Are Spanish People Rude?

Ben over on Notes from Spain asks if Spanish people are rude and rightly points out that it’s a bit more complicated than it first seems to be, especially for English or American people.

He does a great job of explaining the informal Spanish queuing system which, to the untrained English eye, does indeed appear to be a shambles at best:

The last person in asks ‘Quien es el ultimo?’, or ‘Quien da la vez?’, in order to establish who is last in turn. They then simply have to remember who that person is and step up to the counter when their marker is done with their shopping.

I would like to add a couple of ideas to the conversation and to Ben’s answers.

Visitors not welcome

(Image by emanate28 on Flickr.)

Firstly, saying that Spanish people are rude is of course, as much of a generalisation as saying that all Spanish people like flamenco. There are rude people and polite people everywhere in Spain, just as there are in England, the US and Zimbabwe.

However, Spanish ‘loudness‘ or ‘rudeness‘ is one of the most frequently remarked upon aspects of the Spanish character by foreigners. At first I thought it was just English people but soon discovered that the impression was fairly widespread amongst visitors to Spain from many other countries. Here’s the thing…

Spanish People Are Not Rude, Just Polite in a Spanish Way

Physical Proximity

As Ben highlights with his Madrid Metro example, it can seem like Spanish people want to defy the laws of physics when getting on a train at 8 a.m. and I would add the legions of 70 year-old Spanish grannies in supermarkets to Ben’s 70 year-old grandad trying to push in to the Retiro café toilet.

Girl dog Spain

(Image by wvs on Flickr.)

Some Spanish grannies are incredible. Everybody else can be standing there queuing to pay at the checkout and the granny elbows her way to the front – as if no-one else were in the queue -and then refuses to look at, acknowledge or respond to anyone who tries to tell her differently.

I always put this down to age and experience – “I’m in a hurry to make dinner young whippersnapper, I am the queen of the supermarket and have been buying octopus snacks since you were in nappies. Of course I’m not going to answer you.“

However, physical proximity and the signals it sends to other people is radically different in Spain and other Mediterranean countries than in England.

Spanish people are more tactile as a rule and get closer when they speak to you, whether or not you are particularly acquainted to them.

This causes no end of laughs in bars when Spanish chicks visit England and get into trouble with English lads who think they’re onto something, or vice-versa when English blokes come to Spain for a weekend: the Spanish girl thinks she’s just chatting and the English guy thinks he’s in with a chance.

It can also cause more serious communications problems when doing business – Anglo-saxon businessmen are used to a more formal and distanced treatment when doing business whereas your average Spanish businessman will stand about 30cm from your nose, gesticulate and pat you on the shoulder every couple of minutes.

This makes English businesspeople think that Spaniards are rude and uncouth and Spaniards think that English people are snobbish and distant.

Neither of these statements is particularly true: they are just two different cultures and ways of doing the same thing.

Verbally, Spanish people can also seem to be a bit rude to English people. Two anecdotes will suffice to illustrate the point:

Little Girl Wants Ice Cream

ice cream

(Image by uniqueo on Flickr.)

When I first came to Spain 10 years ago, I taught English in a summer camp in a lovely village in the North of Spain called Cervera de Pisuerga.

Most afternoons we would accompany the children on small excursions and the one which they got most excited about was of course the trip to the village where they could buy sweets (the 8 year olds) and cigarettes (the 15 year-olds, to smoke sneakily behind the summer camp later on).

I followed one little girl into a shop because she wanted to buy some ice cream and sweets.

She promptly began ordering the old lady behind the counter to give her various things: “give me three of those!“, “I want five chocolate ones!“, etc.

The old lady, far from being offended as would the old lady in my local corner shop in England and telling off the little girl for being rude, gave here all the ice creams and sweets she wanted with a smile.

Grown Man Wants Beer

If you go into a bar in Spain and ask for a beer in a bar in the same way as you do in England, literally translating a phrase similar to “Could I have a beer, please?“and with the same volume level as in England, the bartender, if he pays any attention at all to you, will most likely look at you rather strangely and with reluctance give you a beer.

cold beer

(Image by victornuno on Flickr.)

An English person has to learn to be louder and more direct. In Spanish this is normally done in bars with the imperative: “Give me two beers!” No strange looks, quicker service and everybody’s happy.

This is not always the case everywhere or in restaurants but serves to illustrate the point.

Imagine going into your local in the UK and trying this the other way around: ordering the bartender to give you two beers will likely not get you very far.

So, in conclusion, of course Spanish people are not rude but what is considered rude or polite in Spain is not the same as in anglo-saxon cultures.

Matthew Bennett
September 12th, 2008
Blog in English
  • Ray

    Wow, you just made some great examples that I have felt, but never have been able to put into words.
    I am from the U.S., and have been living in Spain for several years.
    I still have to force myself to be louder and more direct, or risk being accused of not having ‘dos huevos.’

  • Matthew Bennett

    Hi Ray, thanks for saying so. It’s interesting that the examples resonate with someone from the US. Whereabouts in Spain do you live?

  • Ray

    I’m currently in Benalmadena, near Malaga. I am married to a Spaniard; she is from Madrid. Someone, I assume to be a neighbor, has the habit of leaning up against my car, when talking to his friends. I find this behavior (touching someone else’s vehicle) to be extremely rude, but my wife says it’s really not a big deal, not even a ‘deal’ at all, and that if I ever see it again, I should even make a face, and definitely don’t say anything I am currently parking as far away from the hangout spot as possible, to avoid future situations. Also, my wife, as well as other Spanish women, has the habit of touching, picking up, holding babies / toddlers of parents we don’t even know. I am mistaken is saying that this would not be appropriate behavior outside of Spain? And it creeps me out when I see it happen here.

  • David

    Hi! Im from spain, about the examples, of curse we say here in spain “give me a beer”, but depends on the tone of the voice. Depending the tone we use, when we say “give me 2 beers”, the barman will undertand “Give me 2 beers, please” or Give me 2 beer!.
    Here in spain is the tone the diference betwin ordering or ask for a thing.
    I know it is dificult on the begining for foreings but, like all, only have to practice and heard spaniah people when are speaking

  • Tonya

    I understand what you are saying about the liguistic and cultural differences, but if I, as an American, need to learn to be loud and forceful when ordering a beer in Spain, then it seems to me that a Spaniard should learn to be quiet and “polite” when ordering a beer in the U.S. This is a problem. I have had Spanish visitors and have led Spanish tour groups here in California, and I have been embarassed by their boorish and demanding behavior. I have been expected to adjust to their ways, but they have refused to be courteous to tour bus drivers, retail clerks, restaurant wait staff. Sadly, after 3 years of doing this as a summer job, I have chosen to no longer work with groups from Spain. Although I am scheduled to take a group of American teenagers to Spain next spring, I am actually dreading it, based on several very negative experiences.

  • Carlos


    I’m really surprised at your statement that your tour groups from Spain have “refused” to follow your advice about the need to follow USA courtesy rules. Have you really been successful in bringing it home to them? OK, lets accept that it was not your fault at all. This would highlight the difficulty most people have in understanding that they mustn’t behave abroad as they do at home. Many people assume that things are going to be pretty much the same. I remember a trip to Thailand several years ago. I had read in a travel guide on the plane that it was taboo for their culture to pat on someone’s head. I remember having to urgently stop some American friends I was with from doing it whilst playing a children’s game for which people had to sit round in a circle (there were some Thais in the group).  So, you see: it is not easy for anyone.

    As for us Spanisards being loud and forceful, I do not like the negative connotations of those two terms. I prefer the terms “assertive” and “self-confident”. Things can be seen from many view-angles. And, remember, not fully understanding how the prosody (stress and intonation patterns) of a language works can lead to misinterpretations. In Spain, being “loud” (in comparative terms) does not amount to being rude.  Remember: we live in the second noisiest country in the world after Japan.

    If you want my advice, when you come to Spain next spring, make sure you do not carry to many preconceptions in your baggage. Travel light. Talk to people and do not be afraid to open yourself up on this and any other topics you may fancy to discuss. How good is your Spanish? You’ll surely find most of us are quite sensible and reasonable. Well, at least, I would like to think so. Maybe I just live in the right part of the country… But, somehow I do not think so.

    When you come back, tell us about your experience and if things did not go as I expected, I promise to launch a personal campaign against rudeness to foreigners. Anyway, I do not think I’ll have to do it. Just do something very simple to ease your mind in the meantime: Google for “Spanish people are rude” (between inverted commas”) and “Spanish people are friendly” (also between inverted commas), and see how many hits you get for each opinion.

    Gook luck, anyway.

  • Matthew Bennett

    @Carlos Excellent comments! Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave your thoughts.  “Spanish people are friendly” might make another good post. Your example about Thai children is illustrative.

    @Tonya: I agree that everybody should learn about new cultures but it really surprises me if you genuinely have that perception of Spanish people, especially in such a consistent manner over such a long period of time.  Whilst travelling in several other countries, I have never met an unfriendly Spaniard, whichever way you understand the idea of politeness.

    I think the comments so far highlight the two cultures very different perceptions of the same ideas and why it’s always so important to listen and learn.

  • Ray

    Carlos, I tried out your search comparison.
    It was interesting.
    When I eliminated the real estate advertisements, and the stories about Chinese people who had been mistreated by Spaniards… I ended up with a tie.

  • Carlos

    Fair enough. That was not the case the last time I looked. I hope it is nice and colourful and you wear it with pride. Just joking ;-)

    Now try adding “very” to both expressions. In any case, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    My point still stands: let’s try to understand each other better without rushing to conclusions.

  • Ray

    You have no idea how much I wish people would stop rushing to conclusions about me.
    I agree.

  • Robert

    Hispanics are so cool, they really do benefit this country

  • Andres

    I like the beer ordering one… thats a bit like saying that if a master orders something to his slave he doesn´t do it in a rude or respectless manner, its just the way it is!! “No strange looks, quicker service and everybody’s happy.” ;)

    I am spanish, from madrid, and I agree with you in most of your stereotype refutations, as I have been “subject” of many of these confusions during my stay in the UK

    but in this particular case, I think I would prefer to work as a waiter in england rather than in spain…

    or maybe not… i can´t tell i have never tried… i just remembered some dodgy places in england…

    nice article ;)

  • ian

    hi,can anyone tell me if i was the rude /bad mannered person?i was brought up to be polite and if you wanted anything then ask and be polite.
    to cut a long story short.
    sitting in local bar when family of 1 came in parents about mid 40s boy about 10
    due to lack of space down the other end of the bar they came instood next to me at teh very end of the bar.
    i never asked them or moved for them to make space as for them to eat tapas
    the father moves my beer and shoves my paper away and carries on as if nothing happened after trying to talk to him /he blanks me)
    2-the bar owner was wrong in only pegging me down plus as the owner he could of asked me to move aswell this i have seen done before in the past.
    3-should i go back to the bar and act as if nothing happened and if in the same sitaution again what do i do!!
    i await with suspense in any replies
    blw am 43 with a family i just like a couple hours 2 times a week in the bar read the papers and watch the news!

  • Smee

    You must never return to this place. If at all possible, cause them to see you in a different place, consuming and being happy.

  • Tonya

    I posted a few months ago, and I have the same opinion. The Spaniards have a superior air and sense of entitlement about them. And yes, they are rude and demanding, and completely unwilling to adapt to and learn from new situations. Hence, the genocide perpetrated by Spaniards against the indigenous people of Central and South America. The ultimate in forcing their elevated self-perception on others.

  • Andres

    Mmmm, i cant belive what im reading, so you, being american, acuse spaniards of genocide????

    I only find two possible explanations:

    1. you are latin american, in this case i understand your poit of view, and i belive that you have the moral authority to make such acusation. if this is the case ignore the rest of the answer, you are right ;)

    2. You are north american (from the US), descendent of the british colonizers which massacrated almost every north american indigenous habitants, slaved african and asian, expoiling their lands, trading slaves, destroyed the australian aboriginal culture, opressed people in india with force and domination, etc etc (long etc)…, and now you belong to a country that financiates dictators and terrorist movments, assasins citizens in middle east using the so called terrorism as an excuse in order to maintain its status of world potence and empire, ensuring the oil ressource control, idiotizating the american population with a wide variation of junk culture and disinformation media in an increidble way, much more evident than in the rest of the first world countries…. and so on….

    If this is the case… im sorry but you are pretty ignorant about your history and your present reality, and you are the less indicate person to make this acusations, look at what you are and know yoursel better before critizise others :)

  • CNN+

    Sounds like the "idiotizing" is complete. My plans are near fruition, and soon every Spaniard will believe anything we publish, and we can finish turning them against their allies. Muah hah hah!

  • BBC

    "Idiotizing" is on it's way, Europe is not safe… let's see how long the world can stand before a total collapse

  • linnetwoods

    When I first lived in southern Spain, as the only foreigner in a small village, in 1990, and had mastered a reasonable amount of Spanish, I was quite taken aback when I asked a neighbour's 10-year-old if he would like an ice-cream and he merely shrugged in an exaggerated fashion.

    Having established that he would, in fact, like an ice-cream and watched him consume it with evident delight, I went on my way and soon met another neighbour to whom I passed comment on the oddness of the child's initial reaction. My friend laughed and explained that the boy had been demonstrating the very best of manners by implying that he didn't mind whether I bought him an ice-cream or not, in case I couldn't really afford to and had just offered out of politeness!

  • Ángel Domínguez

    Hi Matthew,

    I really enjoyed this post. I have to agree that Spanish people ARE LOUD; it's often hard to be able to maintain a conversation inside a café o a bar without screaming your lungs out. I for one find it really annoying, so I simply have breakfast at home whenever possible O:-)

  • Ángel Dom&iac

    Hi Matthew, I really enjoyed this post. I have to agree that Spanish people ARE LOUD; it's often hard to be able to maintain a conversation inside a café o a bar without screaming your lungs out. I for one find it really annoying, so I simply have breakfast at home whenever possible O:-)

  • Ana

    Hello everyone,

    I think this is a very good post and can be quite illustrative about cultural differences. However, one little word of advice, as someone else already pointed out, in Spain politeness is not actually measured by the words used but by tone of voice and facial expression, which is something far more difficult to master than learning the correct words, grammar, etc to use in a certain situation.

    Therefore, I would advise foreing visitors/residents to always try and err on the side of caution and be over polite as (like I have told my husband before), you may think you are saying the same as the locals (which indeed you are), but the way it can be interpreted is probably not the one you inteded. Same thing goes for use of “tacos” (i.e. swearword) which are commonplace in Spain but you need to know when and who to say them to! (incidentally I still have trouble in English as there are some words which I though were neutral util someone pointed out to me I was swearing, ouch!!)

    To Linettewoods, I was laughing when I read your story as I´ve only experienced it from the other side. I know for instance in the UK it is completely acceptable to accept whatever is offered with a nice “yes, please that would be lovely”. In Spain, generally you don´t accept food/drink the first time it´s offered to you (some people link this is due to post-war years when people had very little food themselves but still felt obliged to offer it to you if you were visiting). Therefore the norm is that the other person insits another one or 2 times (if we are talking grannies up to 15 times!!) until you either finally accept or they are satisfied that you actually don´t want it. Imagine my surprise when I was offered a really nice cake in the UK and without thinking twice about it said “no thanks” expecting the usual Spanish insitence only to find out they didn´t offer again…. I won´t be making that mistake twice!

  • Ashley

    This post is very, very interesting.  I was recently in Cadiz, Spain for a while and was certainly taken aback by many people’s mannerisms and airs of superiority they exuded. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect before I landed in Spain and am glad that my father had refrained from telling me about his negative perceptions of the Spanish. Once I observed, I came to my own coinclusions after ecountering discrimination from several Spanish locals. It is obvious they look down upon Latin Americans and I got into many discussions with locals who truly believed their Spanish language was the official Spanish language as opposed to the ‘Mexican Spanish that the illiterate Latinos speak’. I am American and of Guatemalan descent. Yes, I take offense to that. Yes, I think the Spanish I encountered were very rude and arrogant. And yet I hope that I was only unfortunate to have bumped into the racist pricks of Spain like some people might bump into the racist pricks here in the U.S. or in Guatemala. But to only have met two nice older ladies in my neighborhood in Spain? That number is pretty low…and stereotypes regarding the rudeness of the Spanish has to stem from somewhere right?

