Guest Post: 8 Ways to Avoid Being a Typical ‘Guiri’ in Spain

Lily Adler is a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and an ISA Guest Blogger. Lily studied abroad with ISA in Salamanca, Spain, during Spring 2012.

Don’t get called a ‘guiri.’ Photo by Kayla Buchanan’ ISA Sevilla.

But what is a guiri? A guiri is exactly what every study abroad student strives not to be. A guiri is slang Spaniards use for foreigners that stick out like a sore thumb. You may be called a guiri for the way you dress, carry yourself, talk, act, etc. So, how does an American going abroad avoid being a guiri?

Here’s some tips that I’ve come up with while being in Spain that help me blend as much as possible.

  • Dress the part. Spaniards are always dressed nicely. This means no Nike shorts and sorority or fraternity t-shirts, no tennis shoes and no frumpy sweatshirts. This is a lot different from the USA, so trade in the chacos for cute sandals and Uggs for leather boots, Northface jacket for a pea coat and you’ll be set!
  • Don’t go out with huge groups of Americans. The more Americans you’re with the more intimidating you’ll be. Would you go up to a pack of 15 Italians walking around your home campus to chat it up? Probably not. Being in big groups also gives off an impression that you don’t need or want other friends.
  • Black is always in. This goes along with dressing the part. Also, everyone looks good in black; take advantage of it.
  • Don’t eat on the streets. I was confused the first time I walked down the street to school with an apple and water bottle in my hand and got looks up and down. This is something that Spaniards just don’t do. Eat at home or at a restaurant.
  • No backpacks. This one kills me, but Spaniards, especially Spanish women do not wear backpacks to class. Instead they may have a stylish leather saddle bag to put their books in or just hold them in their hands.
  • Know the schedule. In Spain the schedules are a lot different than in the USA, a good rule of thumb is that everything happens later and for longer. You don’t eat lunch until 2:00 PM and dinner until 8:30 PM at the earliest– sometimes I see people still out eating with their families at 11:30 or 12:00 at night! Spaniards also don’t go out until later. When I go out with friends we don’t meet up until midnight and it’s not uncommon to stay out until 7:00 AM.
  • Don’t smile at strangers. This for me was the hardest when I first arrived in Spain. In the South we smile and wave at everyone we pass by on the street. Here, if you’re female and smile at a male stranger you’re giving off an invitation for shenanigans you probably don’t want to happen. It’s better to keep your eyes forward and a straight face on.

There you have it, some of my tips on how to avoid being picked out as a foreigner. Remember, the more Spanish you appear the better service you’ll get, the more patient locals will be with you and the more likely you’ll be to make Spanish friends!

4 thoughts

  1. You said that bringing food from home sticks out like a sore thumb. What are some places to eat at that don’t kill you financially? Are there street vendors and the like?

    Also,what does a leather saddle bag look like. Can you post a link as an example. Thanks so much!

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