How to be a Sevillano in 5 Easy Steps

Shalyn Vukich is a student at the Saint Vincent College. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain

1.) Get with the times!

Spain is 6 hours ahead of where I’m from in the U.S., so it was difficult getting used to such a big time gap from everyone back home.  Speaking of time, all the clocks in Spain are set to military time, so you need to learn what it means when your host family has lunch prepared for “15:30”.

The eating schedule is also very different here.  Breakfast is very light– maybe just coffee and a piece of toast– then there’s often a second breakfast about an hour later.  Lunch is typically much later. My host family eats lunch at 3:30pm, which means I also eat lunch at 3:30pm. They also don’t eat dinner until 9:00 or 10:00pm.

In terms of nightlife, don’t even think about going out before midnight! Most places like discotecas don’t hit their peak until about 2:30 in the morning.

Another thing to get familiar with is the siesta. From about 2:00-5:00pm many places, especially the smaller family-owned businesses, close for a few hours so they can siesta or eat lunch with their families.

2.) Sevillanos don’t drink sangria

THIS SHOCKED ME. Finding out Spaniards don’t really drink sangria made me question everything I’ve ever known… but believe it or not, sangria is really just a drink for the tourists. The locals opt for a similar drink called tinto de verano. If you want to blend in, skip the sangria.

3.) What NOT to wear

Nothing says, “hi, I’m from America” like flip flops, sweatpants, and university clothing, especially any Greek life apparel. One day I wore all of that just to run a quick errand, and some locals behind me shouted “Americano!” until I looked, and they proceeded to just shout “Obama!” at me. Needless to say, but I will not be wearing that outfit out again!

Also, athletic apparel and sneakers are practically nonexistent here unless going to the gym or for a run. Instead, Spaniards tend to dress nice, and their fashion choices are a lot bolder than what we see in the U.S. They aren’t afraid to mix patterns or bold color choices, so this is the time to experiment with ensembles that you might’ve been too afraid to wear back in the states!

4.) The best things come in small packages… right?

In Spain, the amount of personal space you have might feel smaller than what you’re used to in the U.S. Locals often kiss people they just met, so what did you expect?  EVERYTHING here is smaller – the streets, elevators, even the food! Coffee is stronger, so it’s served in very tiny portions, and one of the most popular things to eat here are tapas which, you guessed it, are very small portions of food.  

You may come across as rude and as a tourist if you do things like back away when people stand close to you. Leave your personal bubble at home, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

5.) Hablo Español!

Many people in Sevilla don’t speak English, so even just knowing some basic phrases in Spanish will make your life MUCH easier.  Those who do speak English will take one look at a foreigner– especially us Americans– and immediately speak to us in English. Surprise them by speaking Spanish! Making the effort goes a long way, and people are more willing to help you when you make an effort to assimilate to their culture by speaking in their native tongue.

Follow these steps and you’ll be a true Sevillano in no time. Buena suerte!


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