Living in Spain - How to adapt to a different culture (Expat advice)

It can be embarrassing not to know how to behave in a foreign country especially so in Spain.
Before you travel to a strange culture or emigrate it is recommended to learn about the customs of your country so you don't get negative experience or leave a negative impression behind.

How to prepare for the new culture.
Learn as much as you can about your new country in order to understand the culture. It is frustrating and embarrassing having to immerse yourself in the country, if you know nothing about it. Concentrate on typical food, social customs, religious taboos and general attitude towards foreigners.

Prepare yourself mentally for the change. Even if it seems obvious, many people move to a different country and find out that everything is different. By then they have already made social mistakes. Discuss with other people their experience in a new culture.
If you are blond, be prepared for the fact that people might stare at you. Consider changing your appearance to look less foreign.

Learn the language. Even if you already know some Spanish, there will be colloquial terms that you will have to learn.
The fastest way to adapt to a different culture is to live in amongst the normal people. Spend time with your neighbours, talk to people you meet. Use these conversations to practice your Spanish. Be interested in the other people, then they will be interested in you as well.
Learn the law and the traffic rules.
Even though in the holiday season you will see many tourists walking around in a bikini, please do not make the same mistake when you live there for it is most likely offensive.
Don't try to force your culture onto others. You are in the minority, therefore you have to adapt to them, not vice versa.
At least in the beginning hold back with your criticism of country and culture. However true it may be what you have to say, people will react defensive.

Most common cultural differences in Spain

In a mainly catholic country like Spain it is indecent to enter a church wearing shorts, short skirts or  sleeveless shirt. Please respect that, even if it doesn't mean much to you.

In Spain it is common to show any visitor through your house and garden, even bedroom and bathroom.
People in Spain greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, which is not actually a kiss, but a touch of the faces. It is best to wait and let your opposite make the first move, because it can be difficult for a foreigner to determine, when a cheek greeting is appropriate (and when it isn't).

3 o'clock does not have the same meaning in Spain, it can mean anytime after three, even hours later or simply is used as „eventually“. Nobody expects you to punctual either.

Spanish people have late meals. Their lunch is between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, their dinner after 9 p.m.



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