  • Carlos

    Hi Matthew,

    I am so sorry that many spanish people make you believe that about my country. They must be very clever!. Of course those situations come from really bad mannered and rude people. I am spanish and my parents brought me up in a different way. I say thank you and please and my whole life has been like that. If I see a little girl ordering something without saying please,  I consider she has not been well brought up and she has rude manners, if somebody talk to me in a really loud voice I don't believe is a cultural question or if somebody run into my and he/she doesn't respect my private space neither. What has happened in Spain is that lot of people has lost the good manners in the last 20? years. That is the reallity and not any cultural aspect.

  • Carlos 2

    Human behaviour is a very complex issue, and manners are no exception: there are no absolute universals. All the more so if you are trying to draw any conclusions about 46 million people on the basis of a few personal experiences. I would advise anyone coming to Spain to try to shed any preconceptions and to be aware that cultural differences do account for many misunderstandings (sorry, but whoever thinks otherwise does not qualify, to my mind, as a keen observer of reality). Also, anyone visiting a foreign country tends to feel uncomfortably out of their depth, which may add a negative emotional filter to their perception. So, in a nutshell, be aware of these caveats, keep an open mind and you will very probably enjoy your experience in Spain.
    Having said all the above, I do agree that many of the experiences exposed in some of the previous posts do count as appalling examples of lack of empathy towards others, although, as a proud Spaniard, I cannot help feeling the need to protest that they can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be used to describe a whole nation and that you could very easily find similar examples anywhere in the world.
    To give you an example that could be used for many of my ideas above, I have just spent my Christmas holidays in Scotland. I must sadly confess that I found many bar staff inexpressive, which many in Spain would construe as being plainly unfriendly, in spite of all their “pleases”, “thank-yous” and “enjoy-your-meals”. On one occasion I was sitting at a pub enjoying a couple of pints trying to explain/translate the breakfast menu to one of my Spanish friends when out of the blue came this waitress who all but snatched the menu from our hands with the blunt explanation of “sorry, guys, but we have stopped serving breakfast and are about to start serving lunch”. When I explained to her what I was trying to do and that we had no intention of ordering breakfast, she made no move to hand us back the menus. Luckily, I lived in Scotland for three years and my impression that the Scots are overall a charming “race” remains untouched.
    To abound a bit more on the issue of cultural differences and the often discussed use of “please” and “thank you”, as my mother puts it, full of common sense, in Spanish you are COMMONLY (although not at all exclusively, and I would advise foreigners to use them) expected to use those two expressions when you really mean them; otherwise to express friendliness you must use facial expression and tone of voice –more difficult to get the knack of. I would add to this that, if you want to add the element of polite distance or respect you must use the forms of “usted” instead of “tú” (which English lacks and must therefore compensate for). So, I insist: using “please” and “thank you” does not equal to being polite: as a Scottish friend of mine put it, “here it is not uncommon to find people elbowing their way through a crowd and feeling totally comfortable about it because they keep saying ‘sorry”. My apologies if I come across as confrontational. Believe me, my only intention is to open people’s eyes to the complexity of the issue.
    On a different front, as to the question whether we Spaniards are racist or not, please note that no extreme right party has ever held any sway on Spanish voters and that Spain is often criticized for being too lenient with illegal immigrants. I recognise that racism is a growing concern, especially considering the existence of some neo-nazi groups especially in big cities, but this does not set us apart from any other countries in the Western World.
    On the issue of South Americans, as a typical leftie I recognise that I feel a bit threatened by some of the aspects of their generally more (how put it without being offensive?) “traditional” mentality, which I risk saying is not uncommon among people of my political persuasion. Among some right-wing people, especially the working class, they are perceived as rivals when it comes to finding employment. Overall, though, I think they are reasonably well integrated. By the way, the notion that their Spanish is of an inferior quality to ours is ridiculously ethnocentric and ignorant.
    I hope my opinion helps.

  • Lidon

    I hear foreigners refer to Americans as loud and obnoxious and there doesn't seem to be anything politically incorrect about that, so it's interesting to hear dissent on here when Spaniards are referred to as the same way.

    Anyway, all I know is that I'm in Barcelona and have had mixed experiences.  It seems that when I order something, or shop somewhere, it's mostly the women who are rather snappy with me.  I can only assume it's because they hear my American accent when I'm speaking Spanish, or they're pissy that I'm not speaking Catalan.  Perhaps if I was a man they would treat me differently?  Either way, it's off-putting.  And as far as "cultural differences" go, getting used to people shoving by me and never apologizing will take some time.

    I know there are always going to be cultural differences, but I also want to add that no culture is perfect and a little criticism shouldn't be considered taboo.

  • Joe

    The title is a bit like the “is the pope catholic?” or “do gays like Barbra Streisand?” varieties.Of course they are or we wouldn´t be debating it.You won´t find so many other nationalities talking about it or the same question on  expat websites in other countries.The question is more what to do about it,mainly ignoring it is the best solution.I´ve been here,originally from London,over 20 years and it´s still a “topico”  that the Brits are all tea at 5(why not 4) ladies and gentleme.Of course the Spanish love topicos and asking if something is typical:the famous inferiority complex.I´ve read that Brits are rude in comparison to Japanese or Africans but most people are “shocked” by rudeness here,as commented re the notesfromspain,which strangely seems to be dead(I wonder why) about the metro.Get off the train with your suitcase and how many savages try to push through?Walk down the platform/corridor/street and how many are blocking your way and not instinctively moving aside?”Oh but we(always a collective “we”) aren´t very good at spacial awareness”.Or ,”Is it true English(not Londoners or people in London) people don´t like it when others stand on the left on the underground escalators?”.It´s not just Londoners,happens here too and increasingly so.I´ve had South American friends who have been told by family or friends that they have become almost Spanish,ie rough and rude.
    Of course,such a topico means not everyone is the same but……

  • Joe

    Part 2.
    I used to get annoyed by the “hello mate”s or ” all right there”s in shops when I went back to London but suddenly it became reassuring after the stony face staff here.The lack of repartee from them or waiters,anything except the “digame”.Of course this is Madrid and everyone says how rude it is and the other cites or villages are different so……….

  • Carlos 2

    “Of course they are or we wouldn´t be debating it”
    Of course, Joe, impecable logic: everything ever debated must necessarity be true…Examples include “Are black people less intelligent?”, “Are English people snobbish and distant?” “The Holocaust never happened.” One cannot but agree with you… Now, you cannot be serious…

  • Joe

    To Carlos2-Of course they are,ironically(difficult as I know for a Spaniard,like the Americans) referred to the idea that Spain is a DIVERSE COUNTRY and Madrid is not actually a very good representation of it.Your hysterical reply brought in unnecessary racism re black people or the Holocaust.As for snobbery and distance madrileños are pretty snobbish too,as are…… and …….etc.Ever tried sharing a table with strangers in Madrid?Cardinal sin.Try in London,Amsterdam,Frankfurt-no problem at all.
    My comments were an amalgam of all I have picked up from other expats as well as a smattering of  “open-minded”  Spaniards prepared to autocriticar.

  • Carlos 2

    My reply was not hysterical at all (a bit hasty perhaps, as I was expected for dinner), and if it was irony you were trying to transmit, well, my opinion is that it wasn’t a good attempt at all, sorry to tell you. What you have in turn transmitted in your reply was your blanket  perception of the Spanish (and I suppose USAtian) sense of humour (how sad, incapable of perceiving irony!) and  the, according to you, snobby nature of madrileños etc. (or is there irony somewhere there too that I have been too blind to see?), just as you have transmitted other gross overgeneralisations in your post before, however tentatively qualified.
    As for my bringing in “unnecessary racism re black people or the Holocaust”, if you look in any dictionary for a definition of “irony”, you will find that usually the first entry reads “the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning”. As it was clear from the context, the vast majority of people reading my post would detect straightaway that the list of “debatable” statements I mentioned was as ludicrous as the blanket generalisation “Spanish people are rude.” Now, that was as fine an example of irony as can be.
    I do not regard British people as distant or snobbish (that was, again, ironic), which I assure you I often try to explain to those who have fallen prey to that cliché (an no, we Spanish people are not more fond of clichés than any other nations): “they just have a different culture”, I keep sayin; so no need for your “counterattack” regarding Madrileños, 600 km away from where I live, by the way. I will refrain from using an unfriendly adjective to describe your reaction here.
    The other day I was in a pub enjoying a drink with a couple of friends when an acquaintance of one fo them from Glasgow walked  in. When this friend mentioned to the Glaswegian “gentleman” that I was just back from Edinburgh, perhaps trying to start a conversation between him and me, he said in broken Spanish “Edinburgh es mierda (shit), Glasgow es como Madrid blah, blah”. I could mention countless examples of British people being rude when I was living in the UK, but I could see through it, and I know the majority are not like that. As for “Glasgow is like Madrid”, here is perhaps one of the keys that would explain your perceptions of a big city like Madrid: the aggressive character of life (people?) in large cities. Someone’s experiences in a metropolis in the rush hour are not perhaps the most representative examples of the behaviour of the nationals of the country where that city is. Your having selected them gives your opininon an unfair skew.
    And, yes, you are right. We do not normally share tables with strangers. It is one more cultural thing: we feel uncomfortable staying quiet with someone sitting next to us and even more uncomfortable trying to think of things to talk about.
    As to “autocriticar” (seflcriticism), any decent human being -as we Spaniards mostly are- is humble enough to recognise defects in themselves or their fellow countryfolks, and I of course concede that Spain is by no means a perfect country, just quite a pleasant one in general terms. That must not be confused with having to take unfair criticism lying down, and sorry if I am not so “open-minded” as you or your “informants” appear to be. Sorry, but I had to confront too many prejudices and stereotypes about Spain and Spaniards when I was living in the UK, some seeming to date from as far back as the old Imperial squabbles.
    And, you should not have mentioned the word “expat”: it is too revealing… I won’t say more.

  • Joe

    Carlos seems to be one of those who has to refute every comment,likes to get the last word.The original question in this “debate” says everything.Accept it,lots of nationalities are rude,racist whatever-it´s people who are different.Expats is a problem? We are expats if we live in a different country-nothing revealing there or I´d be a Spaniard.

  • Carlos 2

    I quote “Carlos (…)likes to get the last word.” Congratulations, you’ve just hit the nail bang on the head. And I would like to add, “especially when I am right”.
    And, by the way, the problem with your last reasoning here is that nationalities are nothing but the sum of different people, plus Spanish people, as a whole, cannot be defined as rude, quite on the contrary, we tend to be quite friendly (two incompatible things). There is no such thing as a “rude nationality” unless you could 1) first define unequivocally what constitutes rudeness and 2) if you could demonstrate it as empirically as possible through sociological research, not through limited, skewed experiences possibly tinted by your attitude or lack of adaptation, or just because you’ve had a bad day.
    No, being an expat is obviously not a problem, but living in a typical inward-looking expat community could be.

  • Stan

    Hi Matthew,
    I’ve only just come across this excellent blog. You made some really good points. I’ve lived and worked in Catalunia for three years and may I say that this is definitely going to be my last one. I have also lived in the Netherlands and Italy (as well as England, obviously, I’m from there) and in the past I thought international students in London but I have never EVER encountered such a massive number of extremely rude people on such a scale.
    Sure, there are exceptions, but I think at least in Catalunia the level of rudeness and selfishness is very very difficult to adjust to. Some people may only think of cosmopolitan Barcelona, but try and leave in the so-called “Catalunia profunda” and tell me!
    From the way people walk (or not) down the street: you could have a group of 8 adults hanging about in the middle of the busisest narrow street and they won’t move for shit. The general code of behaviour is just to knock people out of the way. It seems to be the “done thing”.
    I know and have learnt that “could I” and “would you mind” are not part of the culture. Fine. But the almost total lack of “gracias” and “por favor” is bewildering. Customer service is just from another planet. Which is terrible when you spend your own money somewhere.
    Dunno about the rest of Spain, but in Catalunya most people don’t make the slightest effort when you try to speak in Castellano. They say that the Brits don’t try and understand foreigners back in the UK, but god almighty. People here know you’re foreign and will still speak to you at 400km/h even after you asked them to slow down a bit. Not to mention that many Catalans refuse to speak it point blank – as if a foreign worker (or tourist) was involved in their local navel-gazing politics.
    People are rude when they make remarks about other people. They throw around xenophobic comments like the UK used to be back in the 1950s. They are very very peculia, shallow and rough in the way they (don’t) interact. Out of all Mediterranean countries I’ve visited, the Catalans seem to be definitely the coldest and most distant.
    I could say more, but I don’t wanna bore anyone any further.
    Rant over.

  • Tonya

    Amazing!! I feel totally vindicated! I commented over two years about the extreme rudeness and boorishness of Spaniards, and was rebuffed.

  • Stan

    Indeed Tonya.
    The other day I was with my girlfriend. We both live in Catalunia. We decided to go for a drink before our eating out. Bear in mind this was not the touristy bit of Barcelona (I avoid it like the plague- I really disagree with the stereotypical expat/Brit abroad/fakeEnglish pub routine).
    We walked into a nice-looking bar/restaurant place. It was around 8pm, Friday night. No customers in. Two waiters behind the bar. “Hola”, we both said, standing by the counter. They both turn round, see us, one makes a grunt. They turn back round and carry on chatting.
    30 seconds go. One disappears at the back. The other keeps talking to from the bar. After 2 minutes we walk out. No-one acknowledged us, asked us if we wanted to drink, eat or both. No-one handed us a menu. No-one said “Un momento”, or “i’ll be with you right away”. Unbelievable.
    Now. Please note: This is not a one-off. This has happened fairly consistently across Catalunia and Barcelona. How do you call that? Sheer rudeness? Ignorance? Crap customer service? Were we getting on their nerves that we were about to spend our money in there on a Friday night?
    Which straws is “Carlos 2″ prepared to clutch at in order to justify such behaviour?
    Bear in mind we could have dined in there and spend 40 Euros, booked a party of 20 people for the following week, booked our wedding reception. All sorts. As it happens, we walked out and won’t think twice about going back.
    And yet, the fact that the Catalans keep going to such places is an indication that such things are totally irrelevant amongst these people.

  • Carlos 2

    Stan, as for your experience in that bar, I don’t need to clutch at a straw here at all as I’m not in the habit of justifying blatantly rude behaviour. If that is the way you interpreted my contributions to this forum, then I can only say that you missed the point I made altogether. I have never argued either that Spain was an idyllic country blissfully free of rude people (please read my former posts), as you’ll agree is the case with any other country you could think of. What’s more, the way you and your girlfriend reacted is what you would expect from anyone civilized with a minimum of self-respect. Just a pointer for the future, for you or anyone who reads this: Spanish businesses dealing with the public (providing both goods and/or services and including bars and restaurants, obviously) are legally required to have customer complaint forms that they have to make available on request (you can even resort to calling the police if they don’t) and they should be used whenever appropriate, for everyone’s benefit. If you are interested, you could read about it at….
    However -and these are not the words of a desperately Chauvinistic chap prepared to distort reality for the further glory of his fatherland, believe me- I can safely affirm that I cannot remember a single occasion when I was treated like you say you were in the more than 30 years I have lived here. OK, perhaps a vague recollection from the distant past, but I couldn’t even tell you where and when; and yes, I’ve been three times to Catalonia (Eng)/Cataluña (Sp)/Catalunya (Cat). I can also assure you, in case there is any doubt, that I’m not a reclusive hermit. In fact, I’ve been to (let me count) three restaurants, three cafés and stayed in a hotel over this past week-end and the staff were really helpful and efficient -It may sound that I’m making it up for the occasion, but I’m not. I even had a pleasant chat with a barmaid about how wrong it is to serve alcohol to adolescents. And, finally, if you were wondering, I sadly have not got enough charm to have everyone at my feet, just someone ordinary.

    After reading your comments, one would be tempted to conclude that the nearly 50 million people who visit Spain every year are terribly misled or irredeemably masochistic, and that it is a mystery among mysteries how the hospitality and catering businesses Spain is teeming with manage to survive. Numbers speak for themselves here, as speak the number of hits when you Google for “Spanish people are friendly” versus “Spanish people are rude.”

    Finally, I’m sorry that you have had such an unpleasant experience of Spain. If the people in the village where you live really are like you describe them, you are probably very wise to move out of there. In contrast, I live in a rural area and am showered with gifts and attentions from my neighbours in the form of vegetables, poultry, eggs, firewood etc. Mind, you, I also help them collect their crops of maize and potatoes. I suppose it is a matter of getting the best out of people and knowing how to adapt best.

    Tonya, you were not rebuffed, you were rebutted. There is a clear difference.

