12 curious facts about living in Spain

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It’s my first year in Spain and every day I am still learning something new about the way of life here in Barcelona – it is very international, Catalan and in some ways not very Spanish for these reasons. To be honest that makes it all the more interesting and fun for me! I like Catalan mentality and I love to speak four languages in one day.

Here are 12 things that stick out for me in Spain, in no particular order:

  • People generally are a very happy and friendly crowd, however they don’t cope so well with bad weather and understandably can be a little grumpy on cold, grey or rainy days. However, even if it’s just a drizzle there is a great chance they will not leave the house and even cancel long planned arrangements.
  • Cash machines are the slowest in the world. It takes forever to take out cash. More than once I found myself panicking when the machine seemed to have crashed after confiscating my card… only to realize that they just work at their own pace – slowly.
  • Tapas are the greatest invention ever. Delicious! In Catalunya they also celebrate eating calçots: barbequed spring onions. Coffee, olive oil and bread are consumed in such huge quantities that after one week of strictly Spanish food I feel an urgent need of an oil free diet for the rest of the month.


  • You can cross red traffic lights and cycle in the busiest pedestrian area and they are still friendly and tolerant. It is usually the foreigners who give you grumpy looks or shout at you. (Honestly, as a tourist, would you dare shouting at residents!?!)
  • Unfortunately mass tourism has been huge in this country and left its marks. In touristy places they might charge “guiris” more than locals: “guiris” are stereotypical tourists and foreigners, usually pale or red-faced after spending too much time is the sun…
  • So called “butaneros” keep wheeling gas bottles through the streets – banging a stick against the bottles to make the most annoying sound ever, while calling out to sell them in the street. I find myself thinking I fancy pouring a water bucket down my balcony to stop the noise…
  • Watch your belongings. There are no criminal charges for thieves if the actual damage is below a certain value of something like 1000 EUR. This seems to motivate quite a few thiefs…
  • You are nobody without a NIE or DNI (their equivalent of a tax file number): from opening a bank account to using the local library, nothing will be allowed without it. I found it to almost more strict than Australia where I had a bank account registered before even arriving. And I thought Australia was tough… Administration is definitely a full time job on its own here.
  • Spain has an extremely low birth rate because of low wages and high unemployment rates. Also there is hardly any financial state support for families with children compared with countries like Germany, France or the Scandinavian countries.
  • As a form of peaceful protest to show dissatisfaction with the government, they bang pots and pans. It’s called “cacerolada”… and could be heard on a few nights last month in Barcelona when they banned the vote for Catalonia’s independence. Lots of neighbours stood on their balconies banging pots and pans… I like the idea of “if they don’t listen to us, then they will hear us.”
  •  Barcelona street art is fun.


  • Funnily enough I find more and more paralells between Catalans and Germans such as: they wear house shoes in winter! They tend to be on time(!) They are said to be tight with money, to be more reserved and are the “worker bees” of Spain. In business, both are rather conservative and you still find a lot of family businesses.

Do you have any curious facts or observations of Spain?


I have been a traveller and expat for over 15 years. So far my nomad lifestyle has allowed me to live and work in seven countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Australia. Moving country, studying abroad and a passion for travel has been part of most of my adult life.

2 thoughts to “12 curious facts about living in Spain”

  1. I am fascinated by expat lifestyle. My husband recently went to Chile and he said it is very much like Spain in terms of the European influences. He said kindness from people is everywhere. Thanks for sharing that great post!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I haven’t been to South America yet but am imagining life quite different over there. Totally agree, it’s fun to read about other expat’s experiences – everyone has a different perception.

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