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A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Old Feb 9th 2022, 10:02 am
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Default A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Hello All,

Expat living in Gijon Asturias for a little over 4 years, my wife is Spanish and I work as an English Teacher.

I was wondering what are some things that irk fellow Expats about being in Spain, things I suppose which could be considered cultural differences.

Here are mine, maybe a little biased due to the fact I teach English here and see the effects of my complaint first hand, also my complaints may be purely aimed at people/things in the North and I can't say if the same is in other regions of Spain. But here goes.

1. Obsessions with certificates/qualifications

I am frustrated by this obsession with Spanish companies and institutions to only see merit in someones certification and academic qualifications, rather than their actual skills in life and this has created an inherent arrogance in the society I feel. i.e you're looked down upon depending on your degrees or even your lack of degrees.

2. Education obsession for kids

While, I have observed families are much closer in Spain than in the UK, i.e its not uncommon to see the whole family walking and being together here and also its nice seeing children actually using parks compared to the UK. BUT it really grates on me that parents and schools force so much "school" onto their kids. Some of my own students (kids and teens alike) seem not to have lives like ordinary kids.


3. Strange "style over substance" attitude.

I have found it is an absolute sin in Spain to wear something considered "winter" clothes in Spring or Summer and vice versa. Also, to wear clothing which are a little old or a tad bit worn out is exceptionally frowned upon and people judge you for it. This is also passed this onto the kids, kids I find are very well dressed. But for me this grates on me as it seems very phoney to me. I also find a kind of Snob attitude to this as well, connecting with the education/work qualifications plus the fashion for me it creates a weird snobbery. (don't get me wrong, men and women are very attractive in Spain and look great even into old age BUT.....)

4. Table Etiquette

This is a seriously big thing in Spain, at least with regards to my wife and her family, I don't actually know if this is throughout Spain or just a class thing, i've got no idea??? But having the correct forks and knives on the correct side and the use of a fish knife etc seems to be a big thing in Asturias according to my experience and well.... connecting it to the above, seems a little pretentious to me.


5. Lack of Critical Thinking and soft skills

I have found my interactions with Spanish people of all ages to be very black and white, there's not a lot of thinking outside the box. Even down to the Covid-Mask mandates, everyone is very fixed on wearing the mask without really questioning it or even rebelling against it. I find this a bit odd myself, just because the majority seem to aimlessly follow and there is no real desire to see other points of view or to rebel against it. A thing I have a hard time with my own students in classes is to get them asking each other questions - they genuinely are not interested in knowing more about class mates and this is across all ages, from kids upto business executives. Thinking critically in Spain is essentially non-existent (at least in the North). Philosophical or even Spiritual ideas seem a little void in Spanish culture too, it feels to me in most of my dealings, things are totally black and white. There's definitely this way or the highway attitude.

6. Spanish people can't really do Small Talk

I don't know if anyone has found this, I have tried to interact with neighbours and people in the street and always hit a brick wall. For me I use Small Talk as Spanish practice, but ultimately its more harder than it's worth.


Aside from that, I love Spain and the Spanish.

Anyone else want to get anything off their chests??? take the microphone!!!







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Old Feb 9th 2022, 11:03 am
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

"1. Obsessions with certificates/qualifications

I am frustrated by this obsession with Spanish companies and institutions to only see merit in someones certification and academic qualifications, rather than their actual skills in life and this has created an inherent arrogance in the society I feel. i.e you're looked down upon depending on your degrees or even your lack of degrees."

It is not an "obsession" as you suggest! This is simply nonsense! Academic qualifications are a prerequisite to do certain types of employment, period. This is the international norm! "actual skills in life" are a nice to have and rather subjective. Get real!

"2. Education obsession for kids

While, I have observed families are much closer in Spain than in the UK, i.e its not uncommon to see the whole family walking and being together here and also its nice seeing children actually using parks compared to the UK. BUT it really grates on me that parents and schools force so much "school" onto their kids. Some of my own students (kids and teens alike) seem not to have lives like ordinary kids."

More nonsense! Parents everywhere put their children under pressure to succeed. I think you problem is that you are obviously living in an educational bubble type environment and can't see the wood for the trees!

"3. Strange "style over substance" attitude.

I have found it is an absolute sin in Spain to wear something considered "winter" clothes in Spring or Summer and vice versa. Also, to wear clothing which are a little old or a tad bit worn out is exceptionally frowned upon and people judge you for it. This is also passed this onto the kids, kids I find are very well dressed. But for me this grates on me as it seems very phoney to me. I also find a kind of Snob attitude to this as well, connecting with the education/work qualifications plus the fashion for me it creates a weird snobbery. (don't get me wrong, men and women are very attractive in Spain and look great even into old age BUT.....)"

