10 things they do better in Spain than anywhere else

Of course, they can’t match our fries from the fryer. They are still docking over the cobblestones somewhere halfway between Paris and Roubaix by the time Greg Van Avermaet has already showered and changed. And we bet they don’t have Tintin or Manneke Pis.

But aside from that riot of Belgian patriotism, we must dare to admit that there are also areas in which the Spanish excel. This is not even a shame for us, because following things they do better in Spain than anywhere else.

1. Lunch

No, we’re not talking about quickly stuffing three choco sandwiches into your mouth in the afternoon. Do take extensive time to enjoy lunch. Many Spanish eateries offer a menu del dia . That is a daily dish of three dishes that rarely costs more than ten euros. Admit it: for that money, you would leave the chocolate jars for what they are, too.

lunch

Most important meal of the day: lunch.

We have already dabbled enough on these pages about Spanish cuisine. The Mediterranean Spanish diet is simply one of the best in the world – chock full of fresh vegetables, fish and olive oil. Simple, but healthy and above all to lick thumbs and fingers off. Speaking of thumbs and fingers, the tapas culture – finger snacks, so to speak – is an absolute culinary revelation for many first-time visitors to Spain.

2. Look on the bright side of life

Yes, we know: it’s easy to step through life whistling when so much sunshine falls on your snout. On the Costa Blanca, the sun shines some 320 days a year. And yet it is not the only reason for the carefree lifestyle of most Spaniards. They enjoy life to the fullest. For starters, because they have extensive opportunity to do so. Working Spaniards get 30 leave days, on top of the national leave (another 13 or so). Many Spaniards take a whole month off in the summer to enjoy themselves.

The Spanish zest for life is infectious. Here are no swarthy blackguards who have not laughed since 1991, but people who always feel like making the best of it. When a Spaniard does something, he does it with heart and soul, with as much enthusiasm as a morning radio host of Qmusic. And they are at least as loud – they like to proclaim with aplomb their presence and their intent to amuse themselves.

Spaniards love life

Spaniards have a good sense of humor. When you become friends with them as a foreigner, you have to take the bully pulpit. But know that teasing here is equivalent to asking for friendship. If you are occasionally the subject of scorn and ridicule, it simply means that Spaniards appreciate and accept you as one of them. And rest assured, they also like to laugh at themselves. Nothing as bad as people who take themselves too seriously!

3. Beaches

No country in the world has more beaches flying a Blue Flag. This is an independent seal of approval that evaluates safety and water quality. But that statistic does not hide the whole truth and, in particular, says nothing about the great variety of beaches Spain has. It ranges from golden sandy beaches to deserted coves to dramatic cliffs. The white beaches of the Costa Blanca are such a perfect paradise cliché that you thought they existed only in advertisements for Bounty. Wow!

Cliffs of As Catedrais are Drama Queens with capital D.

Needless to say, the beaches invite you to enjoy them (see point 2). Not only sun addicts and water rats can have fun here forever and a day. Wind or kite surfers, kayakers, snorkelers, divers, jet skiers and paragliders are also catered for. In short: invent a sport in the water and chances are you can practice them somewhere along Spain’s 5,000 kilometers of coastline.

4. Growing old

For starters, Spain is the country with the second highest life expectancy in the world. Only the Japanese get older than the 82.2 years the average Spaniard reaches before giving up on Martin . The widely acclaimed health care system may be in between for something.

But Spain is also a country where the elderly are not simply written off or pushed away into retirement homes. Family is sacred in Spain and ties cannot be broken even with the most effective chainsaw. It continues for the obligatory Sunday visit to mémé and pépé. In Spain, the oldest generation is involved in day trips or restaurant visits. And it is not uncommon for them to move in with their children. If only to watch the grandchildren.

5. Going to sleep late

It takes some getting used to for newcomers to Spain. While you usually start yawning when Home starts and you’re snoring in the recliner before Van Gils & Guests is done, your Spanish neighbor’s stomach will only then start growling.

Spaniards are notorious night owls. Dinner is never, ever before eight o’clock – and preferably not until after nine or ten. Stores and restaurants are open late, primetime TV shows don’t start until around 10 a.m., and soccer matches are only kicked off at 11 a.m. in the most extreme cases. In the evening, yes.

