Important Dating Rules You Need To Know Before Visiting Spain

"A text at 10pm isn’t a booty call -- it’s a totally reasonable time to ask someone on a dinner date."

Important Dating Rules You Need To Know Before Visiting Spain

You may be able to pronounce paella but are you ready for an impromptu date in Spain?

Whether you’re a vino-slurping exchange student, a mid-life cris-ee with a visa, an illegal Australian or a freelance writer with a Don Quixote complex, finding amor in the land of Tapas and Tinder is no easy task.

It’s also made more difficult by the ‘advice’ you see online (and in The Sunday Times), which would have you believe Spaniards are metronomically late, sexist, rude and dress like bullfighting hipsters.

It is true that there are a few cultural differences that could come between you and your holiday fling, or — if you get into something more serious — even cause issues in a burgeoning relationship.

Now — full disclosure. I am coming at this from the slant of southern Spain. So while I have visited (and interviewed people from) all over the country (mainly Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga) some of the following insights may ring true only for Andalucia.

Anyway: with the disclaimer that rules were made to be broken, here’s what you need to know before dating in Spain.

Don’t Mistake An Evening Text For A Booty Call

Being in a relationship, I have not had to contend with this problem. But, as one expat explains on Swipe Life, “In Spain, meeting your prospective soulmate can easily happen at 10 p.m… a text at that hour isn’t a booty call — it’s a totally reasonable time to ask someone on a dinner date.”

“This has its perks. When a date goes well, you can drag it out for just a few hours and hold hands while watching the sun rise… and if things are going poorly, ‘it’s getting late’ is a perfectly reasonable excuse to head home, even if you only met up an hour ago.”

Don’t Eat Too Much Bread

In Spain, going out to buy some bread is normally the first independent act a child undertakes. In fact, the fluffy white stuff is so important that majestic family lunches that would be considered a full meal anywhere else in the world are routinely put on hold upon the realisation, “Como que no hay pan?” (what do you mean there’s no bread).

Suffice to say, if you are coming from a low carb background where ‘keto’ is all the rage and where you can’t even eat a croissant unless the butter has been ‘cultured’ then your tastebuds (and waistline) are in for a rude awakening.

In terms of dating: if you are in a restaurant, you will be tempted with picos (dried bread) and pan (bread). “Great,” you might think. Not so. While these appetisers are a great way to buy time as you think of what to say next, too many awkward (crunchy) silences and you’ll end your appetite rather than whet it.

Also, if you are dining at home with your partner’s family and they’ve knocked up some tomate aliñado (freshly sliced tomato in olive oil and vinager, sprinkled with salt) for you to dip your bread in; chew carefully.

The problem here is that once they realise how much you like it, they will encourage you to eat more and more, until you have no room left for the eight remaining dishes yet to grace the table. The solution? It’s not rocket science — just don’t eat too much.

Upgrade Your Style


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While Spanish Tinder bae may not look down at your scuffed Vans and shriek as loud as French Tinder bae, looking co-ordinated — even if you’re not required to dress up super formal — will certainly help your case — as the Spanish stylist and blogger @ereallouro demonstrates on holiday with her boyfriend above.

Don’t Be Surprised By Political Incorrectness

Spain has not yet reached the American or Australian levels of hysteria sensitivity over one’s use of language.

So even if your date is a Sexta Noche (a left-wing Spanish news program) watching, Podemos-voting progressive, don’t be surprised if they occasionally use nomenclature you’re pretty sure is a slur.

Is it patronising to bring your own values over here? Or is it weak not too? This is a question some of the greatest philosophers of our time struggle with so we’re not going to fall into the trap of drawing an arbitrary line ourselves.

All we’re going to say is this video should help you navigate this space between cultural relativism and cultural imperialism.

Have Some Pop Culture References On Hand

Do this and you won’t just be a clueless guiri — you’ll be the clueless guiri who watches La Que Se Avecina! So forget the subjunctive grammar; swot up on last night’s episode of First Dates, and you’ll find yourself making a good impression (if your date likes guilty pleasure TV) from the get-go.

In terms of music: you can’t go too far wrong with Estopa (rock), Ska-P (ska) Kase.O (rap) and Los Delicuentes (pop/flamenco) — to name a few.

Pay For The Meal

While Swipe Life suggests that men are expected to always pay for the bill in Spain (“When I offered to split the bill with my first ever Spanish date — a sweet, mild-mannered man — he was so offended that he angrily told me to f*ck off”), this is not always the case.

