Habits That You Didn’t Realize Have Changed Since Living in Spain

Getting acquainted with a different culture is a task all on its own. But after living in Spain for some time, you might not realize the habits you have formed while you have become accustomed to the Spanish lifestyle. If you are planning on spending some time in Spain, here are some of the biggest cultural changes I have taken on that you might have to look forward to: 

A beautiful view of the Sevilla Cathedral from inside the entrance of the Royal Alcazar.

Dressing for the season, not the weather

My very first week in Spain in the beginning of February, there was an 80 degree day which is something I was longing for for so long, especially coming from cold and snowy Iowa. I woke up and put on my cutest pleated midi-skirt and a basic white tank top. On my walk to class, I noticed that everyone was still wearing parkas and multiple layers despite it being scorching hot in the sun.

After making it painfully obvious that I was not a local, I learned that the Spanish usually dress according to what season the calendar says it is… not necessarily the weather. Once spring rolled around on March 20, you could gradually notice a change in everyone’s wardrobes.

This is what I normally wore during the winter months. Turtle necks or long sleeves paired with pants and a pair of boots or sneakers. If it was really chilly, I’d layer with a jacket or coat.
This is the type of outfit I have been wearing since spring has started and the temperatures are rising.

Walking everywhere… and I mean ev-ery-where

Back in the States, we are so used to driving everywhere we go. Here in Spain, it is much more normal to walk everywhere. It is not out of the ordinary to clock a minimum of five or so miles a day. At my home university, my longest walk would be from my house to class about 20 minutes away. Now I do not bat an eye if I have to walk 45 minutes to get somewhere.

Social interactions

Maybe it is because I am from the Midwest, but I am used to giving people a “Good morning,” “How are you,” or at least a smile as I pass them on the sidewalk. This is not normal for Spain: In most instances, you just keep to yourself.

What time meals are eaten

In Spain, lunch is eaten anywhere from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I live with a host family with school-aged kids so we always eat lunch around 3 o’clock when they get back from school. Dinner was a big adjustment that I am used to now. Dinner is usually served around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.


Siesta is quite possibly the most well-known Spanish customs. Despite most stereotypes, Spanish people don’t necessarily nap during this time of day. It is mostly a time that stores and restaurants close from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

Tapas-style dinners or splitting meals

One of my favorite cultural changes is the style of eating when going out to a restaurant. Tapas is a very common style of eating where you can order several small appetizer sized dishes as a meal and everyone around the table shares them. Tapas-style is a great way to experience several different dishes without having to fully commit to just one.

Splitting entrees is also very common. It is normal to order your own entree but then pick off of your friends’ plates and vice versa.

A tapas-style dinner with friends at Estragón.

Emerson Latham is a college student at Iowa State UniversityShe is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain.

Leave a Reply