Dining in Barcelona – this photo was probably taken at 11 p.m. in the evening.

Which brings us to the following.

6. Parties

Most nightclubs don’t open until midnight, start filling up quietly by two or three and go into overdrive until well after the sun kisses the nation awake. Few countries can party like Spain. Or do you think it’s a coincidence that half of young Europe flocks to Ibiza every summer? They go there to learn from the best.

party in ibiza

You will learn to party in Ibiza from the best.

Consider also the gigantic amount of parties. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, La Fallas in Valencia, the ferias of Málaga and Seville and La Tomatina in Buñol are just the best-known examples of literally thousands of fiestas. Just as in Flanders every village has its own fair, every Spanish den of Pluto has its fiesta.

Speaking of partying, the Spanish are also good at…

7. Pintelieren

Beware, drinking alcohol is something Spaniards do at dinner, at leisure. No one will be surprised when you drink a caña – a small beer – with lunch.

That doesn’t mean you have to pour fifteen of them down your throat like that. Spaniards do not usually feel the urge to refuel so vigorously that they no longer know which parroquia* they belong to. No, they drink in a civilized way, for fun, on one of those balmy evenings with friends that never seem to end.

cerveza

It helps that Spanish bars are such havens of primal conviviality, where the waiters are decently dressed and know what they are doing, where the hung hams add to the atmosphere and where you, the customer, often get a free snack with every cerveza you order. And okay, their San Miguel or Estrella can’t match a Westvleteren, but we know what we prefer on a terrace in the sunshine on one of the costas.

Those allergic to hops, barley or water should not be left thirsty in Spain. This country is one of the largest wine producers in the world. And anyone who ever puts a glass of rioja, valdepeñas, rias baixas or manzanilla to their lips knows that its quality is not inferior to the grape juice of their French neighbors upstairs.

*parish

8. Soccer

No matter where you go in Spain – from Madrid and Barcelona to the biggest peasant hole in Aragon or Castile-La Mancha or Extremadura – the talk in market squares and bodegas will be the same everywhere. In particular, they are about 4-3-3 and tique-taca, about goleadors, porteros and the Copa del Rey, about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and about the Spanish national team’s chances at the World Cup.

If you hear it thundering in Cologne, feel free to move on to next point. But know that cowering in Spain is a lot easier with a minimum of soccer vocabulary under your belt. Soccer is a religion in Spain, Bernabéu and Camp Nou the cathedrals where Spaniards gather for mass worship of the noble ball game. Spaniards love soccer and like to discuss all aspects of the game.

FC Barcelona - Real Madrid

FC Barcelona against Real Madrid: high mass for many Spaniards

On the Costa del Sol, you can watch La Liga soccer at Sevilla, Real Betis and Málaga. Near the Costa Blanca, you can visit Valencia and Levante. Villarreal is not too far either.

9. Swearing

It contrasts with point #2, but yep: the bulk of Spaniards are pretty crude. Especially compared to other nationalities. But: here there is less taboo on power terms. Rather, swearing is an integral part of language, something that adds some salt and pepper to everyday life. The puta madre!

curse

Spaniards are also extraordinarily creative in coming up with new curses. Those who do not want to look out of place are best to practice the most punishing examples in advance.

Related: a filter does not know the majority of Spaniards. While we Belgians are masters at expertly wrapping up bad news, they say what is true without weighing it up. Here there are no exaggerations or euphemisms. Old Spanish Berry likes to give relationship, medical or job advice to anyone who hasn’t asked for it. They mean well.

10. Afternoon naps

The siesta, in other words. Of course, that ancient Spanish custom should not be missing from this list. In the middle of the day, just stretch out your legs on the coffee table and catch an owl – admit it, it sounds very enticing. Or else how did you think you would survive point number 5? And it is also good for your health. Researchers believe that people who take regular afternoon naps are less likely to have a heart attack.

And although many Spaniards have stopped using it in 2018, it still lives on in Spanish life. So a lot of stores and small businesses close their doors in the early afternoon for an hour or two. And when you consider how much time people in Spain take to eat lunch (see item 1), it is not surprising that they end up in a food coma for a while afterwards.

siesta

A Spaniard can have his siesta anywhere

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