For members


12 sure-fire ways to offend a Spaniard

From ordering the wrong drinks with tapas to calling one of their official languages a dialect, these are just two of the ways you may inadvertently offend a Spaniard.

12 sure-fire ways to offend a Spaniard
Here are 12 sure-fire ways to offend a Spaniard, which to be clear is not something we want you to do. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Readers’ responses 

Not making an effort to speak the language 

Many readers commented on the fact that Spaniards will often get offended if you “don’t even try and make an effort to speak Spanish” or another local language like Catalan, and just simply expect that everyone will be able to speak English. While we all know that learning another language can be challenging for some, if you’re living in Spain it’s important that you try and locals will really appreciate your efforts if you do. 

Ordering the wrong drinks with tapas

There are certain drinks that go with tapas in Spain, this could be wine, beer, soft drinks. But never coffee or spirits, some of The Local’s readership pointed out. As one reader put it, “don’t order a café con leche with your ensaladilla rusa“. 

Disrespecting Spanishness

In general, Spaniards don’t get offended very easily and will often even make fun of themselves, but when it’s a foreigner having a go at Spanish people or their culture then it’s a whole different matter. One Italian reader married to a Spaniard said that this patriotic reaction can happen “even if you point out something they complain about every day of their life while among friends”.

“Referring to Mexicans as Spanish, not Spanish-speaking”, “telling Spanish people they don’t look Spanish”, calling them “the Spanish rather than Spaniards” are some of the other observations readers contributed.

It’s also best to stay clear of Spanish stereotypes such saying that Spaniards are lazy, they all have siestas, dance flamenco and have a lisp, for starters because these clichés are far removed from the truth. 

Comparing Spain to other countries

‘Spain is different’ or so the famous slogan goes, so there’s no point comparing it to your home country. As one reader put “incessantly comparing Spain to the UK and complaining that Spain doesn’t measure up or expecting all laws in Spain to be the same as the UK,” is sure to offend some people.

The fact that a number of foreign readers suggested that a way to offend Spaniards would be to “use indicators and roundabouts correctly” highlights how some people have a tendency to compare Spain to their home country in a critical manner.

Un-Spanish table manners

Spaniards are proud of their cuisine, so they understandably like eating to be done according to their set of rules. Condiments for example are not really a thing – unless you’re at a burger bar. As one Spanish reader put it, “I’d say we’re not easily offended in general. Maybe putting ketchup anywhere else than on your fries,” then adding other foodie faux pas such as “eating sandwich bread instead of real bread with your meals” and “the absence of olive oil”.

Readers also added that “you shouldn’t ask for salt and pepper with your food or vinegar for your chips”, that you’ll get weird looks if “you eat while you walk”.

Complaining about how Spaniards perceive time

Ernest Hemingway famously said “There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day”.

And anyone who’s lived in Spain knows that the clocks run differently for Spaniards, from the times people eat, to the time they arrive somewhere and even the way they refer to the time.

“Organising to go out for dinner too early”, “disturbing people during siesta time”, “referring to 6pm as the evening instead of the afternoon” or “having a go at someone for being late” are all ways that readers have suggested can rub Spaniards up the wrong way. 

Cured meat crimes

Spaniards love their cold meats, from all the jamones to the chorizos, fuet, cecina, lomos, the list is endless. So attempting to “fry a slice of Jamón de Jabugo” or “referring to chorizo as pepperoni” would also be considered crimes against ‘h(a)manity’ and offend the locals, according to our readers. 

Remember when British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeted a recipe for paella that included chorizo? Spaniards were so appalled at his suggestion that he suffered a lot of backlash on social media and the Guardian newspaper even wrote “Jamie Oliver’s paella brings fractured Spain together … against him“.

Oh, and telling them that jamón is bad for their health is unlikely to go down well. Spaniards just don’t want to hear it. Back in 2015, there was an uproar when the World Health Organisation warned that carcinogens were present in certain types of meat, including jamón. Then in 2021, Spanish Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón caused much anger across the country when he urged Spaniards to eat less red meat like jamón to protect their health, as well as the future of the planet.

The Local’s suggestions

Mislabelling languages and dialects

Here’s a divisive topic among Spaniards, so it’s best avoided. Spain in fact has five official languages: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque and Aranese, and yes there are indeed actual languages and not dialects. So suggesting to a Catalan that their language is merely a dialect of Spanish is a sure-fire way to get an earful and cause a lot of upset.

