How to avoid being “an expat” in Spain

expat in Feria de Jerez

Photo: Me trying to ‘blend in’ and not to look like an expat (Fail?!)

OK, so technically if you live in Spain and aren’t from here, then you are either an immigrant, or an ex-pat – probably both. Nothing wrong with either of course, but there are certain aspects of ‘ex-pat-ness’ that it is certainly wise to avoid, if only for the benefit of your own long-term self esteem!

So, here is my quick guide to ‘How to avoid being “too expatty” in Spain’ – and, more to the point, really fitting in with the locals! Please add to the list in the comments!

1. Never drink in Irish bars, no matter what sporting event you just can’t miss and isn’t on anywhere else.

2. … and don’t say things like ‘I counldn’t half do with a decent pint instead of these tiny bloody caña beers they serve over here’.

Typical Spanish Bar

Photo: Try to drink in bars that look like this

3. In fact… only drink in bars with crap all over the floor, a few old Spanish men permanently stuck to the bar, and at least one well dressed barmen, over 50, who’s worked there since just after birth.

Drunk in Spain

Photo: Clearly NOT expats – expats wouldn’t bother with the matress

4. Don’t ever get obsessed about eating “at least one good meal from home” a week. Spanish food is much better for you. You’ll live longer. (4.b. Don’t do all your food shopping in the ‘gourmet’ section of El Corte Ingles).

Spanish market

Photo: Avoid El Corte Ingles – try food shopping in places like this!

5. Don’t spend more time on Facebook than you do soaking in your new surroundings.

6. Don’t wear white socks, shorts and tennis shoes in public.

Spanish football fans

Photo: To blend in, dress like this

7. Learn some more Spanish! Come on, you live here! Join in!

8. Swear more (and only in Spanish, joder).

9. What would you add for number 9?

Comments below please! (Later note on some comments below: I’m amazed that some people used this as an excuse to reinforce idiotic stereotypes about the Spanish – says a lot about a certain class of expat I’m afraid…)

36 Replies to “How to avoid being “an expat” in Spain”

  1. 9. Make Spanish friends. In fact, ensure that most of your friends are Spanish. And then, the day they want to go to the Irish pub, go with them.

    6. Ben, I think you meant wear and not where 😉

    8. I wouldn’t. Swearing with an accent is cute. It won’t prevent that hard-to-shake-off guiri label, though.

  2. You have made me laughed!
    How I miss that typical English humour sense!
    If only German and Swiss could have it, life would be a lot easier! jodeeeeeeeeeeerrrrr
    Excuse my bad manners I get homesick.

  3. number 9 should be “be more feckless”

    number 10 “change your fair weather opinion depending on whether you think you’ll definitely win or not – (especially regarding sporting affiliations)”

    number 11 “never say one word when you can shout 5”

  4. 10.- When seated in a local bar, get the attention of the waiter by loudly calling him “¡jefe!” or “¡¡oiga, jefe!!”while raising your arm at the same time.

  5. 10. Don’t queue for anything! Only guiris stand back politely when everybody else rushes to get on the bus first- fight for your place with with sharp elbows, treading on toes and sotto voce “¡coños!” :-))

  6. @Ben trying to blend in. I’d suggest pass … but compared to barmen, skin colour too light & hair too short (though think its longer now!!)

    White socks, shorts, tennis shoes: do you mean any one of these? or all 3 at once? Also socks worn with sandals is apparently a give-away.

  7. 9. If you are a man, only shave once per week max.
    10. If you are a woman, learn how to glide gracefully over cobblestones on pointy-toed stiletto heels.
    11. Learn to smoke and eats lots of ham.
    12. Never order coffee with a meal.

  8. Learn to pronounce ‘carajillo’ and order in the bar in the morning. Find the bar where they put 5 coffee beans and a slice of lemon zest in with it.

  9. 9. Stop leaving the country to go on holiday and spend all summer at the nearest playa instead

  10. 9 Take Leo to the pub and leave him in a corner until 3am.

    10 Start smoking and make sure the smoke goes towards anyone not smoking (including Leo).

    11 Take no interest whatsoever in what anyone else has to say and demonstrate it by loudly interrupting them before they finish each sentence.