Nobody wants to go around in rags or indeed have their offspring in rags. If you are happy to go around in rags that is your business, but it has nothing to do with being snobbish, it is simply having pride in ones appearance!

"4. Table Etiquette

This is a seriously big thing in Spain, at least with regards to my wife and her family, I don't actually know if this is throughout Spain or just a class thing, i've got no idea??? But having the correct forks and knives on the correct side and the use of a fish knife etc seems to be a big thing in Asturias according to my experience and well.... connecting it to the above, seems a little pretentious to me."

This is a basic life skill! If you have not got a handle on that by now, it is time you should do. It has no in any way pretentious and suggest so is absurd!

"5. Lack of Critical Thinking and soft skills

I have found my interactions with Spanish people of all ages to be very black and white, there's not a lot of thinking outside the box. Even down to the Covid-Mask mandates, everyone is very fixed on wearing the mask without really questioning it or even rebelling against it. I find this a bit odd myself, just because the majority seem to aimlessly follow and there is no real desire to see other points of view or to rebel against it. A thing I have a hard time with my own students in classes is to get them asking each other questions - they genuinely are not interested in knowing more about class mates and this is across all ages, from kids upto business executives. Thinking critically in Spain is essentially non-existent (at least in the North). Philosophical or even Spiritual ideas seem a little void in Spanish culture too, it feels to me in most of my dealings, things are totally black and white. There's definitely this way or the highway attitude."

No clue the point you are actually trying to make here with this ramble...

"6. Spanish people can't really do Small Talk

I don't know if anyone has found this, I have tried to interact with neighbours and people in the street and always hit a brick wall. For me I use Small Talk as Spanish practice, but ultimately its more harder than it's worth."

Lose the chip on your shoulder! Now perhaps you understand how immigrants who move to the UK feel. It is a bit different when the shoe is on the other foot.... You need to try to integrate as best you can and not expect someone to roll the red carpet out for you.

Enough said!

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Old Feb 9th 2022, 11:53 am
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

1. Obsessions with certificates/qualifications
That is norm in Europe, get used to it.

2. Education obsession for kids
Like this doesnt happen in UK

3. Strange "style over substance" attitude.
Case for fashion police

4. Table Etiquette
What's wrong with having table manners? Would you rather eat with fingers?

5. Lack of Critical Thinking and soft skills
Meaningless ramble. Just because you are anti-mask (possibly anti-vax too), you cant understand why people want to obey law and protect themself and other. And not be selfish like some.

6. Spanish people can't really do Small Talk
So what, some dont have time for meaningless chit-chat.

7. Whinging Brits moaning about everything !!!
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 12:32 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

I can't say I've noticed any of that. If I had to pick something that irks me it would be the lunchtime hours, but only because I like to have a good split in my working day. On the whole it's fine as it means I can eat whilst colleagues work and vice versa. At the weekends it doesn't bother me at all.

Regarding the OP's irks, you should compare them to other Europeans countries. The main one that stands out to me is table etiquette. In Italy it's at completely the other end of the scale. Eating with mouths open, talking whilst eating, elbows on tables, screaming kids in restaurants (I mean 8+, not toddlers) slurping and so on. They really have the style over substance, they happily buy poor quality produce so that they can have the latest iPhone or handbag. Each to their own I guess.

I find the Spanish are pretty good with small talk. Even in these days of remote working we always have a few minutes of general chit chat before getting down to business.
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 1:40 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Originally Posted by SpacemanP View Post
Hello All,

Expat living in Gijon Asturias for a little over 4 years, my wife is Spanish and I work as an English Teacher.

I was wondering what are some things that irk fellow Expats about being in Spain, things I suppose which could be considered cultural differences.

Here are mine, maybe a little biased due to the fact I teach English here and see the effects of my complaint first hand, also my complaints may be purely aimed at people/things in the North and I can't say if the same is in other regions of Spain. But here goes.

1. Obsessions with certificates/qualifications

I am frustrated by this obsession with Spanish companies and institutions to only see merit in someones certification and academic qualifications, rather than their actual skills in life and this has created an inherent arrogance in the society I feel. i.e you're looked down upon depending on your degrees or even your lack of degrees.
I agree with you on this but it is not limited to the Spanish.

I used to be an employer, but mainly of trades people.

It did not influence me if people turned up waving certificate or proof of apprenticeship etc.

