Things Spanish people miss when they are abroad

Let’s talk about Spanish culture—Spanish things in general, nothing specific. But wait a second… how do you know if something is really Spanish?

How about things Spanish people miss when they travel? I’d say that’s a good answer, and I’m the one who writes the article so a good answer it is (hah!). After asking a few friends and later having a look at a few articles out there, I’ve managed to put together a list of things that are authentically  Spanish:


This one is easy if you have been to Spain. Tapas are basically appetizers that come in many varieties: they can go from a few olives (to make the beer you’re drinking feel less lonely) to a mini version of a properly cooked dish. The good thing is that you can share them with others… actually no, the good thing is that you can try several things, because the struggle of going to a bar and ordering only one thing is real.

Window blinds

Laugh all you want, but this is a basic element of Spanish living. Let me give you a quick example: ten years ago, I went to England for three weeks to do an English course in a little village. I woke up at 5am every single day because the sun wouldn’t let me sleep, and no, I’m not a vampire who drinks sangría instead of blood. Long live window blinds.

Source: habitissimo.es

Source: habitissimo.es

The sun

We have window blinds because we have the sun, and once you’re used to it, it’s hard to live in a grey world.

Village festivals

I guess this may happen to anyone, Spanish or not, but many Spaniards really miss the local festivals they have in their pueblos. Bank holidays are okay, but there’s nothing like the insanity of a village festival you’ve known since you were a child.

The timetable

A friend specifically mentioned the timetable for dinner and partying, but as many of you know, we also often wake up later, have breakfast and lunch later, etc. Dinner is often between 9pm and 10.30pm, for example, and you won’t properly start partying before 1am.

Computer keyboards with ñ

Ah, the things I’ve written while I was abroad. Dark, dark memories. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I often created new words, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone. One of the worst things is that there’s no ñ on non-Spanish keyboards (it’s more or less equivalent to the Portuguese nh and similar to the Polish ń).

Look! There is a ñ!

Look! There is a ñ!

Having a nice chat after lunch

You don’t leave the table when you finish eating, sir. Neither do you, madam. You stay and talk. It’s called sobremesa and it’s nice, really. When we Spaniards go abroad, finish eating at a restaurant, start the post-lunch chat and waiters cast accusing glances at us, we miss our country.

Crappy bars for old people

It’s hard to describe these. They are often grey, dull, with nothing remarkable about them. They offer one brand of beer, two brands of wine and three different tapas. There is something depressing about them, and some Spaniards hardly ever go to them. However they are (how to say it?) part of the Spanish landscape. When you see one of these bars, you know you are at home. So when you come back from abroad and you see one of these bars, you can’t help but smile.

This bar is in my hometown and it's the first example that comes to my mind

This bar is in my hometown and it’s the first example that comes to my mind

Tomate frito

This literally means fried tomato. The fact that the whole world doesn’t worship it bewilders me. The fact that people can survive without it makes smoke come out of my ears in a desperate attempt to understand the incomprehensible.

It’s the most practical thing in the world and it’s certainly quite tasty. There’s not a single Spanish student who hasn’t eaten pasta with tomate frito bazillions of times (although it’s used for many other dishes as well).

Just pack your luggage with it if you come to Spain and then have to leave, will you? You can leave your clothes behind, you’ll survive without them.

If you are a student in Spain, this is your God

If you are a student in Spain, this is your God

This is only a quick preview of the things Spanish people miss when they go abroad, because we are very proud bunch that loves so many things about our culture (we sometimes love our culture too much, I’d say). I could keep writing, but let’s be honest, 90% of it would be about food, and I’m getting too hungry for that.

Thanks to Isabel, Javi, Jaime, Jose, Carol and Álvaro for their suggestions, and thanks to Tina for correcting the few mistakes I had made.

  1. Perico el Tuerto says:

    I’d like to point out that we’ve got a word for that “nice chat after lunch”. “Sobremesa”, a pretty much untranslatable word that highlights the importance of said activity in Spanish culture.

  2. Hhaha! I love those ‘crappy bars for old people’ there too.
    I remember one called La Paloma I guess, in Madrid, looks crappy and there are shrimps rests all over the floor, but it is also lovely and has nice food! 🙂

  3. Fun fact: My host dad in Seville used to have a TV shop in Plaza de la Alfalfa in the same building as Bar Manolo! I had to do a double take when I saw that picture. Really enjoyed the article, thanks Juan!

    • Thanks a lot Nathan, glad you liked the article! Another fun fact: I passed by yesterday and Bar Manolo has changed the awning/canopy/canvas cover (which word do you use?), they have a new one now, red. It doesn’t look crappy, my life doesn’t make sense anymore 🙁

      • Just saw this, that is world shaking. I’m afraid of returning and finding all my familiar haunts gone or changed, but something tells me that places like La Esquina de Enrique or Bocao are still chugging along in Seville.
        I would go with awning.
        Keep blogging!

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Juan - Madrid

Born and raised in beautiful Sevilla, I now live in Madrid. I'm a huge music lover (I started writing a music blog in January 2014). Travelling, learning about different cultures, walking around (and getting lost), reading and having meaningful conversations are some of ...

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