Four Annoying Things That Spanish People Do


When Spanish people socialise, even if it’s just two or three of them meeting up for a coffee, a curious thing happens: They seem to lose any awareness that there are other people around them. I’ve had to raise my voice on many occasions to keep communicating with a friend sitting  a few inches away from me because of a group of diners in another corner of the restaurant. They were not drunk or rowdy, just Spanish.

In the UK or Germany, this kind of behaviour also happens.  Usually, though, the perpetrators of  noise pollution are either hormone-crazed teenagers or legless lager louts. In Spain, well-dressed middle aged ladies have no trouble outhollering a busload of pupils on their annual school trip – after all, they have half a century of practice under their belts and are eager to demonstrate that they are not fettered by the shackles of consideration for others or any such social niceties. The louder the merrier!

Kids everywhere, at all hours

Spain has one of the lowest birth rates in the world – just 1.3 whelps per woman in 2015. Even child-averse Germany’s is higher (1.4).

And yet, you cannot get away from tantruming toddlers. A true paradox.

A visiting UK friend remarked to me once, on seeing a 5-year old being wheeled around in a buggy one late Saturday afternoon, “That child is too old to be in a push chair!” Indeed. What she didn’t know was that the vehicle wasn’t about saving the poor little blighter’s legs, but about saving everyone else’s nerves much, much later on in the day. That buggy, was, in fact, a mobile bed.

The parents were going to be out till the wee hours, enjoying good food and wine. After running around and shouting its little head off, the sweaty, worn-out sprog would eventually collapse into the wheeled sedan chair around 1am. It’s my personal theory that this is why events like concerts start so late here in Spain – everyone has to wait patiently until the kids finally pass out on their own accord before people can get on with the adult stuff.

In Germany or the UK, a young child in a restaurant (or any public place) after 8pm is a rarity. There’d be disapproving looks. The little one needs its sleep. Some would consider dragging a cranky minor around in the evening to be kind of child abuse. Not so in Spain, school night or not.

Incidentally, Spain has the highest rate of “fracaso escolar” (lit. “school failure”) in the European Union. According to Eurostat data released in 2015, 21,9% of Spanish students abandon the education system prematurely without any qualifications, compared to an EU average of 11.1%. Am I the only one wondering whether, perhaps, there may be a possible correlation…?

Finders Keepers

If you happen to lose your bag, your wallet, your favourite pen, etc, you may as well say goodbye to it the second you notice. The chances that anyone will hand it in or, if you’ve left it in a shop or a restaurant, keep it under the counter in case you return, are extremely slim. If you’ve forgotten it at someone’s house it’s perfectly safe, of course, but strangers encountering lost property seem to operate a strict finders keepers policy.

This miserly mindset, you may be surprised to learn, is sanctioned by a saint. Yes. A saint. An Italian one that goes by the name of Saint Rita, aka the patron saint of impossible causes.

There’s a Spanish saying that’s commonly evoked when someone is blessed with some unexpected providence: “Santa Rita, Santa Rita, lo que se da, no se quita”. Loosely translated: Saint Rita, Saint Rita, what is given cannot be taken. In other words: finders keepers.

I lost a nice pair of sunglasses once here in Toledo, in either one of three shops that I frequent on a weekly basis. They never surfaced again. I also lost a laptop in Copenhagen, which duly found its way back to me. Thankfully, nobody’s ever heard of bloody Santa Rita in Denmark! I rest my case.

She said you can keep it...

If she says you can keep it… who’s to argue with divine providence?

The smoking

Before moving to Spain, I’ve never really had any close friends who smoked. It’s not that I’ve consciously avoided making friends with smokers, but it just so happened that people I connected with didn’t usually smoke.

Smoking prevalence is higher in Spain compared the UK, where I’ve spent most of my adult life – 21.1% of Spaniards smoke compared to 18.4% of Brits. In the US, just 16.3% of the population are smokers and in Canada it’s 15.6%.