Everyone was taken on for a two week trial at the end of which if they had proved themselves their employment continued, if not they were out the door some well before the end of the two weeks.

My biggest disappointment was giving a Rolls Royce apprentice a trial, he failed miserably.

However this should not have surprised me my father worked at RR although he didn't train there and when I left school he said I could do what I liked where I liked but was not to go anywhere near RR

He witnessed the apprentices in the Derby factory and considered they were nothing but cheap labour. Taken into the machine shop where he worked and shown how to do one process and that was it, no rounded education simply cheap labour
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 1:42 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Nothing particularly irks me about Spanish life and that is why I chose to live here!! There is more to think about in life than which side knives and forks are on!!
I'm far happier now living here in Spain than I ever was over in the UK. I could write a much longer list of irksome things related to the UK. You need to integrate more and stop whining 🙄

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Old Feb 9th 2022, 2:03 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Butting in from Hungary!

Items 1 & 2 most certainly apply here. I have seen complaints from British ex pats moaning about how hard the kids are worked and the expectations placed on them. But the kids here certainly do have a life - we see them around town in the shops, cafés and fast food places, in the parks, in the hills on their bikes, in & out of the sports centres, generally having a good time, despite the workload.

And by & large the kids tend to be very polite & well mannered.
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 4:58 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

I think the point about the Spanish people regarding it as a sin to wear summer clothes after a certain date was true years ago, but has been changing gradually. I remember in 2007, when I'd only been living here for a few months, turning up for my Spanish class in November wearing a short-sleeved T shirt, lightweight skirt and sandals - it was 25C outside. ¡Qué barbaridad, Lynn! exclaimed my Spanish teacher, and when I looked puzzled about what I'd done, she explained that it just wasn't the done thing to be wearing summer clothes at that time of year. But now I often see Spanish people out and about in winter, if the weather is exceptionally warm, in short sleeves. Having become acclimatised within a short space of time, though, we ourselves start shivering when the temperature is any lower than about 22C and piling the jumpers on.

I don't recognise the moan about Spanish people not doing small talk, either. Complete strangers often strike up conversations with me when queuing in shops, waiting at bus stops, sitting on buses or just in the street, as do my neighbours and former neighbours from the house we left 5 years ago. On Monday I was on the bus when a little boy of 5 or 6, sitting across the aisle from me with his Mum, suddenly turned to me and said "Hola, como te llamas?". I replied and quite a conversation ensued with both him and his Mum. One of the things I like about Spanish children is that in general they seem very confident and articulate at a young age and unafraid to strike up a conversation with people much older than themselves. I find Spanish people will often ask very direct, personal questions or make personal comments even if they don't know me well, a marked cultural difference as the British would regard it as bad manners to say such things. But no offence is meant by it, and one certainly couldn't regard them as two-faced. We were once in a shop in Málaga where my husband was looking at sweaters and a very pretty young lady came over to him and said (in perfect English) "excuse me, what size is that? I am looking for a sweater for my father - he is tall like you, but he is flat" - pointing to my husband's stomach which is anything but! I fell about laughing.
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 6:12 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

1 and 2, I have no experience of.
3 certainly around here people, on the whole, still dress for the season and not the weather.
4 can't say I've noticed
5 yes, very much what I knew as the ABC - Aye Been Culture. It's done that way because it's always been done that way. In the same way that DIY is a recent phenomenon and there is no cross over between trades.
6 very often I'm engaged in conversation, neighbours, other people walking dogs or waiting in a queue. There are of course occasions when the conversation starts with a stranger telling me that whatever it is I'm doing, I'm doing it wrong!!

I have no complaints about any of it. I wasn't born or brought up here so the culture is foreign. It was me that made the choice to live here, nobody forced me........
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 8:13 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Doctors waiting rooms.

UK casual nod to an aquaintance on entering. Then silence

Spain. Animated loud conversations and direct qustion “ what are you here for.” Swap illness stories even down to showing boil on buttock.
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 9:38 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Originally Posted by olivefarmer View Post
Doctors waiting rooms.

UK casual nod to an aquaintance on entering. Then silence

Spain. Animated loud conversations and direct qustion “ what are you here for.” Swap illness stories even down to showing boil on buttock.
In my surgery there is very little space so unfortunately the doctor can hear the discussions that go on. She came to the door one day and asked whether she could go home because several people had been diagnosed whilst waiting. What I loved was the fact that they all laughed including the doctor.

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Old Feb 9th 2022, 10:10 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

Butting in from the US.

