What To Expect When Dining in Spain

For many visitors to Spain, some of the largest cultural contrasts exist around meal times and eating habits, and rightfully so.  It’s an adjustment that certainly takes some getting used to for most foreigners.  If you’re wondering what to expect when traveling to Spain, here are some quick and dirty tips that might come in handy:

-Don’t expect to find oatmeal or pancakes on the breakfast menu.  If you’re in the south, you’ll likely start your day with a thick, lightly toasted baguette drizzled in olive oil and topped with diced (or sliced) tomatoes and a dash of salt.

-Lunch is the largest and most important meal of the day, but never before 2pm.  If it’s before 2pm you’re still eating breakfast.  Dinner typically occurs after 10pm and is much lighter than your midday meal.  Got that?

-If you’re a vegetarian, try not to act surprised when your salad comes with a heaping pile of tuna on top.  Eat your protein. (Just kidding…but not about the tuna).

-You like love dry cured ham and seeing pig legs hanging from the ceiling of every bar and restaurant, right?  Good, because the Spanish take their jamón very seriously and this is not a force to be reckoned with.

-Be prepared to drink alcohol at every meal, but don’t get drunk at every meal-that’s frowned upon.  Also, if you want a beer, I hope you aren’t looking for choices because you came to the wrong country for that.  I actually commend the way the Spanish have streamlined the alcohol ordering process.  None of that “what do you have on tap/in a bottle” business.  You just ask for a beer and BOOM, you get a beer.

-If, for some reason you choose not to drink alcohol at every meal just keep in mind that “free refills” don’t exist here.  Seriously though, who wants to sip an orange Fanta when you are visiting a place where the wine flows like water?  Not this girl.

-Mayo is the new Ranch.  Put it on everything.  Your eggs, your steak, your vegetables…everything.  Same goes for olive oil.

-Don’t worry about putting your napkin in your lap.  It will be a small, waxy piece of paper that you will simply wipe your fingertips on once before discarding.  They actually don’t even work too well (read: AT ALL)  so you’re better off wiping your hands on your jeans or trying to “pet” that cute fluffy dog that keeps passing by…  Oh, and hopefully you aren’t environmentally conscious or anything because you will use approximately 100 of these during your meal.

-Finally, don’t wait for your server to bring you the check- you need to ask for it.  But don’t stress about leaving a tip either-tipping isn’t really necessary in Spain.  You’ll feel like a rebel at first but trust me, you’ll get used to it.

¡Buen provecho!

One thought on “What To Expect When Dining in Spain

  1. Great post! I was in Spain a few months ago and experienced a lot of what you’re writing about (and as a vegetarian – survived easily, largely thanks to patatas bravas and wine 😉 ). After initially going hungry at 6pm and often being the first customer for dinner, I got comfortable eating late, very late… I actually like Spanish work hours and could get used to that…

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