Preparing to Interact Socially in Spanish

I am a native English speaker. I use to know more Spanish and French when I was a child, but have lost the language due to lack of use. So I thought I’d provide some useful tools for when interacting with Spanish natives.

1) Spanish Culture and Traditions:

  • La Siesta = Between the hours of 2-5pm (or 14:00 a 17:00), Spain shuts down to allow the locals to rest after a long and hectic morning, and they prepare for the busy afternoon. La Siesta takes place in a comfortable place, such as the bed or sofa, where one can take a peaceful, undisturbed nap, after having a good and hefty lunch with friends or family.
  • Las Tapas = These snacks, usually in the form of finger foods (or canapés), originated in Spain. Tapas are served day in and day out in every bar in Spain. You can also find some restaurants in the United States (Spanish influenced or american) that serve Tapas (in place of ‘appetizers’) on their menu, and many other countries throughout the world. Tapas are incorporated into the days of Spanish natives, most specifically in Spain, to accommodate their long and frequent journeys from bar to bar (and alcoholic drink to drink)
  • Meeting/Dining/Business Etiquette (I chose Spain because it seems as though most, if not all, of Spanish traditions began in Spain; but for the most part, these customs can be transferred to other countries as I have been acquainted with them in the U.S.) = When introduced, the proper thing to do is shake hands. Once established, men might embrace, and perhaps use a two-handed shake where the left hand is placed on the right forearm of the other person (i.e. pat each other on the shoulder), and women might kiss on both checks (starting with the left). If invited to a Spaniard’s home, feel encouraged to bring chocolates/pastries/cakes, wine/liqueur/brandy, or flowers to the host(ess). If you know that the host(ess) has children and will be included for the evening, a nice small gift is always appreciated. When doing business, allow sufficient time for letting new colleagues get to know you (your 1st ‘business meeting’ may be completely formal, and no business will actually be discussed). Face-to-face contacts is preferred to telephone/written communication. This can be solely a perception/opinion, but it has been said that Spaniards do not enjoy admitting when they are incorrect, so tread lightly in encouraging confrontation.

2) Useful Spanish Words & Phrases for Travelers:

    • Hi = Hola
    • Yes = Si
    • No = No
    • Please = Por favor
    • How are you? = Cómo estas?
    • Nice to meet you = Mucho gusto
    • My name is… = Me llamo…
    • What’s your name? = ¿Cómo te llamas? (informal, or when you know the person) / ¿Cómo se llama Usted? (formal, or when you are new acquaintances)
      We’re from… England/Canada/the USA = Somos de… Inglaterra/Canadá/los Estados Unidos
    • I’m from… = Soy de…
    • Thank you = Gracias
    • Thank you very much = Muchas gracias
    • No, thanks = No, gracias
    • I don’t understand = No entiendo or No comprendo
    • I don’t speak Spanish = No hablo español
    • I speak a little Spanish = Yo hablo un paquito español
    • Good morning = Buenos dias
    • Good afternoon (used after 12:00 PM) = Buenas tardes
    • Good evening/Good night = Buenas noches
    • Do you speak English? = ¿Hablas ingles? (informal) / ¿Habla Usted ingles? (formal)
    • Nice to meet you = Mucho gusto
    • Excuse me… or Forgive me = .. or Pardóname
    • Where’s the bathroom? = ¿Dónde está el baño?
    • Of course = Por supuesto
    • I (don’t) like it = (No) me gusta
    • We like it = Nos gusta
    • At what time… = ¿A qué hora…
    • When… = ¿Cuándo…?
    • Why? = ¿Por qué?
    • Here = Aquí
    • Could you write it down, please? = ¿Lo podría escribir, por favor?
    • You’re welcome = De nada
    • This is for you = Esto es para tí (informal)/ Esto es para Usted (formal)
    • There’s a mistake… = Hay un error…
    • Now = Ahora
    • Today/tomorrow/next week = Hoy/mañana/la semana próxima
    • Help!/Stop!/Go away! = ¡Socorro!/¡Pare!/¡Váyase!
    • Where is….? = ¿Dónde está…?
    • Perfect = Perfecto
    • I don’t need that = No necesito eso
    • It’s too expensive = Es demasiado caro
    • How old are you? = ¿Cuántos años tienes (informal)/tiene (formal)?
    • How much is this? = ¿Cuánto cuesta esto…?
    • And that (one)? = ¿Y ese?
    • Could you repeat that, please? = ¿Podría repetirlo, por favor?
    • Do you have anything to drink? = ¿Tiene algo a tomar?
    • Is there a cafe near here? = ¿Hay un café/una cafetería cerca de aquí?
    • Can you recommend me a good vegetarian restaurant? = ¿Me puede recomendar un buen restaurante vegetariano?
    • Where is the nearest pastry shop? = ¿Dónde está la panadería mas cercana?
    • Where can you go for a cheap food? = ¿Dónde se puede comer barato?
    • What’s the local specialty? = ¿Qué es la comida típica en este región?

It’s crazy how much of the basics I have forgotten. I feel like a child, starting from scratch, learning a language for the 1st time.

But as you can see, there are links on all of my informational posts (see La Siesta, Las Tapas, Etiquette, etc.). If you have any trouble locating the links, let me know. Stay tuned… I will add more to this post, and will provide future posts for other cultures. If you have any area preferences or questions, please ask in comment section below. Buena Suerte!!

Please also see tips on entering a foreign country. Gracias!

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