Spain for Dummies

So you’re headed to Spain for the first time, I’m sure you’re giddy with excitement like I was, but you have NO idea what to expect. The only thing you think of when you hear the word “Spain” is bullfights and flashy dancers with castanets… am I right? Consider this your crash course for one of Europe’s best destinations.

What to pack/ What to wear

  • In the North, pack for all temperatures and weather all year round.
  • In the South during the summer, bring lots of tank tops and cute t-shirts, but for the winter, temperatures can dip into the high 30s so be prepared.
  • Spaniards like to pair everything with a cute pair of Converse, Filas, Vans, or platform sandals.
  • Check out stores like Zara, Pull and Bear, and Mango once you land (you won’t be disappointed).

Where to eat

  • If there’s a picture of the food on the side of the building, STAY AWAY.
  • Lunch (the largest meal) isn’t until 2-3pm and dinner isn’t until 9-10pm in Spain.
  • You’ll have to flag down your server for everything (this isn’t Olive Garden).
  • The tip is included in the bill.
  • Ask for recommendations from tour guides, hotel staff, or your host family.
  • Even McDonald’s tastes better here, I swear.

How to get around

  • Metro: Usually ~1-2 euro per ride, but the extensiveness of the line depends on the size of the city.
  • Bus: Can be a little more complicated, but typically cheap like the metro. Be sure to look up the schedule/stops online beforehand.
  • Taxis: Great for a night out. They charge by the distance, not the number of people so they tend to be very affordable when divided up (Uber is not as common).
  • BlaBlaCar: Essentially a long distance Uber with as many people as the car can hold (but usually less). Probably the most affordable and a unique experience you can use to meet new people and practice your Spanish.

Cultural norms

  • Personal space doesn’t exist; Spain’s greeting is two kisses for crying out loud.
  • PDA is extremely normal, leave that couple making out on the bench alone!
  • A lot of eye contact is to be expected; the Spanish are very intimate people.
  • Want to go out for a night on the town? Don’t go to the clubs until 2am.
  • Everyone dresses up for almost everything (don’t go to your Spanish university in that Zeta Alpha Beta t-shirt if you want to assimilate).

Hopefully you can enjoy Spain to its fullest, and remember for packing, USE SPACE BAGS.

Un saludo,


Elena Manauis is a student at the University of Kentucky. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

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