Another factor, in my observation, is that in Spain, just about anyone, regardless of social background or level of education, may whip out a cigarette on a balmy evening. In the UK, the US and Germany, by contrast, people who went to university are much less likely to be hooked on tobacco.

Smoking is forbidden in Spain in bars and restaurants, and this is widely observed, but if you’re from North America or Northern Europe, you may be in for a surprise if you get invited to people’s private houses for a meal, a party, or some other type of social gathering. They will light up. Right there at the table. In a closed room. It will fill up with smoke, your eyes may be streaming, your unprepared respiratory system may start to convulse in distress. And nobody will give it a second thought. You have been warned.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Disclaimer (of sorts): I admit, I was scraping the barrel when I wrote this post… the positives of hanging out with Spanish folk far outweigh the negatives. I gather from other blogs that, in many countries, new arrivals, especially those who are longer in their early twenties, tend to find it hard to enter into rewarding friendships with locals. In my experience – and I’m far from being outgoing, personality-wise – this is not a problem here in Spain, where people, on the whole, are welcoming, open-hearted, generous and inclined to strike up a conversation with a stranger and show genuine interest in them.

As an aside, the old stereotype that Spanish people are notoriously unpunctual, is, in my opinion, totally unwarranted. People may, on occasion, be a few minutes late. I may be a few minutes late. Noting out of the ordinary. The bizarre thing is that the Spanish seem to have internalised this belief about their chronic unpunctuality, and are highly apologetic about this perceived shortcoming – particularly those, it seems, who are rarely late themselves. I’m not quite sure what that is about. I’ve heard that poor time keeping is particularly rampant in the south of the country rather than in the central/northern parts, but since I have little experience of southern Spain, I can’t really comment on that.


You may also be interested in my specialist language blog, see here:


58 thoughts on “Four Annoying Things That Spanish People Do

  1. freebutfun

    Haha haha, the first one…. omg, so true!!! When I went to Spain a decade ago, my brother told me the one sentence I’d need in Spanish is “please speak slower” and taught me that one. It was not very helpful, people wouldn’t speak slower, only LOUDER 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debbie Smyth

    The talking loudly one is a real annoyance. And I think it might be spreading. That or my ears are getting more sensitive!
    As for the kids one, it can be a joy when you are a parent of young ones. It was the big thing that drew me back to Spain regularly when my daughter was young. She didn’t sleep! And it was a joy to be in Spain, able to take her anywhere, and to have plenty of other young children around who would entertain her and play with her.
    Of course, I still love Spain, and I think you are right about the friendliness – I always feel welcome and relaxed.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Multifarious meanderings

    When I went to Barcelona, I was amazed by the volume in restaurants and bars… I know a couple of Spanish girls and they do talk loud, I must admit. However, the locals in the south of France are also highly vociferous – particularly my neighbour (Gargamel) and his family who yell constantly, having apparently never learnt to speak to anyone located less that 50 yards away. He even yells in his sleep.
    France is also similar to Spain for the evening child predicament – they tend to flake out on the sofa or on a hamac in the garden until the parents have finished. On the other hand, the majority of families only have that kind of evening at the weekend so that their kiddos can sleep in the next day (although some to tell you how hard it was for their child to get up for football practice at 8 am the next day…).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Multifarious meanderings

        There are a good number of smokers, but the e-cig has been very successful and many have “converted” to poisoning themselves in a different way. Find that they all look strangely similar to the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. Not sure that they’ll end up as butterflies, though…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Pecora Nera

    Spain sounds very much like Italy, have Spanish children dark bags under their eyes from the late nights like Italian kids?? The only difference I can see is the Italians wave their arms about when they are shouting erh talking.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Loving Language

    We have a Spanish exchange student. If I go to bed when she’s still chatting in the living room with my daughters, I usually have to send them to the basement because I know “talk quieter” doesn’t work. But I love her loudness otherwise. Very lively!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yeah, but you see, finding something and making no effort to return it to its owner is not regarded as stealing. Unless you know the owner. Stealing from friends/acquaintances etc is not socially acceptable here.