    The problem with this forum is that its title attracts many disgruntled people who have gone through bad experiences, so I’m giving up writing again in the belief that the posts here are not representative of the general perception of Spaniards abroad. I’ll just make a small concession here: when driving back home though the city where I spent my weekend, I was scandalised at the way people drive totally regardless of the elemental rules of civility. No, Spain is not heaven on earth.

    I’m now writing after consulting road fatality statistics on the Net, which you will agree is the most reliable indicator of good or bad driving. Well, in fact I’ve discovered that the number of accidents on Spanish roads has decreased dramatically in the past couple of years, and in 2008 fatalities per million inhabitants reached a medium level slightly above those in Ireland and Finland and slightly below France and Denmark (hardly categorised as “uncivilised” countries). Now, if I had drawn any conclusions from my own personal experience when driving earlier today and had allowed myself to be carried away by my own frustration or rather, (I assure you) sheer indignation, I would have derived that we Spaniards are horribly bad drivers, when actually official European statistics prove we are not. I hope there existed such statistics about rudeness. I’ll say no more.

  • Stan

    I chuckled when I spotted your mini-lecture on how to spell Catalonia/Catalunya/Cataluña.
    It reminds me, again, of how much you guys like to correct visitors. i.e. “Sabadell tiene un Corte Ingles”- with he immediate correction “Se dice Sabadell” (with the “ll” pronounced a-la Catalan). Does it friggin matter when you’re making conversation with someone? The difference is minimal. Again, it goes to show the condescending mindset of so many people in this country.
    It’s like an English person remarking on a Spaniard’s overly pronounced “h” in the middle of a conversation about something else. To me that is patronising, rude and -if anything- useless.
    In Britain, correcting foreign speakers is considered appalling manners and rightly so, not to mention impractical given the enormous variety of foreign accents you hear around.
    In Spain, or Catalonia/unya at least, that seems routine. You say Els Catalans and you get your interlocutor picking you up on your utterance of “Els”. Unbelievable.
    So, what is the need, Carlos 2, to point out the three different spelling of the word “Catalonia”? Can’t you see it just shows you’re desperate to grab some kind of smart alec moral high horse? Because this is how you’re coming across.
    That said, Carlos 2, I did say that I have seen plenty of exceptions, polite people, etc while here. I never said <b>everyone</b> is rude here. I also want to point out that I have seen many a rude person in Britain, the Netherlands, Italy.
    The point that you don’t want to accept is that in this country rudeness and foul customer service is way more obvious and present than elsewhere.
    As for the “masochistic” millions of people who visit Spain, as you put it, it may have something to do with decades of incredibly low prices. Amazing how this simple fact eluded you!

  • Smee McPhee

    I want to add my customer service woes, but I’m too furious at the moment, and it is a telecom, – so maybe not fair – but also, yes, fair.  Just too angry right now.
    Off-topic note of medium importance:  When comparing traffic statistics – always be sure to find the ones listed as “Incidents-per-distance-travelled” or “fatalities-per-km-travelled-per-capita” – not just per capita.  Spain has made great strides in both per-capita and per-distance-per-capita, but still trails somewhat behind – in per-distance-per-capita.

  • Smee McPhee
  • Carlos 2

    Stan: I’m glad I’ve given you so many opportunities to feel superior and exercise your laughing muscles. I hope it makes you feel better and helps you forget your traumatic experience in Spain. Thank you too for your wise and moderate discourse on how nice English people are in contrast with Spaniards. I feel overwhelmed by a rediscovered feeling of humbleness, as you have shown me the right path. As for rudeness, now I know thanks to you that using the words “shit” and “frigging” is the epitome of fine English manners, courteous and rational (because of course, you would not be so unwise as to point out a defect in others that you give clear signs of yourself), but you will have to forgive me if I choose not to use them.

    Having said that, I’m sorry, but I fail to understand at which point I have corrected you directly or what the connection is between explaining to potential readers what the three versions of the name “Catalonia” are and jumping desperately on a high moral horse. Would you be so kind to enlighten me on this matter? Perhaps I was too rude to teachers at school during philosophy classes to give them time to explain to me that line of logic.

    Now, seriously, and I quote: “The point that you don't want to accept is that in this country rudeness and foul customer service is way more obvious and present than elsewhere.” Yes, you’re absolutely right. That is the point indeed, and allow me to insist: they are definitely not. I’ll tell you why: your experience of people in Spain is very different from my own. You forget as well that I have lived in your country and, surprise, surprise, my speech was also corrected, once by some thugs calling me “cunt” when I had tried to say “can’t”, for instance. Not only that, I had people calling one of my friends “a half-caste” and others suggesting I must be the product of a night-stand between a northern European and a Spanish woman of relaxed morals because I did not look swarthy enough to them. I have a long list, but I don’t want to bore readers. As for customer service, once a barman nearly hit me because I had not put up my index and middle fingers the British way (it was my first visit to England) when asking him for too pints in a noisy pub. Do you really want me to continue? Those examples are not really my “pièce de résistance”. The thing is that I seem to be more able to see the general picture than you are (I love British people) and better at coping with frustration or antagonism. And yes, that was patronising; not exactly “nice” but much better than having a short fuse.

    “As for "the masochistic" millions of people who visit Spain, as you put it, it may have something to do with decades of incredibly low prices. Amazing how this simple fact eluded you!” No, Stan, I’m aware of that. It is you who do not realise that prices have gone up and hordes of British people keep coming over not only to spend their holidays, but to stay. Also, there have always been cheaper, sunnier places and that you seem to be one of the comparatively few discordant voices that have that opinion.


    Finally, I feel that I have made some interesting points you have failed to comment on which were more central to the issue at point…


    Greetings from Spain.

  • Carlos 2

    Sorry, "two" pints.

  • Stan

    the difference between you and me is that I can take it.
    I’ll be the first one to acknowledge, without any “yes…but”, arguing of the toss,  and straw-clutching that most Brits are notorious for many things: the pathetic way they can’t deal with alcohol, the post-colonial complex (ie the revolting word ‘expat’ applied to themselves while the others are  ‘immigrants’), the ignorant stick-to-our-own ‘hooligan-like’ way many invade places a-la Benidorm or Lloret <i>expecting</i> everything to be British or British-speaking.
    I would not engage in any futile “yes, but also others”, because it is all true. I think the British are particularly bad at the stuff I’ve just described. You’re not talking to a Little Englander here, I’m afraid.
    But you simply cannot admit it that when it comes to selfishness, manners and customer service (the latter two directly related), too many Catalans (it would be presumptious for me to refer to ‘Spaniards’ as a whole)  seem to have drawn the short straw. It simply is appalling. At all levels.
    From utility companies (again, I’ve had bad experiences in 30 years in Britain too, but in almost 3 years in Catalunya the number is already the same), to shops, estate agencies, neighbours, restaurants and business establishments in general.
    You keep saying that you haven’t experienced the things I described, but could it just be because – being from here- you see things through a different perspective? The same way, say, I could safely tell you that no-one ever corrected me back in the UK while I was speaking?
    Final point. Yes, we all know Spain is no longer as cheap as it used to be. But it still is cheaper than Britain. Obviously the influx of “por favores” died down since the crisis kicked off, but there’s a type of unadventurous Brit who, over Italy and Greece, would still pick certain areas of Spain where they already cater for English-speaking people.

  • Carlos 2

    I appreciate the change of tone in your last post. Thank you. It lends itself to a more “civilized” debate.
    Bear with me for minute now, ‘cause I’ve just had an idea: I’ve clutched at so many straws that I will make a scarecrow for my vegetable patch with them before continuing. Done, I’m back now.
    On the issue of “yes… but”, well, yes, I believe that you bad experiences in Catalonia are real, but I insist that one has to be very careful when taking the jump from the personal/anecdotal to the general (seven and a half million Catalans and 45 million Spaniards). I have never lived in Catalonia, or spent any considerable length of time there, so I will pass on the baton to a Catalonian or anyone else with a different experience of that country to recount their experiences, which might very well be different from yours. The other “yes… but…”, if I remember well, was “yes there are rude people in Spain, but not in a significantly greater proportion than, say, Britain”, to conclude that neither Brits nor Spaniards could be safely described as rude in general. I still think my “yes-butting” was quite legitimate.
    And no, I still do not think that the majority Brits are like you describe them. My intention in my last post was not exactly to counterattack with a barrage of accusations, but to illustrate the fact that my attitude is, and has always been, to see beyond punctual unpleasant encounters and avoid unfair generalisations, as I think should be yours, or anyone else’s for that matter. The trouble with taking personal experiences too far and being vocal about them on a mass medium such as this is the attitude they generate: prejudice. And prejudice is a slimy, blobby monster that sticks to our gaze and tinges all our further experiences, and the experiences of those who are exposed to it, thus preventing a finer analysis or reality and the solution of potential misunderstandings the right way. Human behaviour is complex and many-sided, not bi-dimensional.
    As to whether I can take it or not, I will confess to you that sometimes I get so frustrated with what I perceive as the vices of my fellow countrypeople that I wish I lived somewhere else, say Finland, but I most definitely think that rudeness or unfriendliness is not one of them.
    Mr (Ms?) McPhee: congratulations for your outstanding piece of Internet research. You can now add “Spanish people do not like rude bureaucrats” to your “Spanish rude” number of hits and “Spanish people enjoy barbecues on the beach on a nice day” to your “Spanish nice” hits, as I have posted those two comments on my blog. For anyone still interested, try with “Spanish people are friendly” and “Spanish people are rude” between inverted commas, so as to get the exact sentence. You should then subtract the percentage of times these were written by North Americans referring to Spanish-speaking people and you will get a better approximation to the general feeling about us Spaniards.
    Remember: cross-cultural communication is difficult enough as it is. Do not throw further obstacles in its way.

  • Stan

    To say that customer service is generally (very) bad quality in a country is not to be prejudiced, Carlos 2.
    Customer service is an area that takes decades to develop, and in this specific one, the Spanish have a lot of improvements to make. I’m sorry if it sounds brutal, but it’s true. I’ve travelled a lot and, like I mentioned, I <i>lived</i> in 3 other countries.
    I’ll be the first one to tell you that Spain has improved or even overtaken other countries in a lot of other areas. Transport, for instance. Roads. Health. Truly impressive. Your health system can piss all over the NHS. But customer service is simply not your forte. Maybe not yet, but -as it is- it leaves a lot to be desired.

    And don’t confuse plain facts with prejudice. I can say that trains in the UK are overpriced and suck or that drink-fuelled violence is worringly frequent. Would you say that’s prejudiced?
    I can say that driving and double parking in Italy is all over the place to say the least. Would you just put it down to my “prejudices”?
    So as to rudeness/customer service, I’m afraid you really seem to be in denial. And the fact you chose to hide behind the grand word  “prejudice” corroborates this impression. It actually smacks of desperation.
    I mentioned earlier I am a TEFL teacher in Catalonia. Many a time we had lessons centred around the use of so-called “ceremonial” expressions in English such as “would you mind”, “sorry”, “pardon”, “could you please”, “do you mind if…” etc.
    How come all- and I mean ALL- of my students are always bemused? Comments range from a sneering “Oh god you British are so artificial” to an impressed “wow that’s quite a complex way of asking for things”, etc.
    However, please believe me, they ALL confirmed that in this country, for instance, if your way is blocked (in the street or in a supermarket aisle, etc), you would only say “perdona!” as a last resort, when it really is impossible to elbow your way through. Just hop to Mercadona and tell me how many members of staff apologise after stamping on your foot with their load carrier.
    One comment from a student really stuck with me. He said that, generally, in new situations, people here are subconsciously on a mission not to appear “weak”. And, his words, if you apologise too much, if you use ceremonial language or appear too soft in a new situation, you may be perceived  as “weak” or “wet” – hence the seemingly hard-nosed behaviour with people you don’t know very well.
    I’ve seen it with my colleagues. When a brand new so-called ‘native teacher’ (from the UK or the US, etc) is introduced to his new colleagues in the staff room they tend to be more like “Hi everyone!!! My name is… Nice to meet you. Where are you from…etc”. The local teachers rarely go beyond a nod and a grunt. Sure, within a few weeks they will gradually open up and be generally nice. But their initial behaviour appears in line with what my student said about “not wanting to be perceived as wet” in an unfamiliar environment.
    Now, while this is a cultural trait (and nothing wrong with it- it’s your country and you do what you want with it), the other side of the coin is reflected upon customer service, an area in which such behaviour really becomes grating.
    I’ve never ever set foot in a restaurant/cafe’/pub in Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, etc and being asked “que quieres!”, “what-do-you-want”, in a really blunt tone of voice. Here it’s happened a few times. Not always, but a fair few times.
    Now, bear with me. If all waiters did it, then it would be obviously purely a cultural trait, nothing more nothing less, end of the story.
    But the fact that some restaurants or bars can manage to say “are you ready to order”, “can I take your order”, or something slightly more polite, clearly indicates that those who come up to your table huffing a  “que quieres” are indeed being rude or haven’t been trained properly. How this is being prejudiced, Carlos 2, I don’t know.
    It could be that shop assistants, waiters or cashiers in Catalonia/Spain  instinctively believe that being overly polite is tantamount to being “subservient”. I don’t know.
    Another example. Refunds. Anywhere in the UK you can return a product, whether faulty or the wrong size or other. Provided you have your receipt with you- you get your money back, no questions asked.
    In Spain, with the partial exception of El Corte Ingles,  this doesn’t happen anywhere. At best they tell you they can exchange it, but thats it. And the law is on their side, further evidence that customer service in Espana still has a long way to go.
    Another one of my students, a manager who travels all the time, was remarking on how common it is in the UK or the US to be offered free wine or a free dessert if you’ve waited too long or if you’ve been served the wrong dish, etc. “Here in Spain you have to argue for it”, he commented. And, with all the goodwill in the world,  I couldn’t disagree with him.
    In short, if you simply deny that customer care in Britain vs. in Spain is the same, then you also probably think that Xerez are still in with a chance of winning this year’s Primera Liga.

  • Carlos 2

    Stan, thanks for your very interesting comments.
    I take on board what you say about getting your money back, with El Corte Inglés being the exception and all the rest. Fair enough. As for “the Spanish have a lot of improvements to make” in all other aspects of customer service, well, I don’t know. I have never lived in other areas of Spain and cannot contradict you. I’m starting to sound like a scratched record here: that is not my impression as a visitor, and is most definitely not my experience in the area where I live, though. I will make a concession here: then again, my standards might be different from yours. However, has it ever occurred to you that you might be judging a country over twice the size of Great Britain by your experiences in one of its corners? It is as if I lived in Liverpool –oops, sorry, Liverpoodlians- and drew the hasty conclusion that the streets in British cities are covered in litter.
    Stan, the line between stating “facts” (although one could write a hundred different PhD theses on what could be considered “a fact”) and what constitutes a prejudice is a very thin, fuzzy one. I would say that you have crossed it when you try to extrapolate blanket judgements from your own personal experience in a way that those blanket judgements affect (usually negatively) your perception –and other people’s- through stereotyping. All of us do it, although some of us try to avoid it… To use one of the examples you give, saying that “drink-fuelled violence is worryingly frequent” would be a statement of a fact, while saying that “Brits are a race of drunken louts” is a clear instance of prejudice. The second one would make some people decline an invitation for a couple of drinks from an English person, to give you a silly example of a possible consequence. In the same way, saying that “Spanish people are rude” lends itself to making people interpret anything done differently from what they are used to in their own country as rude, without further analysis. And, yes, Stan, I’m desperate to bring across to people this idea that seems so simple to me, and dismayed that it is proving so difficult. I’m just saying: give people at least the benefit of the doubt, and you might discover a richer, more complex picture.
    The reason your students are bemused is that they are not mature enough to understand that things are done in different ways in different countries. I am also a teacher, and I have to confront similar situations constantly (I also had to explain to bemused Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh students the difference between “tú” and “usted”). All those expressions you mention are rendered in a friendly fashion by simpler wording in Spanish: “Me pasas/pasa la sal?” or “puedo cerrar la ventana/cierro la ventana?”. Not so formal, but polite enough. Nobody says, unless intended as a sign of total familiarity or even complicity, “pásame la sal” (imperative) or “voy a cerrar la ventana”, and even then you have to be very careful with the tone of voice you use. As for “pardon”, I must admit that “¿Qué?” (What?) is becoming sadly more common than “Cómo?” or “Perdón?”, especially among younger people.
    I quote: “However, please believe me, they ALL confirmed that in this country, for instance, if your way is blocked (in the street or in a supermarket aisle, etc), you would only say “perdona!” as a last resort, when it really is impossible to elbow your way through. Just hop to Mercadona and tell me how many members of staff apologise after stamping on your foot with their load carrier.” OK, I do believe you, and I cannot express how intensely I dislike crowds and how sad it is for me to see how I’m in a minority when it comes to using “disculpa” or “permiso” when trying to weave my way through one. As for the staff in Mercadona, sorry to contradict you again –it is not my fault: I do my shopping there occasionally- but in my local one everyone is extremely pleasant. When you ask where something is, they do not just give you the usual “second isle to your left, opposite the preserves”, but take you right there, even when they are busy. Unlike with crowds, I have no complaints to make about the usual behaviour of customers pushing trolleys about, or staff with load carriers. I’m starting to think that you’ve chosen the wrong part of Spain. You should have come 1000 km the other way: Galicia.
    As for “people subconsciously on a mission not to appear weak”, I must admit we are on average more assertive than Brits, although I think to claim that would be taking things a bit too far.
    I quote again: “When a brand new so-called ‘native teacher’ (from the UK or the US, etc) is introduced to his new colleagues in the staff room they tend to be more like “Hi everyone!!! My name is… Nice to meet you. Where are you from…etc”. The local teachers rarely go beyond a nod and a grunt.” I don’t know, there definitely seems to be something wrong with those people. I can only tell you that the conversation assistant from Darby we had last year applied again for the post. Again: people do not get that kind of aloof reception here. Wrong part of Spain, mate… (Or wrong part of Catalonia?).
    As for “qué quieres?” I always explain to my students that the way to say “quiero” in English is not “I want” but “I would like.” And no, “¿Qué quieres?” is not the equivalent of “what do you want?” The latter sounds definitely awful in English, while “qué quieres?” can even sound friendly in Spanish, again depending on the context. The difference between “¿Qué quieres?” and “Qué va a tomar/Sabe ya lo que va a pedir/Qué desea? Is not one of politeness versus rudeness, but of “informality/familiarity/treating you as a young person” versus “formality.”
    I really do not envy you… Now, this is not me trying to be condescending, but expressing my solidarity. You do seem to be going through a really dismal time in Catalonia. I am a reserved person, but if I were there I would take you out for a couple of pints.

