The Surprising Things We Can All Learn From Spaniards

Photo by M. R. on Unsplash

If you’ve ever been to Spain then you know the Spanish love their Sangria and Paella, but this is definitely NOT what I’m going to be talking about in this post. (Although they are both delicious!)

I lived in Barcelona for the past month and a half as part of my one year trip around the world and being here has reminded me of why I started this trip.

Living in LA I was always in “go go go” mode all the time and all about always “doing” rather than just “being”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the hustle but I realized that priding myself in always being in hustle mode, not having time, and being “too busy” all the time wasn’t healthy either.

I lived in Madrid for six months back in 2015 so going back to Spain this summer reminded me why I love Spain so much.

1) Dinner = They take their time

If I were to be going for dinner back home in San Diego then I know I would probably be there for an hour max but dinner in Spain is a whole other story! First of all, they don’t have dinner until after 9/10 pm and when they do they take their time.

When I first lived in Madrid I remember actually being upset that the waiter would take forever to take our order and to bring the check. I would actually get anxious of how “slow” the service was when in reality it’s just how they do things there.

The Spanish aren’t in a rush to get back to their “to-do” lists but rather enjoy their meals. Being back in Spain was a good reminder to stop, savor the moment (and the meal of course), and not be in a rush all the time.

Why you should care:

When was the last time you went to dinner and didn’t look at the clock or for the check to come sooner?

Take time to enjoy things as simple as having dinner because those are the moments you will look back on.

2) Evenings = They value their friendships

There’s a tapas/wine/beer bar on pretty much every corner of Barcelona if you look hard enough and you best believe they are filled up when people get off work.

What I only see on Friday/Saturday nights between 8–11:30 pm in downtown San Diego I see Monday-Sunday 7pm-2am all over town. People here make time for their social relationships by socializing after work instead of going straight back home after a long workday.

Of course, this isn’t to say that every single Spanish person heads straight for the tapas bar after work but it is typical from what I’ve seen during my time in both Madrid and Barcelona.

Oh and all you parents out there wouldn’t have to decide between staying at home with your kids or being able to go out for drinks with friends. Most bars actually allow kids to come along! I’m talking about kids in strollers and toddlers casually chillin at the bar with their parents.

I know there are many ways to show that you value a friendship but nothing says you care more than spending time with that person.

Why you should care:

We all have super busy lives but what about making time for some human connection from time to time? The occasional text is fine but spend quality time with friends and family.

3) Sitting at the park = They “be”

One of my favorite things to do in the evenings was to walk five minutes down the road to the park in front of Sagrada Familia and just sit. Sometimes I would read a book while eating ice cream and sometimes I would literally just sit there and people watch like the locals.

Most of them were older but I loved seeing them gather in the park benches and just talk or people watch. This seemed to be a daily routine for some of them because I would see them doing their thing and just taking time to enjoy the moment every time that I went.

Why you should care:

It can be hard at first but sitting on a bench in the park without an agenda is relaxing af. As a type A person it is extremely hard for me to do this but when I did I felt much more connected to my surroundings and myself. Try it out next time you’re at the park!

4) Sunday’s = They recharge

You know you are in Spain when you have to go grocery shopping on Saturday’s instead of Sunday’s. It took me some time to readjust to living in a city that basically shutdowns on Sunday’s. Sunday’s are days to recharge after a long week and it’s basically ingrained in Spanish culture.

There are some stores open but I would say 80% of them are not. Are they losing out on potential tourist customers eager to give them their money? Probably, but what matters is that they get a full day to just enjoy and relax.

Why you should care:

Sunday Funday shouldn’t be all about bottomless mimosas but should be taken as a day to rest and recharge. It took a weekend in Hvar, Croatia without wifi to realize this for myself as well. Take some time Sunday evening to do something that brings you joy, whatever that might look like for you, and I guarantee you will feel a million times better come Monday morning.

5) August = They take time off

Time off for us in the U.S usually looks like two weeks of PTO spread out over a year plus the occasional holiday here and there.

My European friends are always shocked when I tell them that’s how it works in the U.S because to them two weeks is 1/3 of the vacation time they get!

My sushi cravings were severely affected by this when I found the best sushi place around on trip advisor and got there only to see a sign saying:

Cerrado del 5 de Agosto al 28. En vacaciones.
Closed from the 5th of August to the 28th. On vacations.

Before I lived in Barcelona I had no clue that a lot of small businesses take August completely off. When I say completely off I’m not saying the weekends, I’m talking the whole month of August! The non-locals go back to their city and the locals take a vacay to escape the Barcelona August which is no joke!

Why you should care:

Taking a whole month off is not realistic for everyone but taking some time off to reconnect with yourself is worthwhile. Like I said before,

Slacking off = Your lazy and have no motivation to do what needs to be done
Living life = Taking some time away from what you are passionate about to enjoy other aspects of your life… giving yourself permission to “be”

This is just one example of how living in another country can teach of implicit lessons about life, so I hope you got something out of this and can apply it to your own life.