That said, other expats have said that “when it comes to who pays, I have seen both ends of the spectrum from the stingiest to the most generous.”

Essentially, if you’re a woman, it’s normally a safe bet to assume the man will pay, and if you’re a man then don’t be shocked to be labelled stingy if you suggest going half-half…

Be Ready For More PDA Than You Are (Probably) Used To


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Once you have been going out a few weeks in Spain, don’t be surprised when your partner starts clinging to your hand like a life raft or wrapping you up in their arms at parties despite the 30-degree heat.

Don’t Get Between Your Date & Their Family

As French expat Thibaud Pittie told The Local, “DON’T criticize her family.” While this is hardly specific to Spain, judging by my girlfriend’s ominously raised eyebrow when I asked if we could skip (one) lunch with her extended family, there is definitely something to this…

Don’t Burn The Paella

If you’re cooking Paella for your date — don’t stir it so often the rice becomes stodgy (a classic rookie error) but also don’t let it sit so long the bottom becomes a charred mess.

RELATED: Important Eating Rules You Need To Know Before Visiting Spain 

Express Your Emotions


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Can I buy a new heart in Amazon? Cause the one I have is not big enough for the amount of love I feel ❤️

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Been going out a while? While it a massive cliche that English people are emotionally repressed when compared to the Spanish, in my case… it’s kind of true. So if you feel like your partner is getting frustrated with your lack of EQ just blame it on your stiff upper lip… and maybe try to learn from them and open up a little more.

Learn To Dance

As I discovered upon turning up late to bachata class, if you’re living in Spain without knowing how to dance your partner will quickly find one (or 20) other suitors to shake his/her booty with. And you better learn pretty quick, as many of the classes (or at least, the free ones) will assume a certain level of rhythm and coordination.

My experience? All I’ll say is this: one of the most disheartening things ever is watching your S.O. twirl passionately with someone else, while the person you are supposed to be dancing with leans into your ear and says softly, “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you,” before stepping away and waiting out the requisite 30 seconds before the next partner swap.

And that’s before we even mention Flamenco — one of the most joyous things you’ll ever hear and one of the most embarrassing things you’ll ever try (and fail) to dance to. The only advice I can offer is to drink enough rebujitos that you forget the ordeal in real time.

Learn To Clap

Think you know how to clap? Go to a Flamenco show or a zambomba and think again.

Don’t Offer Your Date’s Mother A Piece Of Your Cock

As my girlfriend’s sister’s (English) boyfriend learned the hard way, there is a significant difference between the word pollo (chicken) and polla (penis).

Don’t Be Rude To Get The Bartender Or Waiter’s Attention — But Also Don’t Be Shy

While The Sunday Times’ article ‘How To Be Spanish’ incurred the wrath of every Spaniard on Twitter when it prompted Brits to “forget Anglo-Saxon notions of politeness, discretion and decorum,” it actually picked up on an important point — being Spanish does (for many) involve “walking into a bar, kissing and hugging complete strangers, shouting ‘oiga’ at the waiter and chucking anything you can’t eat or drink on the floor.”

However, what the author Chris forgot to mention (or simply didn’t grasp in his brief time in Spain) is that as a tourist you are not expected to do all this — and that if you do you will look weird at best and like a gillipollas at worst…

Also, as El Pais pointed out in response, “If you’re going to talk about bars and restaurants, why not mention how the presence of young children adds such a special atmosphere to late-night drinks? Or draw attention to how warm and welcoming the people are, encouraging Brits to drop the standoffishness and chat with strangers? (No need to hug and kiss them, Chris…).”

The most crucial piece of advice any temporary visitor can draw from this saga is, “Forget about using oiga in a bar, a ¿Cuando puedas? will do,” (El Pais). Trust us: your date will be far more impressed with this than they will be with you trying to mimic the locals who have frequented the bar every day for the last 20 years.

Focus On Food More Than Drink


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Save the pelotazos for after dinner and just enjoy a few tasteful cañas (small glasses of beer) or wine with your meal, and savour the culinary experience that is to tapear in Spain.

Don’t Panic If They Suddenly Take Their Top Off At The Beach


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No: it’s not just a French thing. So either get your head around it or get ready for a lengthy philosophical discussion that may cause you to question why things are the way they are back home.