For members


The strange things Spanish parents do raising their children

One of the most obvious cultural clashes experienced when you move to a new country is just how differently parents go about bringing up their children.

The strange things Spanish parents do raising their children
Dinners are a multi-generational affair in Spain. Photo: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

We become so used to the traditions we ourselves were brought up in that other people’s parenting techniques can appear exotic, baffling and sometimes just downright bizarre.

Spanish baby girls all have their ears pierced

Little girls all wear earrings in Spain. Photo: brebka/Depositphotos

When I was a girl I had the tortuous wait until I reached the grand old age of twelve before my parents allowed me to pierce my ears. In Spain baby girls are adorned with ear studs before they even leave the hospital.

Those parents who choose not to violate the velvety soft lobes of their newborn daughters will be forever having to correct people on the true gender of their baby. Dressing head to toe pink just won’t be enough

There is no set bedtime for Spanish children

While northern European parents may be preoccupied with establishing a routine of bath, book and bed by 7pm so that they can enjoy some adult time or even call in a babysitter and enjoy a rare night now, such habits are not prevalent in Spanish society.

Children stay awake late into the night, joining their parents in restaurants long past 10pm and tearing round terrazas with other youngsters on warm summer nights while their parents enjoy a drink or dinner with their friends. It is not unusual to find young children curled up in a chair fast asleep in a noisy bar or restaurant.

Spanish children know how to swear like a trooper

Don’t be shocked to hear a Spanish child reel off a string of expletives or casually intersperse dialogue with ‘joder, mama!”

While the equivalent might have earned an English child the threat of “washing your mouth out with soap and water” in Spain it is just a reflection of how prevalent swearing is in everyday language and is not a sign of being badly brought up. And the upside is adults don’t have to modify the way the speak in front of the kids.

Children actually wear ‘Sunday best’ and not just on Sundays

Photo: Amaia Kids Collection

The Spanish take ‘Sunday Best’ to a whole new level, decking their children out for lunch in a restaurant or a walk in the park in corduroy knickerbockers, sailor suits and pinafores in outfits that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Edwardian times. Siblings are often decked out in matching ensembles.

The tendency to overdress means that in winter, children will be wrapped up as if for a day on the ski-slopes even if it is 10C outside and even in the height of summer it’s a rare sight to see a Spanish child running around barefoot in the sand or on the grass.

Spanish children are allowed to play with fireworks

It seems to me that one of the greatest thrills of being a kid in Spain is setting off firecrackers in a town square to make unsuspecting guiris like me jump out of my skin. While in the UK, the dangerous job of setting up the fireworks for the annual Guy Fawkes night firework display fell to a man in protective clothing located far away behind a fence. In Spain the laissez faire attitude to pyrotechnics means it’s not unusual to see a rocket whizzing through the crowds at a summer festival.

Long summer holidays and extended stays with the grandparents

Photo: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

With the school summer holidays stretching well beyond two months and the predominant situation of two working parents, Spanish children are frequently farmed off to the ‘pueblo’ to be looked after by the grandparents for at least a fortnight over the summer. Many spend several weeks at a summer camp at the start of the holidays before heading out of the cities and if they are lucky, to the seaside, to be spoilt by their grandparents. With great summer weather and free childcare and a chance for the older generation to spend quality time with the youngest it’s a win-win situation for the whole family.

Babies wear perfume

Photo: vitalinka/Depositphotos

For some baffling reason Spain is obsessed with baby perfume. An American friend living in Madrid who had a baby shower ahead of the birth of her first baby was quite startled to receive not one, not two, but three different brands of bottled baby perfume with which to douse her newborn.  

Because what mother wouldn’t want to disguise that sweet freshly bathed newborn baby smell, right? 

READ ALSO: Why I’ll never adopt Spanish bedtimes for my children 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.