Some aspects of the Spanish culture
Working in Spain and living in the Spanish society means to be confronted with a different culture and requires you to identify with a lifestyle and customs that could possibly differ from your life at home. Facing a new culture can be both exciting and challenging. Language, food, interactions with local people, and many other impressions will appear fairly new at first. Being used to a certain way of handling things in your own culture can initially cause a lack of understanding when realizing that things are done differently elsewhere. Either way, it is an enriching experience and allows you to broaden your horizons.
Trying to define and describe one particular culture is usually not that easy. How should you be able to attribute certain “typical” features to an entire culture while there is certainly more to a culture’s character than just some universally accepted stereotypes that do not take into account the diversity of individuals within this culture. Frankly speaking, it is possible to claim that there is some truth to different cultural clichés; however, it is always important to look at them critically and with a differentiated view. There is no such exclusive thing as “the typical Spanish person” (or British/German), but rather certain aspects of the Spanish culture and values lived by, that are common among the Spanish people and maybe distinctive in comparison to other cultures such as for instance the British or German one.
Going to another country, if it is work-related or just for pleasure, demands open-mindedness and the willingness to learn from a new culture rather than expecting things to go as they would back home. Living and working in Spain during one of our hotel work placements is a great chance to embrace new cultural influences and to get a better understanding of cultural diversity. In order to give you a little head start in regards to what to expect when coming to the Canary Islands or other places in Spain, we will go over some aspects of the Spanish culture that might be interesting for you. Again, the things mentioned are not to be seen as the ultimate truth about every Spanish individual but rather try to point out overall characteristics and some interesting aspects of life in Spain.
The concept of siesta, as mentioned earlier, is a well-established tradition in Spain that is meant to contribute to an overall less stressful life. It is probably one of the most known features of the Spanish culture and influences everyday life and the “Spanish rhythm” still today. The siesta, a time of rest in the afternoon, was brought into the culture as a means of avoiding work during the hot and exhausting times of the day, and get some rest instead. Hence, businesses, stores etc. tend to be closed between 14-17 o’clock, and people pick up their work in the early evening again. This typical Spanish concept has been an important and integral part of a regular working day, especially in the past, and despite not being as prominent anymore today, especially in larger cities or holiday destinations, it is still practiced in wide parts of the country and a crucial aspect of the country’s cultural identity.
Ending our brief overview of cultural aspects in Spain, we would like to provide you with some random but nonetheless interesting facts:
The usual way of greeting each other among friends and family or in informal contexts is to give an “air kiss” on both cheeks (meaning touching both cheeks together, rather than actually kissing them), starting with the right side. Depending on their relationship, men might do a regular handshake. Formal contexts normally always require a regular handshake.
In Spain, every person traditionally has two surnames, with the first one usually being the paternal surname, “apellido paterno”, which is the father’s first surname, and the second being the mothernal surname, “apellido materno”, which is the mother’s first surname. Consequently, mother, father and child essentially all have different surnames, and unlike traditional naming conventions in some other European countries, women do not adopt their husband’s surname when getting married.
While Friday the 13th is widely believed to be the day of bad luck in many other countries, Spanish people regard Tuesday the 13th an unlucky date. There even is a saying concerning Tuesdays: “En martes ni te cases ni te embarques ni de tu casa te apartes”, meaning “Don’t get married, go on a boat or leave the house on a Tuesday”
We think that the best way to find out if you agree with the things mentioned in this article, is to come to Spain for an internship and to see for yourself. Living and working in Spain will give you the opportunity to experience Spanish culture at first hand and develop both personally and professionally. Doing a hotel internship abroad is a promising time and an amazing experience. Read up on the experiences of former s-w-e-p interns here.