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Spaniards are generally a pretty open bunch and are willing to have a good natter about more or less anything, but there are some subjects that make even Spaniards squirm, whether it’s a lighthearted football jibe or a more serious discussion about the Spanish Civil War. Read on to discover which subjects to avoid when talking to Spaniards.
The Spanish Civil War was fought between 1936 and 1939 and was won by the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco. Franco would go on to rule Spain until his death in 1975. The Civil War split communities and even today is a difficult topic of conversation for many Spaniards. Some are still fighting to have the remains of their loved ones dug up so that they can be given a proper burial.
The idea of cold tomato soup might seem strange if you’ve never tried it before, but gazpacho, a soup made from tomatoes, peppers and cucumber, is a popular summertime meal in Spain and is served chilled. It’s a great way to keep cool as the temperatures soar.
Spaniards are, on average, 29 years old when they fly the nest and move out of their parents’ home. This is above the EU average and well above the average in northern European countries such as Sweden, where young people leave home aged around 21. Spanish families are close-knit and it is perfectly common for young Spaniards to continue living at home until well into their late 20s or early 30s. Another reason is the country’s crippling economic crisis, which saw youth unemployment soar to over 50%.
In Spain, children are treated like miniature gods, there to be coddled and cooed at, whatever the time of day. Spaniards love children, and the no-children policy that is so common in some countries is practically non-existent in Spain. No matter what the time of night, it’s likely you’ll see children playing on the local plaza while their parents enjoy a drink or eat a meal in a restaurant, even well after 10pm. It makes Spain one of the most family-friendly countries in Europe.
You may have noticed that while people in Central and South America do not make a lisping sound when they say certain words, such as gracias, many Spaniards do. It’s an intriguing linguistic quirk, but is most definitely not a lisp, as is often widely reported.
Be careful when making blanket statements about bullfighting, which these days is a controversial activity across much of Spain. Despite the stereotype that Spaniards love bullfighting, many are dead against the activity, and it has even been banned in some regions, such as the Canary Islands. A poll carried out in 2016 found that just 19% of Spaniards supported bullfighting and 58% were against it.
Of course you can try paella and sangria when you’re in Spain, but the point is that the emblematic food and drink are often more tourist favourites than things locals would enjoy. Paella comes from Valencia, so if you’re there, definitely try the dish for lunch. If you’re not in Valencia, look for a Valencian restaurant that specialises in the rice dish; there are many restaurants in cities such as Madrid that serve sub-par paella to gullible tourists. When it comes to sangria, locals prefer tinto de verano, ‘summer wine’, which is red wine mixed with lemon Fanta.
Spaniards are just cottoning on to the concept of vegetarianism. Many waiters will nod as you ask if something is vegetarian and then present you with a dish peppered with flecks of ham. Vegetarian sandwiches and salads often contain tuna, so instead of asking whether it’s vegetarian, it would be better to ask, “Does it contain tuna or meat?”
OK, there are plenty of Spaniards who couldn’t care less about the latest football scores, but the vast majority follow their local team feverishly through thick and thin. Many Spaniards are passionate about football, whether it be the world-famous behemoth Real Madrid or their local teams that languish lower down in the league.
This snobbish stereotype used to be found in places like the UK, where some people saw popular resorts such as Benidorm as representing the whole of Spain. But Spain is much more than its holiday resorts: it is home to majestic mountains, fascinating history and buzzing cities, not to mention some of Europe’s best cuisine, adventure and landscapes.
Jamón ibérico, Iberian Spanish cured ham, is Spain’s most beloved food and it would be almost sacrilege to turn down a taste. Diss it at your peril.