  11. OK Ben

    9 Don’t work as an English teacher and spend all your free time socialising with other English teachers.

    And developing previous points…

    10 Don’t go on a weekend break to a Spanish city and spend all day watching football in the first Irish pub you see.

    11 Don’t fall out of said Irish pub after the last match has finished at around 7pm, and drunkenly stagger around the streets for the next 2 hours until you collapse in a heap somewhere, just when everyone else is getting ready to go out for the evening.

    But the real test for men as to whether they’ve really become more Spanish is …

    12 To happily greet male members of your partner’s family by kissing them on both cheeks.

  12. To prevent you guys from becoming too homesick, I’ll excuse you from performing #12, should we have a chance meeting in the future.

  13. Call every furry animal smaller than a cat “un ardilla”.

    Differentiate the different species of fish on sale on the market stall by how they should be cooked “pesca’o para sopa” “pesca’o para la parilla”…

    If you live in Tenerife, learn how to say guagua rather than autobus.

    Learn the tales of the “wan~a wan~as” – night flying seagulls who steal naughty children.

  14. Drink coffee with brandy or anis in it at 9am.
    Don’t just socialise with other expats.
    Shop at local markets.
    Don’t get sunburn – why do we English always have sunburn?!
    Send your kids to the local village school, rather than an International School.
    Eat at Spanish times, rather than midday and 6pm.

  15. As a spaniard, I would add “mañana, mañana”. If you’re working in Spain, you will undersstand what I am talking about when you need something done right now!

  16. 9b. Stop trying to fit in. Don’t worry what people think about you, and be satisfied with who you are.
    No Spaniard would try so hard to blend in the way you are.
    Just be you and let everybody else be everybody else.

  17. Get a spanish boyfriend who can teach you “spanishness”, and eat things like Oreja (pig’s ear) and Callos (tripe) and pretend to really like them!

  18. a) Learn to listen to (and enjoy) Spanish music.

    b) Go to the same village and eat the same food every Sunday afternoon.

    c) If you get on a bus or train, and there’s only one person already there, go and sit as close to them as possible

    d) Wait until at least 2.30 before taking lunch. If you don’t have a menu, prop up the bar and graze on the tapas.

    e) (if a girl) learn to smoke at least 30 a day

    f) (if a boy) learn to hold your “eggs” openly at least 30 times a day.

    g) Never comment on what good value the wine and free tapa is at 90cents a glass. Otherwise the owner may see an excuse to put up the price.

  19. lol 🙂

    As spanish, I must said I have enjoyed all your coments.

    Regarding to swearing…it´s “coño”, in singular, not “coños”

    Un saludo

  20. This is so offensive… ” Just shave once a week”… “learn to smoke”…… maybe the best way to avoid being an expat in Spain is getting back to your country?

  21. I usually pick up the free newspapers like ADN then pretend to read them (good Spanish practice too). Although I usually end up just doing the Sudoku on the back page 😉

  22. “5. Use the Irish Pubs
    If you feel like you need to speak to someone in your own language, don’t worry about checking out the Irish Pub scene when you first get to Spain. There will be a host of ex-pats propping up the bar, who can give you great advice about finding flats, work etc.”

    Gotcha Ben!

    All right the advice was for new arrivals. 🙂

  23. 9. Do service at places like Cruz Roja. You’ll also learn to realy know and love the people.

    10. Get to know and chat with the small store owners where you buy your stationary, stamps, bread, etc.

  24. A. Don’t come to live in the noisiest country in Europe, and then complain about the noise!

    B. Do not expect 16 year old kids working for minimum wage, to be able to speak English. You’re in their country. You learn their language. It’s common courtesy!

  25. Make sure you don’t get to bed til 2pm as if you go any earlier the Spanish neighbours will keep you awake until then anyway. Eat tapas in noisy spit and sawdust tapas bars. Don’t say por favor very often.

  26. As a spaniard I find a bit offensive some of this comments. It’s always the same.

    If you think that way I don’t know why you are interested in Spain.

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