  • Carlos 2

    Corrections: "Liverpudlians" and "Derby"

  • Martha Isela

    Thank you so much for this site,  just right now my husband (Irish/French)ask me, Why I was so rude?, (eventhough I  was born and raised in Mexico now a citizen of the United States for the las 20 years and very blessed to be in this county) , I question myself maybe because of my great-great-grandmather which was a 100% spanish and according to my mother, she had a very strong personality, I wonders if thats where I got my (according to my husband) rudeness, your commentary answer my question, GRACIAS, Bendiciones.

  • Carlos 2

    Martha Isela:
    Character and rudeness are two different things. It is possible that you might have inhereted the former from your great-great-grandmother, but the latter has more to do with the way you have been brought up and what you perceive as correct and incorrect behaviour.
    I think you run a risk here: if you put your actions down to this inescapable connexion with your distant ancestor, you will probably enter in conflict with your husband much more often than if you discuss these issues calmly with him and try to adapt to the culture you now live in.
    Ahí queda mi consejo por si quieres usarlo. Saludos desde España donde, por cierto, hay mucha gente muy calmada y paciente por mucho que se nos intente colgar el “sambenito” de ser “fiery latinos.”

  • positer

    You're clearly still an "anglo-saxon" guiri.

  • Basurto319

    I just visisted madrid and found people to be very rude and discriminitory. My parents are from Mexico and I speak fluent Spanish. I was looked down upon and treated like an illegal immigrant in their country and was even offered a job taking care of someone; I was a tourist!!! We were fine until we spoke Spanish and they heard our lack of Spanish accent. After a while we only spoke English and had a little more respect.

  • Lisakennedy

    Wake up and smell the coffee Carlos. Does it not make any economic sense to you that if you are friendly and hospitable to a paying customer they will return again and again ? The vast majority of Spanish attiudes to foreign holiday makers is absolutely appalling and tourists who get treated like a piece of dirt should maybe consider spending there money elsewhere.

  • Eire

    @Tonya: Your post just shows you need to learn many things yet…

  • Javi

    yeah, the genocide “we”, the modern spanish perpetraded…dont judge us for something happened 400 years ago…and by the way, in southamerica there can still be seen indingenous communities, mixed people and white people all together while in the north you may not see many natives, as in Australia the aborigens have been isolated and almost exterminated…so, what's your point? we spaniards are worst that british or their descendents? dont read so much black legend, it wont make you good..

    you are just being generalistic…and we may have a superior air but anglos have a double ethical behaviour that is a lot worst…

  • Ed

    rude is only the start. I saw my daughter almost shoved over when walking on the sidwalk. I was constantly pushed just walking on the sidewalk also. Very weird behavior by these people. But by the end of my trip it was great because I was shoving spanish people around just like they shoved me around at the start of our vacation. I am living Chicago and been to NYC and never had to push people around before. My neice that was studying in Barcelona was shoved to the ground and finally had to admit that the Spanish were the rudest people she ever met.

    We also tried to buy shoes for my daughter. The salesman came back with a shoe for a man in a different style. He laughed at us and we laughed back as we left the store.

    It was great that every hotel had security guards as we found out that there is alot of theft in Spain!! Fun vacation, as I had my wallet stolen and had to chase down the three Spaniards to get it back. You should have seen the look on thier faces when I cornered them and demanded my wallet back.

    We have travelled to various european countries and found it sad that Spain was the dump of Europe.

  • Miren

    Well, really interesting your comments, I’m an spaniard girlf from the north of Spain, at the north of Spain, we’re a little bit different, we understand that we’re spaniards but we live next to France and we travel a lot around the world, We have diferent point of view. I’ve recently been to London and everyone told me excuse me, I didn’t understand that kind of behauviour but it was not bad for me, it’s true that we’re more direct but that doesn’t mean we’re rude. With two beers, english people are just the same way I am without them, I think that we’re diferent cultures, we spaniards are more phisicall, we love hugging, touching but english are the same way, they just need a little bit more trust.

  • Alvaro

    Hello everyone!

    First of all, sorry for any bad english I can use in my text. I am spaniard from Madrid and I have found really interesting this article on the net. As being born in Spain and used to the manners that I say, use and see day by day here (and i refer almost just to Madrid area) I can agree that some ways of being here are or can be taken as rude for anyone “as we say here” not from here (no de aquí). Why? ecause people usually try to filter anything under they culture and manners. It is like when i visited the Netherlands for the first time and a girl i knew from months before by the net when i saw her in person for the first time just shaked my hand. Was the first time in my life a girl shaked my hand as a greeting instead of giving me two kisses but the point is that i accepted that as her manner or something typical in the Netherlands (days after that, when we get closer in meetings and all that I happily received each time three kisses as greeting).

    What i mainly mean is that instead of make a critic about the culture, try to understand it. All have a reason of being in that way. We open until late in the evening, why? Be a full summer here at Spain and think about open a shop during the time between 2pm and 5 pm and you will think twice about it.

    “We talk like order”. It is true, the sentences we usually make when we deal with business like bars, shops and that kind of is in imperative way. But as i think i have read above, the way you say it implies many differences. “capullo” (asshole) here in spain can be used depending on the way you say it as an insult or just like a funny, even kidding way to refer to someone (“Qué capullo Antonio que ha ganado la lotería” is similar to “How lucky Antonio was winning the lottery”).

    “Thanks and please”. We Spanish people like (I remember refearing to Madrid and all my experiences in my 23 years of life being here) to really mean when you have to apologize or be grateful, not as a machine which say that each time an specific situation happens. It is common to hear “gracias” when the waiter gives you your drink and you are thirsty but for example I have usually never heard about it in a Disco when you ask for a drink, in my mind, searching for a reason I found that well… after all you are giving them a lot of money for the drink, they must be the grateful ones for having you as customer. Sounds weird but I have talked about it with some friends and sometimes that can be a reason.

    “Showing interest”. I set this point because of my own experiences with it. I have many memories of asking north european people things and they tired of replying, sometimes wondering why we ask too much or why are we trying to know things “non of our business”. Well, the reason is clear for me as maybe it will be for many spaniards here: Because we have interest on you and we appreciate you. A spaniard will never ask anything a person they dislike to talk to but if you are a friend, if you are important, they will ask you about your day, friends, family, health, weather, etc… because that is a way of being kind here. Here in Spain is it sometimes not nice to meet people which never ask you about your life, your family or your problems. We like social meetings and enjoy talking about it.

    After all the long speech i say sorry for maybe keeping much time from you all and hope I would use the correct way of writting for showing that I am not saying anything for or against what you all have said here.

    What I seriously mean is that before charging against manners or customs that are different from yours, try to understand it and why it is that way, there is no perfect country/culture/etc…

    If you want to know more about Spain or spanish manners from a point of view of someone from Madrid who have travelled to Netherlands several times, UK and Italy and is always curious, notice me.

    Greetings to you all.

    (And sorry, hope not, if anyone got offended or similar)

  • Gillian

    After spending a couple of holidays in a hotel in Portugal, I have found the Spanish to be the worst, there is no excuse, it is not part of culture, there were many in my hotel, the children were out of control brats, screaming and shouting at all hours – even though the hotel specifically said no noise in the halls after a certain time, but the portugese let them get away with this. Around the pool they were also screaming and shouting and this wasn’t only the children, it was the adults as well, I could go on but won’t! They always talk about the British behaviour abroad but have found the Spanish to be the worst of everything that the UK gets blamed for!! The nicest people I have found is the Germans, they were polite, friendly and did not take themselves seriously, the best times I have had abroad have been mixing with the German people!

  • Jacobo

    Northern Europeans and people from the US tend to think their way is the only acceptable way, and I don’t understand why. I understand you to demand politeness in the british way while in the UK. Why can’t I demand politeness in the spanish way while being in MY own country? I’m not going to change just because you don’t like our behaviour; what did you expected when you came here, us spaniards to throw rose petals at you, the white, not-tanned and TRUE european (not like us, filthy mediterranean charred-skinned spaniards who love killing bulls) just because you have chosen our country and graced it with your presence? Please, you don’t know how germans and british behave here in Spain. Politeness? HA, they must leave it in the frontiers. Go one day to Majorca and see the hundred drunk germans laid in the streets with a huge hangover, so clean and serious in Germany, so drunk and pathetic here in Spain. Oh, yes, but they order the thousand beers they drink saying “please, could i have a beer?”, so they are rightful members of the western civilization. Cheers.

    You expect us to be folkloric, but yet modern and civilized (in your way, OF COURSE); You want loads of fiesta, but you reproach us our laziness. You want good weather but rant EVERY TIME about the terrible heat. You think of us as a cozy, eccentric rural country (if not as a holiday resort) and treat us as if you were a 19th century colonizer meeting some native inhabitants of the jungle, teaching them how to be polite and the ways of the civilized people, but YET complain about us not wanting to mix up with you (and wonder why we react so bad at you realizing everybody in this world talks and understands perfect english). Treat us as equals for once and see if we turn more “friendly”, but we’re not made for fulfilling your wildest dreams about the perfect holidays in the land of the eternal sun. Stop behaving like REAL PRICKS with us. We’re so tired of us being looked down in our own country that we have already a bad disposition against anglophone/german tourists in general; it’s unfair for the huge majority, the friendly ones, but it’s up to you to change that misconception.

    And if you can’t stand people talking 5 centimeters closer to you than you’re used to (OH MY GOD, SACRILEGE, HERESY) or people talking 10db louder than your mom and neighbors do, or timetables being different here, well, just stay in your country and that’s all. But if you come here, be prepared for some slight differences (that, of course, will be apalling and dreadful for you, though being just slightly different ways to behave and to handle life, but that applies for everyone in every country who travels abroad anyway) put your best face on, and don’t sweat the small stuff.


    You got it! :) I am spanish and I think the key is “what is considered rude or polite in Spain is not the same as in anglo-saxon cultures”

  • Adrian

    Hello, I’m from Spain. I read your comments, and… loudness‘ or ‘rudeness?? Have you seen any Spanish doing balconing?? Killin himself while jump and laught over 15 meter in the air?? I think that it’s impossible. Have you seen any Spanish fighting with the law because he was drink 10 beers??. I don’t know what you spect, when you come to Spain. But I’m really offendended. We think that the Anglo Saxon people like English or American, could be very polite in his country, but think that in our country could do anithing wich pass for his imagination and it’s wrong. Be carefull with te Beer, and the balconing. And i’m sorry, we don’t think that the english people are snobbish. We think the English people live in the pub’s drinking beer all day, and collect souvenirs of the Queen and the Royal Family. oh, i forget it, always wear in summer slippers with socks, please, don’t do it, are terrible. And don’t forget use sunblock cream?? Sunburst cream?? Crema para el sol. Because it’s very bad for your flesh the mediterranian sun. Thanks. And don’t forguet it, we always be friends, but the friends don’t disturb in his friends house. I hope not to be very rudeness in my coment, but the shortest distance into two points are the straight line.

  • John

    I just had to reply to this thread as this subject is something that makes me laugh and cry in equal measure.

    I have been travelling to Spain for over a decade now with my Spanish wife, mostly to the South to visit family. Over the years I have come to appreciate that the difference between the Spanish (and other southern Europeans) and the British (and other northern Europeans) come from the balance between community and personal freedom. Also known as positive
    and negative freedoms.

    In Spain community is strong. Static populations mean that people in villages, town, barrios all know each other very well indeed and exert their “status” through their interactions with others. For me this explains why old women push to the front of the queue, people don’t let you pass in the street, customer service with strangers is less than perfect. In each the protagonist is making their status known. On the up-side kids safely play in the street watched over by every adult; parents and grandparents are always local, willing and able to support in times of need; and so on.

    In northern Europe, mostly for economic reasons, communities have been dispersed. It’s rarer now to live close to your parents and where you spent your childhood. Communities are not strong and personal freedom is prized. Status comes with your job, wealth and opportunities. Old women don’t therefore take any natural precedence (in fact, old people are often viewed a cost to society paid for by tax payers), politeness is important as it indicates your level of education and aspiration, customer service is important if you want to keep your job. But you have to pay for your child-care, care when your old and we’re paranoid about any adult who might have an interest in children (only 18% of teachers are men).

    Horses for courses. Zapatero a tus zapatos

  • clara

    im spanish but live in the uk and at first i used to get called rude a lot in school i was actually known as the ‘rude’ girl in secondary school and i never knew why because i’ve always acted in a manner which i think is pretty normal. Also in Spain british people or just foreigners from english peaking countries are called ‘cold people’ because to us they seem stand-offish and just kind of not friendly or approachable at all. by the way i resolved the ‘ rude girl’ issue by being OVERLY polite , now im a bit of a bumlick -_-

  • ste

    I have only visited Madrid and Barcelona for a few days on each occasionbut have to say i didnt encounter any rudeness or bad behaviour at all. i tried to speak what little spanish i can although i am still in the process of learning how to speak at least conversational in spanish, i think this is important if you are going to vist the country, even if it only a few phrases to help you ask for what you would like or need.I am planning to visit Spain again soon for another short break but i’m now beginning to wonder how welcome english tourists actually are? i think the behaviours listed in this debate so far are typical of people all over the world not just any one country. Yes we english are slightly obsessed with manners but thats our culture just like anywhere else.

  • Viajera

    You know, I don’t know about the Spanish, but their heritage is really strong in Latin America and what I find the most frustrating as an American ex-pat who has been living overseas for years, interacts with the local community and learns the local languages is that no matter what you do, at some point you will be treated like you’re an idiot by someone working in a cafe or a local shop. It’s worse in touristy areas, but happens everywhere. That and the image that all people from the U.S. are walking wallets and that women from the U.S. are easy and will be sugar mamas for the Latin dudes. After being harassed on the street by the dudes, hit on by the same dude that just talked down to me and being groped in taxis and on buses, I have to say we need to consider, worldwide, just what it means to adapt to other cultures and how to address such egregious stereotypes and discrimination. There’s always an uproar in the U.S. about the massive discrimination against Hispanics — and there is … look at the new laws in Arizona, Florida, Virginia, and, the worst, Alabama. But let’s not forget just how strong the discrimination is against us when we go to their countries. This works both ways.

  • felix

    Wow, this guy, the American immigrant, oh no sorry, the American expat, now speaks about Latin America and US Hispanics and mixes it all up with Spain! Wow again!

