fairly quiet area but you can still usually hear some kind of noise whether it’s neighbours talking, the town band practicing, cheering from the local football ground, or fireworks.

And of course in the summer you can usually hear music until late for some fiesta or other. We’ve got used it it now and it’s nice to hear people happy and celebrating.

Saying hello to everyone

I’m sure this happens in the more rural areas in the UK still, but in the towns and cities you’d never say hello to everyone who passes you.

Where we live in Spain, you end up saying Hola to pretty much everyone who passes you when you walk into town, and if you enter a bank or doctors surgery expect the people already waiting to greet you as well.

The friendliness is something we really like about living in a smaller town in Spain.

The weather

Obviously most people move to Spain for better weather, but the heat definitely takes some getting used to.

During our first summer 35-40 degrees was almost unbearable but now we can definitely cope with it better and know how to deal with the extreme heat. We also know to do what the Spanish do and stay inside during the hottest part of the day with the persianas (blinds) down!

You also take it for granted that the weather will be nice and sunny and it becomes the norm. When it’s cloudy or rainy that’s when it feels strange now!

Not understanding what people are saying

The language barrier is definitely a challenge and can be so daunting. Learning a language in adulthood is certainly tougher than it was at school.

Not knowing what people are saying can make you feel really stupid, but after a while you just accept that it’s going to happen and have a few phrases handy when you don’t quite understand what is being said.

Obviously learning Spanish is an absolute must if you’re moving to Spain, and luckily there are lots of great resources available to help you.

Being the outsider

This is one of the things we’ve found the most difficult since moving to Spain. When you’re used to fitting in it can be quite a shock to suddenly be the outsiders who stick out like a sore thumb.

Personally I’m instantly recognisable as not being Spanish with my red hair and freckles, and with our level of Spanish and accents we stand out even more. (Though our daughter is assumed as Spanish since she can converse fluently!)

We’ve found that whilst friendly enough, we haven’t really been welcomed into any Spanish groups, whether school parents or other local social groups, and all foreigners are definitely left to stick together. We’re used to it now but it was something that was quite difficult to get used to.

Red tape

Spain is well known for its bureaucracy and its true that if you want to get anything official done then you’ll face a lot of red tape and hurdles.

We learnt quickly to take multiple photocopies of all official documents to any appointment and not to expect anything to be done quickly!

Not seeing family and friends regularly

When we said we were moving to Spain everyone said they’d be coming out for their holidays, and we thought we’d be popping back at least a couple of times a year to visit.

In reality, due to the pandemic, travel costs, and everyone’s family commitments we’ve had very few visits and have only been back a handful of times in 5 years!

Not seeing family and friends very often was difficult at first but you definitely get used to it and now it’s normal to only see them once a year or even less.

As you can see there’s a few things to get used to when you live in Spain, but with time it all just becomes a normal way of life. Even the things that are less positive aren’t such a big deal when you see the bigger picture of how much better life is in the sun!

If you live in Spain now, what things have you got used to that seemed strange at first?

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