It’s also best to not talk about Valencian and Mallorquín. Valencian may be a dialect of Catalan but never refer to the language as Catalan, always Valenciano, especially if talking to proud Valencians. The same goes for other dialects of Catalan such as Mallorquín, which is spoken on the Balearic Island of Mallorca.

READ ALSO: Seven things you should never say to a Catalan person

Bringing up Franco or the Civil War

It’s fair to say that the wounds left behind by Franco’s 36-year dictatorship and the bloody Civil War that preceded it haven’t healed yet, with even new laws being brought out to this day to deal with this troubled past. People on both sides lost family members, some families supported Franco’s regime and others abhorred it (even to this day), so with such a prickly subject it’s best to stay clear from the topic as there’s a high chance you could bring up uncomfortable memories and put your foot in it. 

Cheering for the wrong football team

Spaniards take football very seriously. It’s not just young men who are football fans here, no, you’ll find everyone from grandmas to little kids get swept up in the football fever. Be careful when you’re travelling around Spain though that you’re not out in a bar cheering for the other team. You’ll definitely be given dirty looks and some stern words if you’re cheering for Real Madrid in a bar in Barcelona for example. Or even rooting for Barça in an Espanyol bar (Barcelona’s other football team), or Real in an Atleti bar in Madrid.

READ ALSO – The good, the bad and the ugly: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain? 

Failing to be impressed by their mother’s/grandmother’s cooking

Ask any Spaniard where they ate the best croquetas, tortilla de patatas or paella and most likely they’ll say at their mama or abuela makes Spain’s best. Implying that someone’s mum’s food isn’t as good as what you had at the local tapas bar last week, is definitely not going to win you any friends. In fact, avoid mentioning anything remotely critical about their mothers or other family members, full stop.

Talking about independence movements or politics 

One quick way to make an enemy is Spain is to bring up independence movements, especially in Catalonia or in the Basque Country. Don’t presume to know all about the situation and never reveal what side you’re on before you know how the person you’re talking to feels about it. It is a topic that has divided regions and cities for many years. And it’s also best to avoid talking about Gibraltar. 

READ ALSO: 13 mistakes tourists in Spain are bound to make

Member comments

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


The 10 types of people you always see in a Spanish bar

Spain is said to be a nation of bars, but you're likely to see the same sorts of people wherever you go. Here are the ten you're most likely to bump into.

The 10 types of people you always see in a Spanish bar

If you’ve lived in Spain or spent any significant amount of time here, you’ll know that Spain is a nation of bars.

To be specific, there’s 175,890 of them scattered across the country on every street corner and alleyway across the country from the northernmost tip of Asturias all the way down to ferry port at Algeciras.

According to figures from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), that works out to a bar for every 270 inhabitants, and there are just 142,781 unlucky people – around 0.3 percent of the total national population – who live in a municipality without one.

And we’re not talking about a pub or some sleek cocktail bar here, we’re talking about the traditional, family-run bars you can find in every barrio (neighbourhood) across the country.

You know the type. The humble ‘local’ where you can get a beer, coffee or tapa at any time of day. A place where you always see familiar faces, whether it be the barman who remembers your order or the old regular glued to the fruit machine, these sorts of Spanish bars are less of a hospitality establishment and more a community living room.

Sadly, these sorts of traditional bars are closing at a pretty rapid rate nowadays, and many are being replaced by chain and franchise restaurants. By the time 2021 ended, Spanish bars were closing at an average of rate of 20.7 bars a day, and roughly 2,000 pull thier shutters down for the last time every year. 

READ ALSO: Are Spain’s traditional bars in danger?

For many foreigners in Spain, however, these sorts of humble, family-run places are one of the most endearing things about living in the country.

These bars are typically very simple comprising a few stools and tables, some semi-legible laminated menus, a small number of tapas offerings, a fruit machine, a cigarette machine, and a TV. As you probably know, the basic nature of these bars means that they are often essentially the same, and you are therefore quite likely to see the same sorts of people frequenting them.

Here are ten people you always seem to see in a Spanish bar, wherever you go, at whatever time of day.

The old boy with the carajillo

In the early morning, as fellow sleepy eyed locals tuck into their tostadas, Spanish bars always seem to have an older Señor sipping quietly on a carajillo (a coffee with some kind of liquor added to it, usually cognac, rum, whisky, or aniseed).

Often there are several older men sitting a few tables apart from another, each sipping a carajillo, though some prefer to have their coffee in one glass and booze in a shot glass, but you get the idea.