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  • Viajera

    Actually, nothing was said above about Spain. It was strictly about personal experiences in Latin America, which you might notice if you had read through the posting completely. And there’s no need to resort to name calling because there was no name calling in the former post. You might also like to note that that use of the word Hispanic is very wide in the United States and you might like to take a look at some of the studies by the Pew Hispanic Center which say that by the year 2025, 25% of the population in the U.S. will be composed of Hispanics, which means those that speak Spanish. And while that does include people from Spain, the majority of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. come from Latin American countries for all of the reaasons you say: high mortality rates, poor health, lack of work, and the search for a better life. There is also a difference between and expat and an immigrant. An immigrant, by definition, has moved permanently to a new country from their country of origin and an expat has not made a permanent move to another country, at least by definition. Also, when talking about discrimination and racism, that applies in all countries and even within countries. How many regional differences are there in a country and how many people automatically talk down to or stereotype someone who is from a different place, be it another city, another region or another country? The plain fact is that in the U.S., people discriminate. Period. And in Latin America, in the countries I’ve been to, people discriminate. Period. I don’t say anything about Spain because I haven’t been there and never did say I had. You might want to consider moderating your tone because your posting sounds a lot like what a belligerent American would post. Or a belligerent person in general. Just because you’re online and can’t see who you’re talking to doesn’t mean you should drop all semblance of courtesy and respect.

  • felix

    Latin America is Latin America, which happens to be part of America, the same as the US. Do not forget that. Spain is Spain, the same as many other Eurpepean countries. Don not jump to stupid theories of a non-existent world and people will not tell you anything else, either with courtsey or without.

  • felix

    Any way, going bac to the subject matter of this thread I have to say that we, Spaniards, we indeed more rude than most other peoples. Why? I do not know, but it is a fact. Maybe we are more direct, energetic, self-confdent, however you want to put it, have we tend to be what most other people would consider on the rude side. On the other hand, and I know Latin America, and although this issue has been brought up, I have to say tha tto simply Latin Amerian can only be the conclusion of an ignorant. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Peruvians or Argentinians live thousands of miles apart and are indeed very different as peoples. Still, most Latin Americans I have met are much better well-mannered than Spaniards, tend to sear a lot less and a log etc. Infact, interesting as it may been, Latin Americans, as different as Equadorians and Uruguayans actuyally are, are probably more well mannered than most people on Earth. There you have it, the opposite of Spaniards.

  • felix

    Anyway, going back to the subject matter of this thread I have to say that we, Spaniards, are indeed more rude than most other peoples (I am a good example, am I not? We understand little of political correctess as a rule. Maybe we are just less hypocritical). Why? I do not know, but it is a fact. Maybe we are more direct, energetic, self-confident, or just more informal, however you want to put it, but we tend to be what most other people would consider on the rude side, if they are not familiar with Spanish culture (Hello, the culture of Spain!). On the other hand, and I know Latin America, I have to say that to simplify Latin America as one unit can only be the conclusion of an ignorant. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Peruvians or Argentinians live thousands of miles apart and are indeed very different as peoples. Still, most Latin Americans I have met are much better well-mannered than Spaniards. Latin Americans, indeed, as different as Equadorians and Uruguayans may be, are probably more well mannered, in general, than most people on Earth. There you have it, the opposite of Spaniards.

  • Viajera

    Never said the U.S. wasn’t part of America. And having been in several Latin American countries, I can tell you that while the individual cultures may be different, many of the customs and ways of interacting are the same. I also never lumped Spain together with other European countries. As a matter of fact, I didn’t say anything about other European countries, but I did see you say something disparaging about British people and when you did that you, you lumped all of the people from the United Kingdom together. There are several countries in the United Kingdom and each one is very different, although they might share a common history. It pays to think about what you’re saying when you start flinging insults around. You can’t tell someone else not to generalize when that is exactly what you’re doing yourself.

    No one jumped to conclusions about a non-existent world either. What non-existent world would that be exactly? It appears that instead of actually reading what I wrote and being able to hold a respectful conversation, you jump immediately to attacking someone you don’t even know. And you may talk about these other places, but have you been there? Have you been there as a Caucasian American from the U.S.? Or a black American? Or a United States citizen with Mexican immigrant parents? Or as a woman? Doubtful. All of these factors change the experience a person has in another country. Or are you basing your information on people who have moved to your country from these places? They are also very different from the people who stay in the country and never have a chance to leave. More generalizations and stereotypes from you without any actual facts to back up what you’re saying. Más estereotipos y generalizaciones de tu parte sin pensar. Qué fantástico. Bien hecho, hombre.

    Also, you can use the excuses of being more energetic, direct, self-confident or less hypocritical to justify, in your words, the act of Spaniards being rude. By that reasoning, then, people from the United States who travel to other countries could be considered, in general, more energetic, direct, self-confident, and less hypocritical too ….

    Y puedes decir que tu manera de hablar o escribir es debido a tu cultura o puedes tomar responsabilidad personal por tus acciones y palabras. Es tu elección. Buena suerte.

  • felix

    Caucasian American from the US, Black American, Mexican American… (I think that Mexican Americans could be ¨Caucasian¨, Mestizo, Indian, Black and a long etc) In Germany they used to clasify people as Aryan and Jews…They do not do it anymore and think that to lump people into racial categories like that is not only uncourteous, but sick and the remnant of very obscure times, and not only in Germany, by the way. The problem is that the brains of people from your country are literally destroyed by the obsession of race so much that you end up talking all the time about the same thing: race or what you think race is. If we talk about soccer, you end up talking about race, if we talk about music, you end up talking about race. God saves us from your poisonous cultural influence!

  • Michael

    My wife and I are currently traveling through Spain and initially thought we would spend 7 weeks on a food, wine and culture cruise. It will now be 3 weeks in Spain and 4 weeks somewhere where there is respect for tourists. Tourists probably make up a large percentage of whatever is left of the Spanish economy.. If you like cheap cuts of meat, a few olives and some bits of cheese stuck to bread and call that Tapas then good luck. We have had 15 evenings in Spain, sometimes visiting three restaurants or bars looking for something edible and of restaurant standard. We have had only 5 decent meals and these came from just 2 restaurants. We went bak to these for the simple fact of decent service, decent food and no Spanish attitude. Ripping off the people who are supplying a huge amount to their economy is simply dumb. Looking forward to the Spanish economic meltdown and watching them regret shitting on their only possible salavation.

  • Carlos

    Viajera: What you said in your first post amounts to saying: “I do not know about the Dutch, but here in New York, which was originally called New Amsterdam…” or “I don’t know about Edinburgh, but here in New Zealand…” Do you get my drift?

    Haven’t you honesly ever wondered whether a forum about Spanish manners was the right place to air your frustrations about your experience in South America, however legitimate? 400 million people in this planet have Spanish as their mother tongue, but that does not make them all share the same attitudes to life. As if the very existence of the umbrella term “hispanic” was not pathetically simplistic enough, extending it to include Spain -on the other side of the Ocean in more senses than the merely geographic one- as I have witnessed a sizeable number of people from the United States do (I refuse to call you simply “Americans”, sorry), starts by being slightly irksome to gradually end up becoming plainly offensive by accumulation, the message from you being “we really could not care less about who the Spaniards are, so we’ll just assume they fit our perception of the inhabitants of their former colonies”, such perception not being usually a favourable one, I might add.

    I do not endorse Felix’s attitude. I find it unnecessarily –and counterproductively- aggressive, though.

    I quote literally from Felix:

    “Any way, going bac to the subject matter of this thread I have to say that we, Spaniards, we indeed more rude than most other peoples. Why? I do not know, but it is a fact.”

    Felix, please, speak for yourself… or perhaps, and just perhaps, the area of Spain you happen to be from, your circle of friends, your social class etc. I remind you there are 46 million people in Spain and four official languages.

    I quote from Michael:

    “Looking forward to the Spanish economic meltdown and watching them regret shitting on their only possible salavation.”

    Sorry, but that wish alone disqualifies you as a reasonable/reasoning person possessing anything resembling sound judgement or empathy, so excuse me if I feel no need to rebut your arguments; although, for your information, 2011 has been a very good year in terms of tourism, that not being enough to definitely lift our economy. That sector accounts just for 10% of it. We are not a theme park full of smily waiters, and least of all for disorientated, cantankerous knitpickers, sorry to tell you… So better stick to your local haunts, your boeuf bourgignon and your chicken chasseur and yes, do tell your friends, PLEASE, not to come to Spain.

  • Viajera

    Hi Carlos,

    Fair point. This is a posting about Spaniards, not about the customs of people in other Spanish-speaking countries, such as Argentina or Nicaragua, for instance. And I can see that you may not like the term Hispanic for being an umbrella term, but it is a common term in academic circles, it is used quite frequently in sociological and anthropological studies and it does address all of the countries where the mother tongue is Spanish, which includes Spain, which as you say, probably doesn’t make sense given the geographical and cultural distance between Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. But if you are doing these types of studies, you do have to delineate somehow in order to do the research. That’s why many of these studies are lacking. There’s just no way to categorize and generalize in a way to captures all of the nuances of a situation or culture. However, these types of demographic and sociological studies can help create excellent programs and plans to address economic, social and political problems in specific areas. The question is how to cut up the cake.

    That said, there are quite a few people around the world who lump all people from English speaking countries together as well, as if to say that British people, Canadians, people from the United States and South Africans are all the same, which is definitely not true. You can’t even lump together everyone in the United States because we have 50 different states and a person born and raised in New York may have very different ideas than someone from St. Louis, Missouri, or someone from Los Angeles. The country also houses a vast array of people whose parents are from other countries or who come from a diverse ethnic background. No two people in the U.S. alike in the same way that no two people anywhere are alike.

    I’ve also heard quite a few bashing of people from the United States in several other countries where I have traveled and lived, but that bashing and stereotyping doesn’t address the fact that most of the people in the U.S. do not travel and do not live in other countries and that those very badly mannered tourists from the U.S. who do go to other countries and treat the local residents very badly do not in any way represent all of us.

    I will stand by my statement that there is a lot of Spanish influence in the Latin American countries I have been in and, yes, there are some shared ways of talking and some shared customs. There are also quite a few Spaniards who live in and work in these countries today, so there are also modern Spanish influences. And there are also modern Spanish habits and customs in some areas. Are they the same as in Spain itself? Who knows? Probably not. No one person or group of people can represent an entire country.

    Felix … your comments are increasingly insulting and all about semantics. I didn’t make up these terms. They are academic and legal terms used in the United States and in other countries to describe a country’s inhabitants. Caucasian, in the U.S., refers to ethnic heritage and not to skin color. And it is used in studies that the government and that universities do on diversity, sociological issues and anthropological histories. You can talk all you want about the semantics of the terms, but you’re just looking to sling insults at other people. So far you have disparaged people from the U.S. and from the United Kingdom and accused us of poisoning other cultures. You’ve also compared the people from my country to Hitler. If you really feel that way, why are you reading a blog written by someone from northwest England? Because you could really make the argument that the U.S. culture is based on English culture and so all the bad in it stems from that. If you’re going to reach for historical contexts that don’t actually apply these days. Also, I personally spend little time talking about race except when I make the mistake of commenting online, something I generally try to avoid due to people such as yourself who are just looking to flame and not to have a conversation.

    Michael … that was unnecessary. There are customer service problems everywhere. It’s not limited to touristy areas or other countries and probably has something to do with the pitiful wages that the people who work in restaurants and cafes make. They usually earn barely enough to even get by, regardless of the country or town where they work. The situation is worse in touristy areas, where the living expenses shoot up so high that local residents hardly make enough to live there anymore.

  • Carlos

    Hi, viajera:

    It is so refreshing to find someone on the Net who can use their logic, remain equanimous and present arguments rather than insult. Thank you!

    Please, notice that I purposefully tried not to lump all Americans together by using the expression “a sizeable number of people from the States”.

    As for the isue of the connections between Latin Americans and us Spaniards (and yes, I am also committing here a similar overgeneralisation to the one I criticised before, for the practical purpose of answering you) I do not want to be disparaging, as I feel warmly about them, but the general impression I can observe from us Spaniards (with many individual exceptions, obviously, as well as regional variations), is that in terms of fashion they are 20 years behind (we do get some of their TV serials and wonder at their hairdos), in terms of economy 40 years, and in terms of mentality 100 years (we have more or less moved along with the rest of Europe). Funny enough, we also detect in them a very strong influence from the USA, in terms of consummer habits and word loans from American English, for example. If you take the trouble to compare Spanish socioeconomic data with that of the average for those countries (birth rate, life expectancy, literacy, per capita income, attitudes and beliefs) you will see they diverge from us greatly. Anyway, that was my two pennies worth, and I invite Latin Americans to refute me.

    Greetings from Spain.

  • Tonya

    I have purposely kept my tourist and consumer dollars, as well as my presence, away from Spain because of the extreme rudeness and outright belligerence of the people. So, Spaniards, hang on to that pride and stubborness while your economy tanks because you chase the people with dollars to spend away.

  • felix

    I was thinking if I should respond or not, but why the hell not. This viajera does not even realize how overtly racist and simple she is, and that is because she is the product of a culture that speaks for itself. She says that we are not all the same: Americans, Canadians, etc. Shall I say more, or are we intelligent enough?. Sure unconsciously she omits English speaking Jamaicans, Nigerians or Pakistanis. Wonder why? Then we have all these idiots with the Spanish economy. What economy is doing well right now? The most important institutions that have burst out were precisely in countries like the US and the UK, and what about their public debts? Thanks god they are not in the Euro. These Anglo propagandists are incredible¡ As far as I know the three countries that have been bailed out in the Eurozone have been Irleland, Greece and Portugal. And Spain has paid its share it their bail out. Although it seems that a lot would be very happy if Spain needed bailing out. When it and if it happens, write about it all your propaganda, but not before. I know that our unemployment rate is very high, but that is because our system is very generous and may be needs reforming. Fact is that Romania only has a 7 per cent unemployment rate, much lower than Spain s now and even lower than the one in the US, but again Spain is full of Romanians that will not leave the country no matter what. About those who complain so much about Spain, it is still the second most popular destination for tourists in the world, after France, so go to hell, we do not need people like you here, and tell your friends the same. In spite of its importance tourism represents in Spain between 5 to 10 per cent of the economy and as said this sector seems to be very healthy anyway. And I will not tell the almost 1.000.0000 Britons that live in Spain to go back home or the thousands of British grannies that come to Spain to use our Health System because theirs sucks, because it would be absolutely unjust. They are all welcome, but the few ones that we all know can stay home. We do not need them. Spain has always been a great nation and it will continue to be, in Spain of some cheap and pretty old Anglo propaganda that we all know very well, not to speak about some Latin American resentment.

  • Viajera

    Once again feliz would like to argue semantics. To be clear, I was speaking of people who are from countries whose mother tongue is English. That is a technical definition and one that is used internationally.

    Eres un excelente ejemplo de exactamente el tipo de racista que dices que no te gusta. Y atacas a otras personas, pero nunca respondes a preguntas directamente. No respondiste a mis preguntas sobre si has estado en estos otros países o conoces gente de allí. Así que es obvio que no tienes ninguna experiencia directa con otras culturas y ni una idea sobre la realidad de otros países o personas Claro, puedes hablar de España, tu país, pero cuanto más que hablas sobre eso, el peor la imagen de los españoles. Si yo fuera una racista como vos, diría que los españoles son racistas y belicosos. Sin embargo, a diferencia de vos, no soy racista y no atacan a la gente para sus nacionalidades y etnias, ni argumento con ellos sobre la semántica para promover mi perspectiva racista.

    A propósito, cuando presentas las historias vergonzosas de otros países, es muy conveniente que te olvidas la vergonzosa historia de los conquistadores españoles y todo el daño que hicieron a otros países, los efectos de que todavía son visibles en algunos lugares.

    Además, hablas de propaganda de otras personas, pero debes preguntarte a ti: ¿Cual propaganda estás promocionando? ¿Por qué tienes tanto resentimiento contras los estadounidenses? Probablemente sería demasiado maduro para ti hacer este tipo de reflexión personal, pero te ayudaría a superar tus problemas con racismo.

