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Social Customs in Spain

All countries have their own particular social customs and Spain, (and Torremolinos) is no exception. As a foreigner you will probably be excused if you accidentally insult your host, but you may not be invited again.

When you are formally introduced to a Spaniard in Torremolinos, you should say ‘good day’ (Buenos dias senor/senora/senorita) or ‘good evening’ (buenas tardes) and shake hands, (a single pump is enough). Spanish men shake hands on meeting and again on departing, whether it’s a casual meeting in the street or a formal occasion. If you’re in doubt as to whether a woman is married or single, wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the right hand, (not left), although mature women should be addressed as senora. ‘Good afternoon’ (buenas tardes) is used instead of ‘good day’ (buenos dias) after lunch, which can start as late as 3pm until 9 or 10pm. Good night (buenas noches) is usually used when going to bed or leaving a house late at night. ‘Goodbye’ is adios or less formally can say ‘see you later’ (hasta luego).

‘Hi’ or ‘hello’ (hola) is used among close friends and young people, often accompanied by ‘how are you?’ (que tal) or ‘what’s new?’ (que hay). In more formal language, ‘how are you?’ is como esta usted, to which the reply is usually ‘fine thank you, and you?’ (muy bien, gracias, y usted). A common reply when being formally introduced is ‘delighted’, (encantado/a). Elderly friends are often addressed as male (don) and female (dona),followed by their Christian name (considerable courtesy and respect is shown to women and the elderly in Spain). When someone thanks you (gracias), it’s polite to reply ‘it was nothing/you’re welcome’ (de nada). When talking to a stranger it’s polite to use the formal form of address (usted) and not the familiar form (tu) or someone’s Christian name until you’re invited to do so. However, nowadays the tu form is much more widely used and usted is reserved mainly for business and when addressing older people.

Male and female acquaintances kiss each other, usually on both cheeks. If a lady expects you to kiss her she will offer her cheek. The kiss is deposited high up on the cheek, never on the mouth, (except between lovers), and isn’t usually really a kiss but a delicate brushing of cheeks. Close family and male friends embrace.

In Torremolinos, you should introduce yourself before asking to speak to someone on the telephone. Although the traditional siesta is facing a battle for survival, it isn’t advisable to telephone between the siesta hours (2 to 5pm) when many people have a nap. If you call between these times, it’s polite to apologise for disturbing the household.

Family surnames are often confusing to foreigners as the Spanish often have two surnames, (possibly linked by ‘and’ and ‘y’ or ‘I’ in Catalan), the first being their father’s and the second being their mother’s. When a woman marries she may drop her mother’s name and add her husband’s, although this isn’t usual. Spanish children are usually named after a saint and a person’s saint’s day (santo) is as important a celebration as their birthday (cumpleanos), both of which are occasions on which it is traditional to entertain family and friends.

If you have an appointment with a Spaniard in Torremolinos, don’t expect him to arrive on time, although being more than 15 minutes late is considered bad manners. If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late for an appointment you should telephone and apologise.

The Spanish say ‘good appetite’ (que aproveche/buen apetito) before starting a meal. If you’re offered a glass of wine, wait until your host has made a toast (salud) before taking a drink. If you aren’t offered a (another) drink, it’s time to go home.

Spanish men and women in Torremolinos are almost invariably well-groomed and style and fashion are important, although they often dress casually. It’s advisable to dress conservatively when doing business or visiting government offices on official business. There are few occasions when formal clothes are necessary and there are very few dress rules in Spain, (except in respect to places of worship). Spaniards consider that bathing costumes, skimpy tops and flip-flops or sandals with no socks are strictly for the beach or swimming pool, and not, for example, the streets, restaurants or shops.

Tipping isn’t common practice among the Spanish in Torremolinos. Hotel, restaurants and café bills usually include a 15% service charge, (plus 7% VAT/IVA or 16% for 5-Fork restaurants), usually shown on the bill as servicio incluido. When it isn’t indicated, most people assume that service is included. However, even when service isn’t included the Spanish rarely leave tips (propinas), although they may leave a few small coins. The only exception to this rule is in expensive or fashionable establishments where ‘tips’ may be given to secure a table (or guarantee a table in future). Many foreigners follow international practice and tip as they would in other countries.

The ‘no tipping’ practice usually extends to other businesses and services in Torremolinos, including taxi drivers, porters, hotel staff, car park attendants, cloakroom staff, shoeshine boys, ushers (cinemas, theatres and bullrings) and toilet attendants, although you can give a small tip if you wish. Even at Christmas the Spanish rarely give tips, although Spanish employers usually give their employees a hamper or a few bottles of wine. If you’re unsure whether you should tip someone, ask your Spanish neighbours, friends or colleagues for advice (who will probably tell you something different!) Large tips are considered ostentatious and in bad taste in Spain.


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10 secrets every spanish property buyer should know
10 Secrets Every Spanish Property Buyer Should Know
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