Think of this as Spain’s answer to Irish coffee, except that some men in Spain seemingly drink this every morning as opposed to only on special occasions. If they’re a real regular they will arrive in the early morning with a newspaper tucked under their arm and have their carajillo brought wordlessly over to them before they’ve even made it past the front page.

It’s not uncommon to see people ordering beer or wine early in these types of bars either. 

The seasoned barman 

That brings us to our next Spanish bar archetype: the grizzled (often slightly grumpy) barman who owns the place, or if he doesn’t, behaves like he does.

You know the type: pot-bellied, greying, tea towel over his shoulder, a three-day stubbled man who could be 40 years old but could be 60 – you never can quite tell. If not behind the bar they are invariably smoking outside or arguing with the delivery driver.

At times a little brusk with non-regulars and sometimes downright rude with tourists, but always chatty with locals and children, these are the sorts of barmen who know everyone in the barrio have seen it all and always, always remember your order (if you’re a regular).

It’s not uncommon to see people dinking beer or wine in the mornings in Spain. Photo: Les Argonautes / Unsplash

The older Señora with perfect hair and makeup

One customer the barman will always be sure to be polite and respectful towards is the older Señora dressed to the nines with her hair freshly dyed and blow-dried hair, and makeup done immaculately at 9am. She’s often found drinking a café con leche (coffee with milk), sometimes a glass of wine, depending on the time of day, and is so well presented that she looks as though she could be stopping in before heading to a wedding, but is really just wanting an excuse to dress up. 

You can often smell her perfume from across the bar, and she is usually waiting for the rest of her friends to arrive so they can pass away the morning gossiping about everyone in the barrio (and the bar).

READ ALSO: Protect the bar to save the village, new Spanish law proposes

The man who spends all day on the tragaperras 

Most Spanish bars have tragaperras, slot or fruit machines, and there always seems to be a man (usually an older man) obsessively feeding coins into it. He can spend hours standing there zombie-like as the world goes on around him, and the trusty barman keeps an eye on his caña (small beer) and refills it without interrupting his focus.

Whatever the time of day, he always seems to be playing.

The guy smoking with one foot inside and one foot outside

Smoking indoors is illegal in Spain and has been for a long time, but in some local bars, you wouldn’t know it because of the regular who always straddles the threshold, one foot inside, one foot out on the street, blowing his cigarette smoke in a haze across the bar.

Often this guy can be found watching the man on the tragaperras, offering pieces of advice between his drags of his cigarette.

The cleaners having an after-work beer in the morning

Often friendly with the older men drinking early morning carajillos, most Spanish bars will also have two or three florescent jacket-clad rubbish collectors or road sweepers celebrating the end of their shift with an after work caña (or two) as most people are dropping in for a tostada (toast) on their way to work.

Another peculiarity of Spanish bars is that these workers usually bring tin foil-wrapped bocadillos (filled baguettes) to eat with their beers, and the usually grumpy barman says nothing about it. Rest assured, if you were to try this, you’d certainly get an earful. 

The person in charge of cutting the jamón

One item that’s never lacking in a typical Spanish bar is a leg of jamón (cured ham) either hanging from the rafters or sitting behind the bar.

Sometimes the grizzled older barman takes the responsibility of doing the meticulous slicing, but as jamón is such a serious thing in Spain, often there’s another employee whose sole responsibility seems to be to cut the jamón and nothing else.

And how seriously they take it, slicing away as though they are performing open-heart surgery.

In Spain slicing ham is a work of art. Photo: Ben Kerckx / Pixabay

The kids having breakfast on their way home from a night out

Another regular fixture among the early morning crowd is the table of teenagers or uni students having breakfast in a drunken stupor on the terrace after a long night of partying. Some will go for coffee, admitting defeat that the night is over, and others will try and power through with another caña

They are all, invariably, smoking like chimneys, and the various other regulars will exchange knowing nods of the heads and quips about being young.

Someone throwing napkins on the floor

You’ll also inevitably see someone tossing their paper napkin (along with an olive stone or cheese rind) on the floor as they eat. This is another peculiarity of Spanish bar culture, and some more traditional Spaniards might even say a bar littered with crumpled napkins is the mark of a good place.

This is another tradition that seems to be dying out, and again, if you aren’t a regular perhaps don’t try this one.

The abuela who spoils her grandchildren

When Spanish abuelas (grandmothers) aren’t gossiping away in a group, they can often be found spoiling their grandchildren and ordering endless sugary drinks, donuts, pastries and ice cream for them.

If you hang around in the bar long enough, you’ll probably see the Mum or Dad arrive and scold their mother for spoiling the kids.