  • felix

    I have not resentment against most North Americans, but do not like North Americans like you, full of cliches, oversimplifications and cheap propaganda. Now you come with the old story of the Spanish Conquistadors. Of course they anihilated the poor Indians. But when you go to El Paso, suddenly you begin to see those Indians everywhere, speaking Spanish indians, the same as in most parts of Mexico, Central America, Bolivia, Peru, while North of the Border, as everyone knows, they just disappeared into thin air. That is exactly what I do not like about some North Americans, how shamfully they lie. Do you think the world is stupid! It is about time that the view of the world that you are defending here, full of lies and cheap propaganda is confronted and I do precisely that. The Indians of the Americas interestingly survived thanks to the fact that the Spanish and Portuguese arrived there first. In other parts of the continent, like yours, they came very close to extinction. Facts, not propaganda, please.

  • felix

    Oh, sorry, I forgot, those Indians or Native Americans, however you want to put it, do not really exist, because you trasformed them into Hispanics by Royal Decree!

  • felix

    And I concede that the Spanish conquest of the Americas was bloody and full of injustice, but can you tell me of any Conquest that was different. Maybe the very empires of the Aztecs or Mayans was any different?. Still it was not as fully genocidal as other models of which your culture is a good representation, while trying to accuse others of something you were even worst at. Besides, something very important that a lot of simplistic North Americans and some resentful and simplistic Latin Americans tend to forget (I say some because I love most Latin Americans, best people in the planet): Those individuals who carried out the conquest, more than 99.999 per cent of the times, stayed in the Americas for ever. In short, they are part of the ancestors of the current Americans, from the North and from the South. If they were murderous villains, it is part of your ancestors who were like that. Mine stayed put, that is the simple reason why I was born in Spain in the 20th century and not in the Americas, but even a principle so easy to understand seems impossible to grasp for some very precarious minds.

  • Viajera

    Hi Carlos,

    You make good points. And it’s been nice swapping information with you here. I look forward to visiting Spain one day and learning more about your culture firsthand.

    Greetings from Colombia.

  • Tonya

    Felix, your rantings are hysterical!!!!

  • felix


  • felix

    But you can keep your dollars, Tonya, you may badly need them in the near future.

  • felix

    Anyway, Tanya and Viajera, if you do ever come to Spain let me know and I will invite you to a nice dinner with candles. You will see that I am much nicer in person.

  • Ashley Corey

    I’ve been in Cadiz for over a month now, and I’ve pretty much been met with only the sweetest Spaniards! I’m from the U.S., and this being my first time outside the country and in Spain, I am loving what I am seeing! I don’t know about the other people’s experiences, but for the most part, everyone here is lovely. I will say that when you get into the business and customer service world, courtesy and politeness don’t seem to exist. I have met countless Spaniards that are extremely eager to help me improve my Spanish or educate me about their country’s holidays, foods, ‘jerga’ (slang), and many other things. The waitresses and employees of many businesses, however, do seem to be a bit cold. The librarians are all dolls, though, and so are the teachers (with one exception), police officers, and veterinarians. Keep in mind that my opinion is based only on the people I’ve met so far, but I would only expect the vast majority of Spaniards I will meet in the future to act the same. I’ve only met one rude English teacher, and that may have had something to do with how embarrassed she was at her skill level in English. The question I have for the native Spaniards on this page is: Why are so many young Spanish kids (9 years and younger) brats? Not so much the older kids, but the younger kids seem to be very rude and demanding and attention-seeking. I have heard that the Spanish culture values children, and I agree they should, but I don’t see the benefit of raising a child to learn that when he screams or cries about something he wants, he gets it. The young children I’ve encountered do just this. They also seem to not care if you are using something or not, and will just take it from your hands. I don’t get this at all, and a few times have barked back at them, even in front of their parents. The children seem to be the boss, not the parents. Me being raised to respect parents and respect others and their things makes this common occurance very frustrating. Please, anyone with information on this, explain!

  • J.S.V

    La mayoría de la gente que escribe aquí mucho me temo que no tiene ni idea de lo que habla.
    La mayoría opina por experiencias vividas en días, semanas…
    España es un destino turístico de primer orden. En relación con el tamaño de su población el primero. Por su clima, su gastronomía, su diversidad y su gente.
    Por favor. No os permitáis opinar de la gente de un país por experiencias sesgadas de unos días o semanas en un complejo hotelero o en cuallquier caso desde la óptica del turista.
    Eso, desde luego, me parece de mal gusto y quizás incluso de mala educación

  • Oscar R

    Hello. I´ve been reading this post and I wanted to have a say:

    I´m Spanish, and yes, we tend to be kind of rude in many situations. This doesn´t mean we are not nice, we just have our way of expressing ourselves. This doesn´t mean that there aren`t “idiots” in this country, there are different degrees of rudness in Spain and some poeple just don´t have any empathy for the people around them.
    We seem to be temperamental, in many cases this is only in the surface. The example is in my family. I spent 5 years in the uk and when I came back I was shocked that when my family meets they all speak on top of each other. Do they not love each other?, well we do a lot, but superficially to some people it might seem as if we were having a fight… After a while I´ve gotten used to it again.
    When you are a foreigner (immigrant, expat or whatever the fuck you want) you are bound to find difficulties. I got many poker faces and disrespect during my time in England and I was normally quite polite, just trying to act as the people around me did. The thing is, a lot of people in England were extremely rude, and I say extremely. They go around looking for fights and prey normally on the weak, wich is really pathetic. I also found the other type I didn´t like, the ones that pretend to be all polite but you know they just fake and see no sympathy in their eyes. But I also met a lot of cool people there!
    Also english speaking people tend to expect everybody to speak english and this can get silly. When I started up in England many people used to laugh at my english. I just thought it was funny!
    I would also tell felix to shut up. He either is 13 years old or he is case of personality disorder.

  • Oscar R

    I´d like to point some regionalism about Spain. I´m from Granada in the south, this town is said to be a town of “Mala Follá”, meaning literally “bad temper”, in older people i would say could be true in a 20%, but, is very characteristic and sticks out a lot; they are the grannies that ignore you in the qeues and the careless old men with snotty faces.

    There are many more regional stereotypes in Spain: andalusians in general are ignorant and stupid, madrilians are “Chulos” (this means”cocky”), catalonians are thight and will only speak to you in catalonian, Vascs are brutes, valencianos are quarrelsome, galicians are awkward and it goes on. I guess this is only true in some cases, and I´m sure that is what happens everywhere. Generally the human race is capable of really noble acts and even more horrible deeds. Thats just the way we are, and I would like to see the place where everybody is perfect if somebody knows it please tell e where it is so I can go there. On the other hand it´d be probably boring so i´ll pass.

  • Stan

    Spaniards are more open about their racist feelings than say the Brits, but just as racist (can anyone be more racist than the English?). They are not as refined as the English, but what culture isn’t rude when compared to the English??? I do believe it’s still a very disorganised and inefficient society for Western standards. It’s changed a lot in the last 20-30 years, but it’s still poorly competitive and inefficient, with very high levels of nepotism, fraud and corruption. Dealing with the public sector is a nightmare. Last time I visited Bilbao, Basque area, and I got the impression it was very different to southern Spain though, great food, better manners and higher social development (but almost English-like weather). It must be the weather then.

  • Carlos

    Stan, would you be so kind as to define “refined” for me? Do you perhaps mean the ‘refined’ English way of drinking one’s head off at weekends in contrast with our nasty habit of having red wine for lunch? Or, the recent ‘refined’ revolts in England in contrast with our hideous peaceful anti-system movement? Perhaps my idea of what ‘refined’ is differs from yours.

    “Can anyone be more racist than the English?” Well, I don’t know, but many of them surely do a good job with their “I am holier than thou” rantings and platitudes about other countries, especially southern European ones, and especially the economic press. I’m no specialist, but it is as if they derived some sort of gain from it. The “PiGS” issue is especially scandalous in its unfettered offense.

    I agree we have some problems with efficiency and competitiveness, but not on the scale many would like to think and mostly to do with “undeclared” production than with lack of industriousness. Nepotism? Yes, it is a concern. I agree we are more tribal than other societies.

    As for corruption and fraud, come and talk to us when you eliminate the fiscal paradise of Gibraltar, the biggest rats nest in the European Continent, a drain to our economy. It seems to me, as well, that posts 20 (Britain) and 30 (Spain) on the 2011Transparency International Index of 178 countries does not legitimate your statement about “Western standards” in his respect.

    So, you’ve been to Bilbao and what other parts of Spain? You have a lot of travelling and prejudice-shedding to do before you get close to knowing my country.

  • Stan

    Carlos, it’s just my experience. Spaniards are highly susceptible to criticism by foreigners… even when they believe it to be well founded… so I expected this sort of reply. However, I’ve observed they rarely hesitate much before criticising other nationalities, with founded or unfounded statements. There’s something in the air that makes it difficult for them to be “fair” or “objective”, there’s a lot of passion and heat. The English are more restrained in this sense, it is less socially acceptable at least among people with a minimum educational level. England is not without issues of course, but they’re not the subject of this particular thread. Not sure Spain in particular is in a position to criticise any form of colonialism though.

    I’ve been to Barcelona (of course), Alicante (I studied there for a few months), Granada, Bilbao and Donostia (aka Sant Sebastian). I liked Granada and the Northern cities the most, very different places though. I’ve had lots of fun in Spain, there’s a generally healthy and relaxed way of life, but if the question is “are Spaniards rude?” I’m afraid most Northern Europeans would say yes (and Spaniards would say Northern Europeans are distant and boring, which is often true!).

  • Carlos

    Oh, sorry, Stan, I forgot. Yes, you are right: it is this heat again clouding my understanding and making me feel like being passionately rude to someone. I should have born in mind that I was dealing here with a rational, cool man from the north and recognised his superior wisdom, free from irrational interferences (including stereotyping and prejudice, of course). Poor me! please forgive me, for I belong to a race of pathologically overemotional gits, incapable of thinking straight.

    Now, seriously, I wish you could stand outside yourself for just one minute and take a good look at what you are saying, its contradictions and its implications…

    I agree England is not the issue of this particular thread, but it was you who first introduced it as a benchmark for comparison with Spain. I was not exactly attacking your country, but trying to dismantle your self-righteous, cliched views.

    Oh, and please, spare me the hackneyed issue of Spanish colonial rule because it occurred centuries ago, has nothing to do with what I was talking about and does nothing but painfully highlight the culturally inherited nature of your prejudices against us.

    When I talked about Gibraltar I did it exclusively to make the point not only that Britain is not free of corruption but that it also contributes to aggravate it internationally. If you ask me, I could not care less whether Gibraltar remains British, is devolved to Spain or becomes the Republic of Llanitosland. I would just like it to cease being a fiscal paradise. I will only add as a matter of curiosity that, from the perspective of a northern Spaniard like me, to hear them talk on TV with such a broad southern Spanish accent and mannerisms saying that they are not Spanish has approximately the same comical effect for us as it would have for you if a group of people speaking with a scouse accent said they want to be recognised as, say, Japanese.

    I lived in the UK for nearly a decade and my experience there was great overall, but if there was something that really bugged me it is how deeply entrenched in your culture is the stereotyping and mistrust of other nations, of which I felt a victim as a Spaniard: racism, nordicism, climatic determinism, protestant smugness, ethnocentrism.

    And yes, sorry to tell you, but appropriating the right to decide what does or does not constitute rudeness is dire ethnocentrism, a clear superiority complex.

  • Stan

    Rudeness/politeness surely isn’t the most important thing in this life, but it’s the subject here. Politeness is very important in traditional English culture and most people still have good manners (not everyone of course). Spaniards are not as polite and this is obvious for us immediately after landing. It’s a generalisation based on my experience and, given your background, I’d be astonished if you disagreed. The rest of your comments are off-topic sorry.

    Get over it and please put those toys back on the pram.

  • Carlos

    I quote: “Rudeness/politeness surely isn’t the most important thing in this life”. Wrong, we are social animals, and the way we interact with each other, how cooperative/uncooperative, friendly/unfriendly aggressive/accepting we find our social environment can make our life heaven or hell. The thing here is that you fail to recognise that the dimension “politeness/rudeness” is a fully conventional one and that you are measuring my culture through the conventions of another which, sorry to hurt your pride, does not have the exclusive copyright in this respect. Full stop.

    No comments on the rest, for now…

  • Stan

    Carlos, isn’t it OBVIOUS we’re talking about a subjective and relative perception strongly influenced by our experience, culture and upbringing? Does that need to be mentioned? There’s no “absolute” point of view possible of course.

    If you want a non-English opinion on this, therefore much less prejudiced apparently, I suggest you ask all the “moros”, “negros” and “sudacas” living in Spain what they think about Spanish politeness, not only at street level but at the institutional level as well…

  • Carlos

    —“Carlos, isn’t it OBVIOUS we’re talking about a subjective and relative perception strongly influenced by our experience, culture and upbringing?”

    Yes Stan, it is CHRISTAL CLEAR to most people, and I am glad to see you have come round to admitting it openly too. Well done! Now to round it all up nicely, you should go one step further and recognise the limitations of your experience, culture and upbringing so that they do not act as such a strong filter to your judgement.

    —“Does that need to be mentioned?”

    Yes, Stan, it does. You must avoid sounding categorical, especially if you are judging a whole country and more so if your opinions are accessible to people from that country that may find them irritating. Unless you want to be impolite to them or intentionally provocative, that is… You may think that posting a comment on a blog is a trivial thing, but much of the welfare of nations is based on their reputation, don’t forget that.

    —“If you want a non-English opinion on this, therefore much less prejudiced apparently, I suggest you ask all the “moros”, “negros” and “sudacas” living in Spain what they think about Spanish politeness.”

    Now, that was a desperate attempt at a punch below the belt… Those terms do exist and are used by some, as Spanish society is not free from undesireable attitudes. But that applies to any other nation, if not go and ask all the “pakies”, “chinks”, “greasy Italians”, “frogs”, “dagos” and “spiks” in your country, to mention just a few of the endearing terms you use in English. For your information, thousands of children from Africa and Asia are adopted every year in Spain. As for the “institutional racism” in Spain, do not make me laugh… Individual racism from someone in a position of power, perhaps…

    To conclude, I just want to make clear that my comments are not intended against the British people as a whole, and I apologise if I have offended anyone. I just wish sometimes some of you stopped being so INSULAR at times and got off your high horse. Game over.

  • Carlos

    Correction: “CRYSTAL CLEAR”

  • F.F

    I’m Spanish and this is so accurate!

  • Jorge

    Sorry Stan but you worked so hard in making your point that you flushed your arguments down the drain in your post. I think I understand Carlos; he’s probably aware of the many flaws, lots of them regarding manners no doubt, the spaniards have, but he is indeed making a flawless defense with solid arguments of the forevermost arrogant and undermining attitude the british hold against spaniards and other non-north european nations. Answering your previous points I could state facts like the recent studies that prove through inmigrants opinion how Spain is the most welcoming western country and where inmigrants feel more adapted. Or I could mention the differences held in the last summer protests that burnt half London and didn’t cause any disruption in Spain. Do you remember the riots in France from a couple years ago with their muslim ascent -french born- citizens? So much for the northern assimilation and tolerance!

    As a spaniard I’m the first one often embarrased by the hopelessness of a large ammount of my fellow countrymen when it comes to respect the lines, being loud, waiting for turns. Being rogue-ish in many aspects its nearly intrinsic in a lot of spaniards. Corruption or nepotism are indeed to date, but it is rather demagogic or stupid to pretend this doesn’t happen in any other country that has more than 40 million people -I can see how that may not happen in Denmark-.

    I think what’s more infuriating is the tendency of british media to bring out the worst in the wardrobe when it comes to Spain and other southern european countries just because they don’t behave or rule the way they do. You’re also based on the “polite britain” standards, wich you first of all should know that does not include the majority of the british. I think I can sum it up by saying that britain is the very last and only western european country that still holds a “class system” that’s not based on wealth but old industrial era values. That is how old you are. Are you going to tell me that most of england are oxford represented and not east london working class?

    I have met people from Manchester and Leicester just to name some examples, that are the rudest, most ignorant people that I’ve ever seen in my life. Should I take them as an example of the whole england? Because it seems to me that despite you lived in spain you never really come to understand the spanish ways or its people behaviour. You tend to play the “rich neighbor role” while your GDP is not so distant from spain, yet your citizens are BY FAR the cheapest people I’ve seen. You only need to study the percentage in the spending tourist do. Britain is the cheapest country always.