Qualifications and licenses are a national obsession in the US, at least at the trade and occupation level, though many of them can and are flouted on a "caveat emptor" basis. E.g Plumbers need to have completed an apprenticeship and have classroom qualifications too, but there's no shortage of "handymen" who will do small plumbing repairs for you.

School is also an obsession, but only with some parents .... which I would have said is the same in the UK. Some parents push and other don't seem to give a crap whether little Jonny leaves school with any useful qualifications. I am surprised if you're saying it's different in Spain and all parents are obsessive.

And re your fourth point - I suspect that table manners is extremely personal to your own family. My mother was an absolute stickler for table manners and using the proper cutlery properly, so I followed suite, and thankfully so does my wife on most things even though she is American and many American seem to consider cutlery usage to be optional for many foods and that using a knife and fork simultaneously makes you some sort of eating savant. One of my personal favourite "tricks" is eating a rack of ribs with a knife and fork, which I find works a lot better than the almost universal method in the US of eating ribs caveman-style. I can strip ribs to a pile of dry bones using a knife and fork, whereas using fingers and gnawing on the bones just leaves a sticky mess. The first time I ate ribs in a US restaurant was when I was on my own, travelling on business in Chicago. As I was alone I ate at the bar, and the barmaid provided a pile of paper napkins and a finger bowl along side my plate of ribs, but watched me out of the corner of her eye every time she walked past, and I could tell something was off. But when I was finished she took my plate and said that she had never seen anyone eat ribs with a knife and fork before!
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Old Feb 9th 2022, 10:10 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

My experience of living in Spain is totally different from the OP. People are open and friendly and chat happily to me using Spanish whilst they always use Valenciano with each other. If there was no small talk my life would have been very silent for the last 16 years, the Spanish in my area love talking, in fact I worried about my next door neighbour with the lock down and the various controls because it is her only hobby!!!

Did not wear anything with long sleeves for a long time and often heard people commenting to each other about us being a bit mad and when they realised that we had heard them they just looked us in the eyes and told us to our faces. Now of course that has changed because I feel the cold more than I did. Actually it was reasonably hot the other day and I saw one of my friends go onto her terrace in a thick quilted coat to sit in the sun.

The children have many hobbies such as horse riding, sports, music, swimming, footballetc as well as their lessons, They have very full interesting lives.

I cannot speak about any obsession with using the correct cutlery because it is something that I automatically do so it is not something that I am likely to have either noticed or have a problem with.

What irks me? Cannot think of anything really. My hisband wanted to live here, I came reluctantly but settled in quickly due to integrating. We always made sure that we said good day to everyone, answered questions, smiled and accepted all invitations to join in with our neighbours for fiestas even though we always kept ourselves to ourselves in the UK as we were private people.

I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love the honesty of the people, their friendliness, their helpfulness, their warmth.

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Old Feb 9th 2022, 10:23 pm
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

My only grip would be that they block up the sidewalks when chatting. Cannot they move to a side and/or leave a spot for people to pass...
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Old Feb 10th 2022, 6:56 am
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Default Re: A General Moan - Things that irk you about Spain!

I haven't experienced any difference in attitudes to education or qualifications any more than in other parts of the world, from south Korea, to Africa or the Americas.
What is sad is to see students leave school with a level of English that leaves much to be desired, more a reflection on the teaching methods.
Remember, schools have changed. My wife was not allowed to speak her native Basque in the Catholic school: "speak Christian, the nun would say"....meaning speak Spanish. Forty years of Franco cannot be changed over a generation or two.

When I first visited here (1973), yes, you were visibly screened for what you were wearing; nowadays, almost the opposite; people tend to dress down more.

As for etiquette, than goodness the Basques & Spanish don't insist on eating peas with the fork prongs turned downwards, or use fish knives. That's what the bread is for. But that doesn't mean manners are not important.
As for critical thinking & small talk, one thing we never ask someone is what they do; people here tend to work in order to live, not the other way round. But conversations generally steer clear of politics; people seem much more reluctant to divulge their true thinking or political leanings.
  • My gripes are ones that cannot be changed easily: poor driving skills (eg tailgating, not giving way) & often poor road signage. France is much better I find.
  • The late hour starts for films
  • The darker early mornings
  • Poorer choice in shops; hardly ever see French or Australian wine. And try finding easily a gang plug that can fix on the wall. Or a decent cast-iron frying pan. But what can't be bought in shops can usually be found online.
But all in all, it's the differences that make life more interesting & sometimes frustrating. I'll drink to that, especially if it is a decent Rioja.










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