What is the Spanish way of life?

One of the most commonly mentioned reasons for people wanting to live in Tenerife and Spain in general, is “the Spanish way of life”, but what is the Spanish way of life?

What does it entail and is it really any different to the way of life you lead at home?

Working hours.

Generally speaking, the day starts early for office and government workers here in Tenerife and on the peninsula of Spain.

A lot of foreigners will bemoan the fact that the banks and council offices will be closed at 2 or 3…well, the thing is, they did open at 8 this morning…!!!

Often shops will open early, depending upon the type of shop they are but maybe 8 and then they’ll work through until lunchtime and close for a few hours and then open again at 4 and go through to 8 or 9 at night.

The first item on our list leads us onto another of our favourites in our list of the Spanish way of life.

The Siesta.

This one is now a bit debatable. Speaking to younger Spanish people here having an actual sleep during lunch isn’t a thing any more.

It’s more like a lunch and then off to the supermarket or take the dog out for a quick wee…something like that and then maybe back to work in a rush.

I think the hazy days of a long lunch including half a bottle of wine…or maybe more and then a siesta are fading out over time.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen anymore and I’m certain that it’s a lovely idea but it’s almost certainly on the decline with the younger and modern Spanish and in fact, it’s probably been taken over now by the expats, who still seem to love the idea.

Eating late.

If you don’t finish work until 8 or 9, you probably won’t have dinner until 9 or 10. This is still a regular on the list of favourites of the Spanish way of life.

Generally speaking, restaurants here in Tenerife stay open until at least 11 and if there are still customers in there eating, they’ll stay open even later until they’ve all gone.

Having tapas or a paella…or maybe grilled fish and papas arrugadas, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine late into the evening, still goes on regularly.

The weather obviously helps, with the warmth of the evening going on late into the night, eating outside while sitting on a fabulous Spanish terrace, has to be one of the top items on people’s list for their idea of Spanish way of life.

It does always make me wonder though, if they work until late…eat even later and then have to get up really early the next day to be at work for 8…how do they do it…???

Sharing your food.

What…??? If you’re not used to going out with Spanish people for something to eat, be ready for eating as much as you can as quickly as you can…only joking but get used to sharing your food…possibly even with strangers.

Many times, I’ve been out with my wife, from here, and we’ve met up with friends and they’ve brought friends that we don’t know and food is ordered jointly and put in the middle of the table and shared by everyone

Don’t expect to eat solely what you’ve chosen… you might get a mouthful but you probably won’t get all of it, but enjoy it for what it is though, it’s a really normal way of eating here in Spain.

Drinks…oh, they’re yours…you don’t have to share what’s in your glass, just what’s in the bottle.

Just as an interesting aside, if my wife ever sat down at school or work and she was the only one eating, she’d offer her lunch to the others sitting there, knowing full well that when the roles are reversed, the offer would be returned to her.

Bars open pretty much every day from very early to very late.

Of course, going into work early, you’ll also need your coffee, so the bars open early to accommodate that as well.

They’ll also open into the wee small hours too, so that you’ll have time to go for a drink after your late dinner or maybe meet up with friends and family after work.

As far as I know, there are no laws regarding closing times for bars here in Spain…if you’re a Brit and “of a certain age” remember the 10.30 closing times of the good old British pub way back when? I don’t, it’s just that my granddad told me about it once…lol.


Meeting members of the family is a very regular thing here in Spain, it’s a massive thing for most Spanish people. Family life is generally well respected and looking after the elderly in their twilight years is almost a given.

In fact, where we live, nearly every Sunday, I see one of 2 things happen.

Either I see an elderly Spanish couple waiting outside of their house just before lunch and a middle-aged couple come and collect them in their car…I can only assume to go for lunch somewhere or I see the same car parked outside the house around lunchtime, so I can only assume they’ve been invited to eat at the house.

Being friendly to people…yes, even strangers…in public places.

You’re in the doctor’s waiting room, the latest patient walks in and promptly acknowledges everyone in the room, the same if you’re in a lift, a pharmacy or vets, new people walking in generally say “Hola”.

If you enter a place, don’t be afraid to say hello, you won’t be out of place. If you go to a quiet bar in a town and say hello, you’ll probably be greeted by the patrons (maybe in the smaller villages you’ll get “looked at” in a funny way, so probably initiating the “Hola, buenos días” there could be even more important), even walking the street there’ll be occasions that people will say hello to you, probably not in the really busy areas like Las Americas for example, but in towns and villages you’ll pretty much be acknowledged everywhere you go.

Parking on zebra crossings.

OK, there are some negative things about living in Spain…and maybe this is just a thing in Tenerife and not mainland Spain but parking on zebra crossings seems to be a regular activity and is not only dangerous but inconsiderate and if you’re on foot…really annoying.

I’ve written an article about driving in Tenerife here if you’re interested.

This is one of the things that I don’t think we should add to our list and one that you really shouldn’t try but everything else in my list above will integrate you well into the ways of the Spanish way of life…enjoy.

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