    And don’t get me started with the “spanish are lazy” topic. In 2008 before the crisis spain was the 8th largest economy by GDP. That is, with only 2/3rds of the manpower in britain, coming from a status of utter poverty till the 80′s. How is that lazy for you? that is way your media need to come up with terms like “p.i.g.s.”, to hide your own decay and near recession to your own people. It has rained a lot since the 30′s my man.
    I’ll write an anecdote. My wife is Canadian, one of those anglosaxon countries that probably due lack of knowledge and distance people tend to think are some sort of paradise on earth. Just like most british I’ve met, they’re completely lazy and unable to learn a language despite living in such country for years. Just because they’re arrogant enough to count on everyone knowing their language. My wife was astonished and outraged by the fact that our prime didn’t know english, but didn’t seem to care by the fact that their prime didn’t speak french, in a country that states themselves as “bilingual”. Now as somebody that’s lived here for some time, tell me that is not true. And how considerate is, to begin with, to go to another country and expect to be treated with prefference just because of the language you speak?

    So I guess politeness in british standards have to do a lot with cinism and honesty. It’s not “how you are” or “who you are” what matters, but the image you give out there. Well cheers mate, but that’s not the way for everybody.

  • hryals

    At the end of the day, they’re still the most goddamn rude people you’ll ever meet.

  • Charrisca

    I have e read all the entries and iI was astonished to see all the misunderstandings and prejudges that can affect our public image. How big lack of patience some people have! and lack of sympathy. I’m, Spanish, from Salamanca, here we have student’s from all over the world so I use to go out with people of many different nationalities. First, I thank Carlos the defence of our Spanish honour. My English is not so good as yours or the English of anybody writting here so I apologize, I hope to make me understood. I want to add, as an example, what happened to me some time ago with some German friends. We were all together, Spanish, German, English, Polish… going out for a drink. Suddenly two Germans stopped because they wanted to eat something so they entered a bar. They do not asked everybody like ‘Would you fancy to eat something? ‘ as it would be usual in Spain, and after that, if nobody else felt hungry they should have said ‘Oh, we are too hungry, would you mind if we go into this bar for a while?, you all can go on and we will see in half an our in that pub’ And, undoubtly the Spanish people would have said ‘don’t worry, we will go into and wait for you’. But they didn’t say anythig they just stopped and went to get what they wanted. We, as is not polite (in Spanish culture) to abandon the people you go out with, kindly offered to enter with them and wait. They then, ignoring the whole group, ask for some food, and when served, as there were not free tables, started to eat leaning the food in a small shelf that were along the wall. They didn’t even asked if someone would fancy something, this is very rude in Spain always when you ask for something to the waiter you ask the people that are with you ‘Do you also want something?’After that they started to eat, with the food on the shelf, giving us their backs!!!!!!!! Yes, it was necesary doing so to put the food on the shelf, but any Spanish would have prefered to turn towards the group of people and eat slowly as participating of the group conversation although it implies to do ‘malabarismos’ to eat. We all tried, smiling, to ask them to turn and face us, but they refused, and some people was getting a little angry with this Germans that didn’t ask the rest of the people if they would like something, that didn’t mind to have a dozen people standing, just waiting for them, and even not giving them conversation,and giving them their backs!. Someone tried to soften the tense situation by catching the fried potatos that Germans have ordered and saying smily ¡take everyone, the Germans invite! inmediatly this person ordered and payed another ‘ración’ of fried potatoes and was just to comunicate the Germans that another ‘ración’ of potatoes was coming (only for them if they wanted but better in polite terms would be to share it also) and the reasons why he had ‘kindnaped’ their potaoes, when the Germans started shouting and it was imposible to calm them down. They thougth this boy had been very rude they didn’t understand that they had been very impolite and rude not offering us to take potatoes, just in the same way the Spanish have done the former day, and the day before, and actually all the time they had spent with us. The former day we had been eating together and this Germans were very pleased to share all the food Spanish ordered and payed and offered always before starting to eat. It is a question of culture in Spain it is very rude to eat as other person is just looking, it doesn’t matter if the person that is looking hasn’t ordered food himself, or has told he wasn’t hungry, you feel embarassed when eating if the other person doesn’t eat to, so you offer and offer a piece of what you’re eating or ask and ask if the other want to order something. I have to say that I have many international friends and have never ever had a similar problem before, you have to be open minded when you get in touch with foreingers because sometimes their ways of eating, sharing (or not), paying (they rarel invite although they had been often invited ), drinking, and most important, behaving afer drinking, to say some examples, can shock you. But I never think they mean to be rude or crazy, I always suppose that there is a cultural misunderstanding between us and I aways try to be pacient with this tinny things that are not representative of the whole wonderful experience of knowing people from all over the world.

  • Philippa Wint

    I haven’t got time to read all of this so sorry if this subject has been dealt with already. I’d love to hear a Spaniards take on it. I live in Fuengirola and love it love it love it. I can take the lack of please and thank you and the nutty driving and the Q jumping – in fact I find most cultural differences (I’m British) very liberating. I know that stuff can’t possibly be considered rude if ‘that’s the way it is’ and that’s the way people were brought up. I like raising my voice and the waiters in my local have started to make fun of me so I guess ‘I’m in’. The thing that drives me to destraction is when shopworkers carry on a coversation – sometimes for ages – when they should be serving me. Just as bad – they take WHILST they’re serving me. It does my head in. Is it rude – is it racist – they don’t seem to do it to each other so much. That should I do ? thank you for any sanity saving advice you can give me.

  • Philippa Wint

    P.S some very interesting stuff here..

  • SomeoneLivingInSpain

    This article is all about relativism and political correctness. Unfortunately there’s no truth in it. It’s completely false, an artificial view made so that spanish people won’t get offended.
    If you go to Spain you’ll find polite people that say thanks and everything just like you, but you’ll also find a majority that is bad mannered and plain rude. That’s just how the country is. But you shouldn’t try to justify it to accomodate your “happy” and “positive” worldview.

  • Dacil

    Podríamos ser más educados… o no. Le he dado muchas vueltas a este tema, cuando estoy de viaje en algún país nórdico, por ejemplo Inglaterra y se sube un grupo de españoles o italianos a los que puedo oír desde el otro extremo de tren… no sabes si sentir vergüenza o aceptar las diferencias como algo positivo. Después de vivir un año en Irlanda he vuelto a España y nunca se me olvida decir gracias y por favor… incluso lo exijo en los demás, lo he interiorizado. 
    Esta cuestión daría para abrir un debate interminable desde mi punto de vista.. y muy interesante.
    Me ha gustado mucho el artículo.
    Un saludo!

  • Dacil

    Hello Philippa, 
    I am Spaniard, I think it is very rude when shopworkers carry on a conversation and ignore me… I live in the Canary Islands and that particular thing usually happens in small towns… not in the city.Sometimes I make some noise (clearing my throat or drop some coins in the desk) and it usually works, I would say it’s not racist because I have been in that situation many times, it’s just rude. So to your question “What should I do?”.. do you speak Spanish?, If so… just tell them to please serve you, sometimes I say “please I am in a hurry”  and If you don’t speak Spanish try in English or leave that place… regards,Dacil.

  • Alejandra

    I’m spanish, born in the north (Galicia, the good one – unlike Cataluña, sorry to say) but have been living in the south (Malaga, Andalucia) for half of my life. So I’m quite broad about Spanish culture. This is just what I think Spanish people are really like:

    To begin with, we are NOT RUDE. No way! English people are rude, too much to themselves, too cold and rigid, and ignorant. That exact attitude (don’t want to learn spanish or about spanish culture) is exactly what offends spanish people when you enter a shop or a cafe. In Spain, unlike the many times I’ve been in England, people are very caring, nice and attentive in the shops. However in England saleswomen get very offended if you speak to them. All they do is speak between themselves, talk at the phone and answer back very rudely. I have to say this is true, this is my experience and even me speaking english fluently. In Topshop I was inside the fitting room and I asked a saleswoman politely to please find me a smaller size for a skirt and she said “if you could just use those two legs and get it over there!” – I was gobsmacked. I did not buy a single thing due to her horrible treatment to me. I know there are exceptions but I have not seen a SINGLE one up to the date. I am used to english visitors as I live in Marbella, a typical touristic region and quite expensive.

    We do speak loud, a lot and usually fast but that’s just something we always do. It’s normal. We are very passionate. What you call argue we call talk. 

    We love good food (in the south -and in general- paella, tortilla de patatas, etc. and in Galicia seafood! Centollo, percebes… the best seafood you can imagine in the world I have to say). We HATE tea. Most of us do, so no wonder we don’t make good tea.

    Strange timetables? SERIOUSLY?! In Spain you can shop anytime between 10am to 10pm! Sometimes there is a break at 1pm until 3pm but that’s only for lunch! I personally shop in the afternoons so I hate the fact that in england shops close at 5pm! Unbelievable! Even at 4pm sometimes!

    We really know how to drink. I mean, our beer is simply great, just as our wine. Wine and beer are best in the mediterranean countries – Spain and Italy. Doesn’t get much better. And beers are not small at all! Birras? They are big!

    I hate bullfighting. Just as many people do – specially young people. It’s always the old and uncivilized who keep  saying it’s a tradition. It’s a cruel blood spilling.

    We are quite good-looking and fine dressing, however that is probably because of the superficiality of this city (Marbella), it’s like our Hollywood or Los Angeles, a bubble of money and vanity. But in the rest of Spain we still are good looking and have a good taste when it comes to fashion but not everyone.

    Many of us are aggressive (I am), untidy and unpunctual. Siesta is a little nap that we take after eating. This is quite good for digesting lunch, however most people don’t take it anymore as in today’s society we are too busy to take a nap. We are quite hard working however there is the usual exception, specially the uncivilized, cani and cateto (the uneducated and street people). We are also humorous and relaxed.

  • Andrés


    i posted here 3 years ago…. god, is amazing how the debate has been going on, I came back because I was listening to some popular podcasts about economy from ” colectivo burbuja” and one of the participants happens to be the author of this article, when i heard the name in the podcast i was like, man, where did I heard this name before? and then google took me back here. Well, congratulations Mathew for that flawless spanish you speak, almost native!….

    Coming back to the topic, and after reading most of the posts -very interesting- I will have to admit that in terms of politness we still have a lot to improve in comparision with other countries, despite Carlos’s dialectic efforts and great arguments to defend our pride…. but i like to take as reference scandinavia instead of UK, where they don’t even have a specific word for “please” and, although don’t abuse so much of these courtesy words as they do in the UK, the level of politeness and respect to the others is the highest i’ve had the chance to discover, and it is a standard in it’s very homogenic population, i lived both in the UK and in Denmark and the difference is just huge, in the UK as it has already been comented here, there is a big range of peoples classes, and there is a quite considerable amount of rude rednecks that nothing has to envy to the ones we have here in spain, sometimes even worse i would say, but in the year that i’ve been living and working in kopenhagen i have never stumble upon anyone like these. It’s really sad they have such shity wheather up there, because for the rest i think is one of the best places there is to live, for this reason and so many more that are off-topic.

  • Eva

    Very interesting I must say.. I live in UK for many years now, however I am half Oriental (Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Russian..) and half Czech (mixed with German), so I have travelled quite a bit since I was a child. I have also visited Spain couple of times, once I have stayed there for two months learning Spanish in a local school and my boyfriend is Latin American mixed with Spanish. After all sorts of experience I have to say, that some Spanish women can get extremely rude! Dont get me wrong, I had a great time in Spain, made some friends and actually had no problems with people. But that I think that is because I dont get involved when someone shows bad behaviour and also I am a woman (makes it easier sometimes). Many friends from other countries (not only UK, in fact I have not had a chance to befriend a British whilst in Spain) where surprised of how Spanish really are like. They are not only loud and jump in front of you in the queue (that really does happen), that wasnt the concern at all, but even the youngsters especially women would elbow you while in the club, to push you away. They would give you bad looks and many times try to start a fight with the guys and they dont use ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ enough.

    However, al thou this is true, I must also add that I consider most of the people on the planet rude lol Look how does this sound. British are not polite people, they might seem like it at first, but they certainly are not the perfect example of a good behaviour any more. Look at their youth, it is sad. Americans the same thing… there are so many Americans, that you surely can not put them in one bag! That would be ridiculous. The same thing applies to all the nations big or small. We as humans are rude, in our own way. What one sees as a pride other sees as snobbishness etc.

  • Chloe Becky

    Hello, I’d just like to first off start by saying that I am from the UK. I have been into the Spanish culture since I was 15 and a year on nothing has changed. I personally have never been abroad to Spain in my life, as I have an anxiety attack about getting on planes. Moving on, I believe all countries are equal and should not be judged by a few rude people here and there as there are plenty of polite Spanish and English people around. Again I can understand why the Spanish maybe a little up guard about us British though, it’s understandable as most of the people from my country either go on holdiays often or even gon to live there. Sometimes I feel that the Spanish just want their country back for a while, it goes a little something like this for some people: ”Or for goodness sake, this is our country, i think it’s about time that this imigration stopped. Urgh those British!” and in the UK, I reckon quite a few would be feeling, saying or even yelling the same thing to the Polish, Czech and Slovakian people.

    Look, my point is that I personally have nothing against Spanish people at all, infact I wish I was born Spanish and was able to learn the language…but again, learning a new language is a little strange to me…as English is my first language. I’m willing to give it ago and maybe one day I’ll be able to join their country and have a great time! :) I hope to learn Spanish one day.

    Thank you for reading,

    ~ Chloe xxxx :)

  • Chabier

    North Spain =/= South Spain

  • Bob

    Weird I find this after two years!
    I was born and raised in Catalonia but have a english nationality (English parents) and I have to say that catalans can be very rude, they will only talk to people in catalan regardless if the other person understands or not. My parents understand it but can’t really speak so they speak in spanish all the time and most will automatically answer in catalan even if you specially ask them to please answer in spanish. Not just to tourists but even I (raised here therefore I’m probably more catalan than english) have even felt a little out place just because of my nationality, speacially outside the big cities, if you’re not 100% catalan you won’t really be considered as one of them.
    The problem is that most catalans are very self-centered, they feel like they have to fight constantly for their nation (which I totally respect, Catalunya has it’s own beautiful language and culture) so they always have their guard up and get very defensive. I think people over here need to travel more, being one of the poorest european countries I think most people can’t afford to go abroad so they can’t really compare themselves to other cultures.
    Having said that, there’s a lot a nice and polite people all over Spain and though they can be rude sometimes they are great fun to be around once you get to know them.

  • Maria Paz Carretero

     I completely agree with you Tonya! Although I am from Spain I feel very often ashamed for being Spanish. I was brought up here but since I was a child I felt that something was wrong with our ways – I do not want to call it ¨culture¨ because it is not Spanish culture, this way of talking and relating to each other.

    I have lived in Japan for ten years and in the UK for another eight. I remember when I first came back and I started taking Japanese groups around Spain, there were so many times I felt shame of the way waiters, managers treated the kind and courteous Japanese people. I also stopped doing that job.

    There ara so many things I would like to share with you, but unfortunately I have to go now…

  • Jchmpa

    I am an Spaniard and have the following comments. Why British or American people do not stay “Good morning” or “Hellow” when entering an elevator with other people as we ussualy do. Why do they also extract pieces of food from their mouth when eating so often? Why they are not ashamed of burping ? . In Spanish when you ask for something you normally say ” Me pone una cerveza”? or ” Quería cuarto de tomates? The first is a question and the second is a conditional tense. True that you may use the imperative “Póngame una cerveza” but this does not mean you are humilating the waiter. You would need to consider the tone, the facial expression and circumstances to know if he is being unpolite. You can say May I have a beer please? using a very unpolite way. Politness is not a question of words only and we should realise that things that can be polite in a country can be unpolite in others. This is call cultural differences. Lets have respect for others people and cultures, thats what I do when enter a pub after 6 oclock in England, I dont think people shouting its unpolite, its just part of their culture. Same as having loads of hooligans boasting of being vandals famous in the world, a British tradition, to be respect.

  • bob

    im spanish and this list is hilarious because its true. we do touch you when we talk to you. just like cubans and some indians. its because we’re closer and arent afraid of intimacy. we’re not like toast like those english

  • Serge

    Talk about generalizations! Your coment implies that food isn’t good in southern Spain, yet some of the freshest and finest food comes from there or is right there. I do agree though about the economy, for is more stable up north, ( yet still well below European standards) and fyi weather in northetn Spain is lovely all around(unlike uk) saved from winter which can be quite cold,still not as much as the inner mountainous Spain. Pardon my English. A well informed Spaniard who doesnt like cliches and generalizations.