        Liked by 1 person

  6. roughseasinthemed

    Maybe you need to move south. Finders not always keepers. We’ve had a mobile phone returned to us (convoluted so no detail) and leaving money ID etc on our vehicle, our neighbour promptly pointed it out.

    But driving … ugh. Just ugh. That’s a definite fifth point.

    On the good points … friendly and so patient with idiot foreigners. There are worse places to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Oh god, yes. Spain is definitely a good place to live, and the people are a big part of what makes it so good. If not the biggest!

      If I were a driver, I would probably have had to add that fifth point 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. linnetmoss

    The loud talking, ugh! That happens plenty in the US, but it’s usually after people have a had a drink or two. Very interesting about Saint Rita–you’d think she would be the one to pray to if you lose something and want to get it back. But she seems to be the patron of windfalls, like the Greek god Hermes.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. linnetmoss

        But some are very specialized, like Saint Asphalta, the patroness of finding a parking spot when you’re late for a meeting. (I think she may be a pagan goddess in origin.)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Lynda

    I have never been to Spain, but your description could have been about the dinner table at home when I was a child. Nasty habit. I grew up with it, did it myself, and the had the gumption to quit after my dad got sick… not easy when it has been so ingrained.

    Not condoning dragging a child along at all hours, but the idea of the stroller converting to a bed is awesome! A lot of children could benefit from this even during the day as they do get tired and crabby when on extended outings. 😉

    Your posts are always an eye-opener! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  9. joannesisco

    A very entertaining read, but I’m appalled at dragging children around at all hours of the night.
    Not only is it unhealthy for the child but unpleasant for everyone else who are trying to enjoy an adult evening out.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Kim in Fiji

    I thought Puerto Rico was the noisiest place on earth – but the noise was music and car horns. Conversations were noticeably loud. Or maybe I was deaf after the first few days and did not notice. I think I know what it is with the kids at all hours….. with the Santa Rita policy in force, no one would dare hire a babysitter to one’s home.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. BerLinda

    God, the loudness. People think German sounds harsh, it’s got nothing on a bunch of Spaniards! They also seem to have a lack of spatial awareness or of the fact that other people might actually want to go somewhere. They congregate in the most senseless places! Also, just wondering what would have happened if I’d written a list like this about Latvians. Reckon I’d have got more than four points out of it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kezzie

    This is really funny!
    The children thing would drive me mad! I can’t stand it when they rush about everywhere at parties and dominate everything! I always dread an acquaintance bringing her twin boys along!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Charlotte Steggz (@charlottesteggz)

    You know I’m very international. But I find Spanish people to be the only people with whom I find it difficult to bond with. That is a generalisation – I have had great Spanish friends. However…
    Last year, I lived in a houseshare with a Spanish guy who would cook very late at night, and cooked with very hot virgin olive oil. My bedroom was next to the kitchen and so at 11pm when my room got smoked out with the smell of oily chicken, of course, I got annoyed. I said to him that virgin olive oil isn’t usually used for such high temperatures and perhaps he should try vegetable oil, and he called me xenophobic and rude about his culture… He was very difficult.

    Here in Cambridge, Spanish teens are everywhere – many more of them than even Chinese tourists. They amaze me with their confidence walking into the roads, in front of buses and bikes. I think these ones are the richer kids and so their arrogant attitude is probably economical rather than geographical.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Haha, great anecdote 😉 They do eat very late… dinner is usually eaten around 10pm, sometimes as late as 11.30. I can’t hold out that long, so when I meet up for dinner with friends, it’ll be my second dinner that evening.

      I can see that a Spaniard might be touchy about being told how to cook by a Brit 😉 Seriously, though, nobody likes the whole house stinking of food/burnt oil at bed time.

      Not noticed any unduly perilous behaviour in the area of road safety. Cars tend to stop at pedestrian crossings, and people tend to wait for the lights to switch.


    2. Germanophillic Cook

      May I point out that oilive oil is a vegetable oil? It grows on trees, really. He was difficult, others are arrogant, I recommend introspection


  14. Pingback: Weekend Links | Charlotte Steggz

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