Meet a Spanish family during holiday


An Englishman in Spain, exploring the local life

One of my joys in life is to book a few days away in Spain. For me this often involves an early morning flight from Gatwick to Madrid, Barcelona or Alicante, or occasionally from Stansted to Asturias in the northwest of the country. It helps that my partner is Spanish. Over the years there have been dozens of trips - some resulting in a typical British week away in the Costas, others a short city break with some museum and cafe culture thrown in, and some that can best be described as a rural detox retreat. No matter what the destination or purpose of the trip though, it never fails to surprise me how different our cultures can be in many aspects of daily life.

English meal versus Spanish food


Photo by Katherine Price

Take food for example. To us Brits, mealtimes tend to be a very functional part of our day. We know we must eat, so we do so in the quickest and most convenient way possible. But for the Spanish, mealtimes are an occasion - a celebration of family and fresh ingredients. In Britain a typical breakfast, or el desayuno, is likely to consist of a bowl of sugary cereals that have been sat in their packaging since leaving the factory. Tea or instant coffee is the usual accompaniment. A British breakfast can also be a very solitary affair. A Spanish breakfast though will often involve mouth-watering pastries or sweet breads bought that same morning and served with fresh coffee (instant is not popular in Spain). The meal is a chance for the family to start the day together.

The Spanish clock versus the English timekeeper


Photo by Marlon Maya

Putting the one hour time difference between Britain and Spain aside, there is also a cultural contrast in the way that our nations approach time. In Britain if we say “meet you at 8pm” it is understood that we mean when the little hand is on eight and the big hand on 12. But in Spain the 8pm reference is likely to be interpreted as meaning at any point that hour. It’s a subtle but real point of difference between our two nationalities. Having a partner who is Spanish means that I am forever having to make allowances for our respective approaches to timekeeping.

Traditional siesta



Talking of 8pm, that’s when many Spanish workers down tools for the day. For us Brits though - that’s already halfway through the evening. After all, we’ll have eaten by 8pm ready to slump in front of the TV for Eastenders or Coronation Street. The Spanish working day is traditionally tied up with the concept of a siesta, a two or three hour-long break taken in the early afternoon. But attitudes are changing. The centuries old practice is increasingly seen as out of touch with modern society, and some workplaces are opting for a shorter day with an earlier finish.

Spanish family



One of my favourite differences though between the British and Spanish is to do with family. In Britain, sadly we seem to at best ‘tolerate’ extended family. A visit to see auntie Smith or grandpa Joe is likely to bring on a reaction of “how quickly can we get this over with?”. But in Spain, the family is at the heart of daily life. Visits are encouraged and are likely to involve food. At the very least, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with cake - the Spanish love to entertain! Having a Spanish family broadens my view on family.

Spanish lifestyle wins!

So those are just a few personal observations about the differences between the British and the Spanish way of life. None are intended as criticisms, after all we are all a product of our upbringing. But let’s just say I know what I prefer. For me, the Spanish lifestyle wins with its appreciation of life, quality and family. Oh, and the sunshine and warmer weather helps!

Written by Mike from the UK


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