*Disclaimer: Blog from the perspective of a study abroad student, based on opinions and occurrences.

  1. Food service takes longer. Instead of the typical hour turnover in America, food service is much slower in Spain. Often the check will not be given unless the waiters are waved down. This is mainly because waiters are paid the legal minimum wage and do not depend on tips to make money. It is also oriented around the culture. Meals are for socializing, enjoying their food, drinking some wine, and taking in the simplicities of life. 
  2. Tips are not expected in restaurants. Automatic tips will be added if it’s a fancy restaurant. Waiters do not expect tips though they will not decline one. Usually, you will tip for exceptional service or if the food was fantastic. 
  3. A glass of wine is often as cheap as water at a restaurant. You may find yourself having an internal debate about whether or not to drink wine or water no matter how dehydrated you are due to the price. Day drinking is more widely accepted in Spain due to the availability of wine. 
  4. Less English is spoken than expected. Initially traveling to Spain, I expected English to be more widely spoken. I did learn that those who graduated from a university were required to fluently speak english but many people you interact with at restaurants and tourist areas are not fluent. 
  5. Download google translate and google maps. Google Translate helps tremendously with the language barrier. It helps you communicate directly with people and allows for you to translate signs and menus with the camera feature. Google map is especially helpful when utilizing the public transport system such as the metro, better than the local maps.  
  6. Euros are preferred for smaller purchases, usually a purchase under 10. Companies are charged a fee for credit card use and therefore would prefer euros to not have to pay the convenience fee for small purchases. Credit cards are more widely accepted at restaurants and for larger purchases. 
  7. Bills are not split at restaurants unless asked, though they might give you a hard time. Bills are not traditionally split in Europe as they are in America. I once was charged for someone’s smoothie because they were standing next to me in line at the checkout. Waiters will not ask but will give one check for a group. It’s much easier to have one check and Venmo the individual who ultimately pays. 
  8. Apple Pay doesn’t exist in Europe.If planning on using a credit card, Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. Amex and Discovery cards are less accepted, and apple pay simply does not exist.
  9. Cured meats, beef, pork, seafood, and cheese are staple items. Chicken is not often consumed or preferred. If you enjoy charcuterie boards, Spain is your place. Many meals are served with various breads, and the meals often feature the five staple items. You may find yourself missing veggies or fruits when consuming a restaurant diet for two weeks.
  10. They eat their meats more rare than Americans. You may initially be a little grossed out by how they serve their meat, especially if you’re not used to consuming rare steaks or other pieces of meat. Don’t fret, I never got food poisoning for the entirety of my stay and I ate the meat as it was served. 
  11.  Iced coffee is not available except at Americanized cafes. Traditional European coffee is served hot with espresso as the base of various types of cafe drinks. When asking for a coffee with milk, you will be handed a cappuccino or a latte. Iced drinks in general are not widely consumed unless it’s part of the culture. For example, water is not served with ice at a restaurant but sodas are. 
  12.  Siesta time. Between the hours of 2 pm and 4 pm, businesses close. Though it may seem as if the town goes to sleep, many are just taking an extended lunch break or relaxing between shifts. 
  13. Spaniards eat much later than Americans. It may come as a shock to see the different meal times when initially eating at the traditional American meal times in Spain. Lunch is served around 2 pm while dinner is between 8 pm and 10 pm. Many restaurants are open until midnight to accommodate meal times. 
  14. The Moors largely influence Spanish culture. The Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula around 700 AD and existed until 1492, giving them approximately 800 years of influence. Muslim influence can be seen throughout Spain, especially in Cordoba through the Mosque-Cathedral and the Alhambra in Grenada. 
  15. Olive trees are everywhere outside of the cities. Over 3000 years ago, Spain was introduced to Olives, and ever since they have been integrated into the food culture. Spain is the largest exporter of olive oil in the world and it becomes obvious once you leave the city. Rows and rows of olive trees are planted on the hills of the Sierra Nevada range.
Alhambra in Grenada, Spain
Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain
Olive trees for olive oil production near Malaga, Spain
Rare steak, fries, and charred peppers served with red wine (not pictured)