  • Shannon Erin

    I am an American girl of British decent. I always have found the Spanish to be quite rude, also very loud and disrespectful with little regard to anyone else around them. This is something I’m not imagining, I see it on a daily basis with my own eyes. They come over to my Country to suck off it’s government. A lot of them don’t even have the decency to learn our national language (ENGLISH) and are extremely Loud, obnoxious, pushy, and cheap !! They expect to pay for little to nothing !! There is also a lack of common sense among them. There could be a price tag on a shelf, right in front of their Bean stuffing faces and they will STILL ask you how much something is. Same thing with reading directions LOL LAZY. They will ask you a question than before you even have a chance to answer they will cut you off mid sentence, because keeping their fat BOCA shut for 1 minute is literally impossible for these filthy people. I have also failed to mention (IMPOSING), VERY imposing people. For example most American people hate their guts yet they persist to infest just about every part of our country. Sort of a false sense on entitlement. They do not mind their children, but let them run rampant through stores (knocking shit over) screaming on the top of their lungs. Yet Mom will ignore it and do nothing, as if her screaming little bean sack is everyone else’s problem. They are a (BURDEN) on the American people and the British alike. Not to mention the way they carry them selves. Usually wearing clothing that is 5 times to small for them. With their fat gut hanging out over their jeans. (Mainly the women) Always bright loud colors ans super slutty. Shot, dark, hairy ugly features and usually with shit hair (from over processing) so much. All and all a VERY undesirable lot. They do it to them selves with their shit behavior. So no I don’t feel bad about expressing my extreme distaste for them. After all, they are in (MY) Country not the other way around. Don’t like it, then get out. PLEASE get out lol

  • McAndrew

    er… he is talking about SPAIN, a country in Europe… er, Socialist land for you… bah, forget it.

  • McAndrew

    This. Intonation is everything in Spanish, something foraigners do not grasp at all.

  • Ximo

    Welp, we in Spain think that Anglo-saxons are hypocrites, false and untrustworthy…. and that’s without being drunk! Drunk anglo-saxons revolve to their uncivilized, brawling liking nature.

  • Juan Rodriguez Salazar

    stuff, I am from Spain and I have lived 4 years in Anglo-Saxon countries and
    studied more than half of my like in Anglo-Saxon institutions. I can definitely
    say that the closeness issue was a problem for me and made me rather
    uncomfortable some times. When I got to the US for my junior year of
    high-school I got a slap from a girl that thought I was coming on to her. I
    leaned to give her the traditional Spanish salute of two kisses and got a slap
    before kissing her cheek. In retrospect it is hilarious but at the time it was
    uncomfortable and perceived as narrow-minded by me. I craved human contact
    during my first 4 months there, had an awesome time, though. Now I am great
    friends with that girl and I kiss her 2 times every time I see her.

  • fer

    Spaniard are rude is true i admit, however spaniard are thiefs is a racist affirmation.

  • Marisol Espinoza

    Oh wow a true american trait: ignorance…first of all the thread is on Spanish people from Spain ( Spaniards ) not Latin Americans — that for some ignorant reason north Americans call Spanish people — Spain is in Europe and Latin America is in the west in the Americas. Secondly , I guess you have to suck it up in the USA with the whole Hispanic ” invasion ” … At the end of the day the Spanish people populated the west before the British moreover over 40% of the land in the USA was actually part of Mexico, I’m sure you wouldn’t know this considering that you didn’t even know the difference between the real definition of a spanish person and an average Mexican perhaps ? Do some research in your history. And sorry to bring it down sweetie but Americans are not polite at all. You people think that by adding please and thank you to every sentence you show some sort of educational or politeness level meanwhile you have a history and a current liberal culture that has lost all it’s morals, religious principles and values and a worldwide disgusting reputation that follows you everywhere. So maybe continue eating your supersize big macs and keep feeding your kids Kraft dinner and STFU.

  • Marisol Espinoza

    Spaniards along with Latin Amricans as a whole are all equally rude and prejudiced meanwhile they hold so much religious respect and values for what ? If at the end of the day they judge and hate among themselves . All these countries are pretty much doing rough in the economy sense but something that I did notice between Spaniards and Latin Americans is that in Spain they’re disgustingly and openly racist whereas Latin Americans co-exist better among other races .

  • José Alberto Rubio Iborra

    Genocide? You must be talking about north american indian population, those that still nowadays live in reserves and were alcoholized by the colonials. Man, you need to get so much straight… unbiased history books will help.

  • José Alberto Rubio Iborra

    Aha! A fine example of highly educated United States citizen… have you ever looked up a map? It’s fascinanting, it shows you were countries are! Try it out.

  • Sam

    Lo que hay que leer hamijos…. y este ha estado viviendo aquí… pff..

    Yo estuve también en Inglaterra, y tan equivocado está en lo que dice de nosotros como en los elogios a su tierra… Anda y tira a cruzar el canal a nado…

  • Frontispicio

    Con todos mis respetos, los continuos “thank you” y “please” de los anglosajones dista mucho de la amabilidad real. Son puras fórmulas del idioma, nada más.

  • Xanti

    There’s impolite people everywhere. To be polite in Spain it depends on more the gesture than to ask with a conditional sentence. It’s a clash of cultures, for spanish people, or italian people, the anglosaxons use to be cynical. Why? Well if you go to Salou on summer you will see that there’s no british polite people there… But that it’s untrue too, it’s no good to generalised (but of course, drunk british people on Salou are far fromm polite). Try walking in my shoes, if you want to understand my culture, as I must try walking in your shoes to understand the anglosaxon culture.

    I’m so agree with your text Matthew, it seems that you have understood the spanish behaviour-

    And of course for those north american people who hate history and geography—— SPAIN=European Country—-Latin America=Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia… (former spanish colonies, as the west north american coast was a british colony)——–

  • Pedrosa

    Everywhere baked beans..
    De todo hay en la viña del señor…

  • Martine

    I don’t think Spanish people are rude.

    I’ve been to Spain about 10 times on holiday (Barcelona, Costa Brava, Malaga area, Sevilla). And each time people were very friendly and helpful to me both in touristy places as where the locals stay. In general I think it helps when you understand something of the country/culture that you are visiting and try to fit in. And it also helps if you try to be friendly, I only speak “holiday-Spanish” but it does a lot when you use words like Signor, por favor, gracias and smile with it (that actually also works in France – who also have the name of being rude but in my view are also very friendly – and all other countries).

    Have I been pushed away while waiting in line in Spain, YES. But that also happened to me in almost all other European countries that I visited. Does it happen to me in the Netherlands, YES, And I also find it rude here. Are some tourist groups rude, YES. And I am ashamed of them when I see them misbehaving in other countries. It does not matter from which country they are (English, German, Dutch, etc.) to me it shows disrespect when you are in someone elses country and make a mess of it. But should we measure a whole population by the actions of a few, I don’t think so.

    If you feel you cannot fit in the local culture at least at a superficial level: don’t visit the country or site. For example when visiting a muslim site you might be asked to where a scarf, fine if that is the local custom. In some countries it is custom to speak quietly and don’t draw attention to yourselve. I think based on my experience and the above, we all agree that a big part of the Spanish population is loud. You can’t miss them when they are amongst themselves while abroad. But I also think that if a situation calls for it they will be quieter and that for me is a sign they are not rude.

    I think Spanish people might have another way of communicating with each other but you cannot measure that by another countries standards. Probably they are not more or less rude than people in other countries. They just act different but it is not on outsiders to put a value on that. Rude for me is knowingly say foul words and be unhelpfull and that happens everywhere.

    If you ask different groups of people in a country to name examples of rude behaviour, I think even within a country the answers will differ and the degree of perceived rudeness will differ. When also different cultures are the case then that makes the situation even more complex. At the bottom line I think a lot is in the perception of the receiver of the “message”.

    Finally I feel that sometimes people perceive something as rude that totally is not meant that way. For example outside big cities the pace of live is slower. You see it in shops where the attendant takes a lot of time to talk to customers, For me being from the city that is weird (I might even find it rude that they do not do their best to help me quickly), because time is money and I want to hurry. But they do not mean to be rude to me, they are just slower/taking their time. When you adjust to that the service is fine.

  • Pedro Gonzalez

    I do feel that most of the people of Spain have a way of conducting themselves which can often be seen as offensive and rude. Mt grandparents are from Spain however I am American and speak spanish perfectly. I have visted Spain on numerous occasions and it is always the same. After a few weeks it truly becomes unbearable and you simply want to leave. Additionally. I think that they have a very National persapctive that may come from limited travel and or exposure to different cultures in a real way. ( ie traveling abroad with groups of Spansh people does not expose you to the “real foreign country”) . It is a shame because Spain is a beautiful country,,,,,,,buttttttttttt the constant attitude that may stem from constant exposure to rudeness may never fix this. If you go to Spain be preparred to have a NEW YORK ATTITUDE from the moment you get off the plain.

  • Ted

    I’ll take the so-called “uncouth” ways of the Spanish and Italian ways of communication over the cold, distant and entitled anglo anyday of the week. I’ve been to Barcelona, Rome and other smaller cities in betwen. For the vast majority of the time, we were treated warmly and well. Why? Not because we were tourists from the US, but we went and treated people like HUMAN beings with respect. Act like an arrogant ass, you will be treated as such, no matter where you go or who you cross paths with.

  • Verónica

    Hi guys,

    It is wrong to have preconceptions about countries and people, everything can be said about a single individual but to extend such definitions to a whole group or country is just plain wrong.
    I am Spanish and have recently moved back to Andalusia (I’m from Málaga) after a 10 years stance in the UK, where I originally went to have a 3 months work experience.

    Recently, after shopping for rolling tobacco in a ‘estanco’ (that is, a specialized tobacconist outlet) and while at the door I was approached by a woman probably on her 50s who seemed to have had trouble communicating with the cashier, as she abruptly asked me if i spoke English (though starting her sentence with the usual ‘Excuse me’). I have ginger hair -unlike most of the Spanish population- and i suppose my wardrobe style is quite different than that of my peers after years of shopping for clothes in London outlets and being more influenced by British Fashion trends, so i was not surprised that this lady approached me, plus i enjoy the chance of speaking English every time i can, so i courteously smiled at her from behind my sun glasses and said ‘I do!’. Basically, what she wanted was shopping advice, so I informed her that I had just moved to Spain after 10 years in London. I told her that I was myself looking for a good local brand able to replace my acquired taste for Cutter’s Choice and show her what I had bought. When she asked me how much it was I even walked her back inside the shop to show her where she could find the brand I had picked -as i had also bought a different one for my mum and was not sure of either price- and took the time to show her some of the brands I had tried and what I thought of them, but when it was clear that i did not have much experience with currently available cigarette brands in Spain, or knew where could she find the brand she was looking for, she just turned her back and walked away with the same demeanor as she had approached me. No thank you, no good bye…
    My guess is that she was from Norway based on her accent, but she could have been from anywhere really, even British. Now, it would be wrong for me to say that every 50 years old person is rude as much as to say that every Norwegian or British people is rude, or that every white woman is rude as much as to say that every Spanish cashier can’t speak English, for that matter. I can say that that particular person was rude in that particular moment, according to my own perception.

    When I arrived to London I did not speak much English, and found lots of people who was very rude to me based on this fact alone. It did not -and does not- made me think that all English people, or more accurately, every Londoner is rude. Fortunately I’ve found a bit of everything. I do agree that the English language is more courteous when it comes to things like ordering in a bar, but that is how the language has evolved, it does not make the person of either language more or less friendly/rude, as it does not make me more or less friendly whether i talk in English or Spanish. Spanish has, for instance, a polite verbal person (vos/usted/ustedes) that English does not, and just this does not make Spanish a more polite language than English. English uses the corresponding Sir/Ma’am when implying this politeness in everyday speech, without the need for a separate verbal person.

    Once in London, I asked someone for directions when my English was very limited and she laughed at my face and walked away when it was clear that she would have to make a little effort for us to communicate… On my own experience, ask a Spaniard for directions in any language… they will strive their best to give you directions and make communication possible, by gestures, by using any limited English they can speak, stopping a passerby to ask the same question should they themselves not know a particular place, etc, and, on my own experience, they will never laugh if they see that you do not speak Spanish. However, when traveling in Barcelona, I approached a group of people of my own age and asked them for directions in Spanish, starting by saying ‘Sorry guys but I am not from here and do not speak Catalan, if you could please…’. The person I had addressed turned to someone else in his group -who was sitting on a scooter right besides us, and had heard my question- and told him in Catalan exactly what I had asked him in Spanish: ‘They are not from here and are looking for so and so place’ (which I understood even though i can’t speak Catalan), and in turn this person looked at me and told me quite sarcastically and in Spanish ‘Well, I am not from here either’. I was offended, and told them that if they came to ‘my land’ (‘mi tierra’, as someone’s region is colloquially referred to in Spanish) and asked someone for directions people would be happy to help them. At the end of the day, i was a tourist visiting and spending my money in their city! On the other hand, i’ve met great people from Catalonia who are Catalan speakers (with a Catalan accent) and we’ve gotten along just fine.

    Once I met an Ecuadorian while i was at work and when I told him that I was Spanish he started treating me with a rubbish attitude. Now, it would be wrong for me to say that every Ecuadorian hates and is rude to Spaniards as much as saying that every Ecuadorian is chauvinist. You need to treat people behaviors in individual basis, and not hold a country responsible for them. That’s how stereotypes are born. For instance, I’m sure that not every Irish person reading this post is drank right now -but if you are, that’s ok!-, and neither every Scottish is doing so from the Highlands… When I was last in Correos (that is, the Spanish post office) i was asked for help by a Southamerican man wanting to send an item back to his country, who did not really know how to fill in a form. If I was to have treated this man according as how I was treated by that Ecuadorian in London I would have made someone else pay for someone else’s intolerance. Besides, I’ve met lovely Southamerican people from several nations both in Spain and London. So I helped this man as good as i could -not being a Correos employee myself!- and wished him good luck before i left.

    I agree with another poster, in Spanish is often the tone what gives that extra meaning to a sentence, as when asking a question. Generally, the same grammatical structure exists for when asking or asserting something, as in ‘Vamos al parque esta tarde’ (Let’s go to the park this afternoon) and ‘Vamos al parque esta tarde?’ (Are we going to the park this afternoon?). Note the exact same structure in Spanish, where the tone of the speaker gives the sentence the proper meaning. For instance, me wishing good luck to the Southamerican man could have been interpreted as if I was being sarcastic by an untrained ear. I remember that on one occasion I felt quite offended when a work colleague told a Spanish guy in front of me ‘Good man!’ as the way this sounded to me at that time was quite rude. Specially for the tone used, which i identified as being the same as the way you would talk to a kid or how you would patronize someone… even the way you would talk to a dog! Afterwards, I was reassured by someone else that what was said could never be rude, regardless of the tone it was said with (note that irony is not explicitly related to tone)!

    Much misunderstanding is generated due to cultural differences. When I first came to Spain on holidays after 2 years straight on the UK, my family found hilarious the fact that my speech volume had gone down noticeably, to the point that they had to constantly ask me to speak up! So i see how we may appear as being loud to some foreigners such the British, as we, in fact, speak louder as a nation… though that does not mean that we shout on your face! Also, i’m not very happy myself about how the Spanish queue system works, as you have the constant sensation that people is trying to jump the queue all the time or that people is allowed to jump in front of you, but what can we do? It’s just the way it is, so when people decides to travel or live abroad there are concessions they should be ready to make as to integrate into that culture at least for the time being. So my advice is: do not pay any attention to stereotypes -else you risk starting up from a negative mind set when interacting with someone who belongs to a different nationality/culture, and bear on mind that if you happen to be on your own country, this people may be trying to get used to your own culture, and their actions/behavior might be rude on your eyes but not intended on their part. Base your opinions on your own experiences, give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t let a negative experience miss judge the rest of the people belonging to that particular group. After all, we are all humans. I’m sure I’ve also being seen as rude by other people as well as friendly, but at the end of the day I’m just a person as everybody else, and we are allowed to have little draw backs… specially on that time of the month ;)!


  • Verónica

    I wonder how many times have you visited Spain and how many countries have you visited in Latin America.
    Btw, I’m a Spaniard and an atheist. Moreover, 46% of young people in Spain considers themselves as atheists and even the current Spanish constitution, approved in 1978 (as old as myself :) estates that there is no official religion in the Spanish state. My guess is that you speak from deep ignorance and based on stereotypes, which could probably contribute to a bad attitude when meeting a Spaniard, which in turn will, of course, affect the nature of the conversation. But then, once again, that’s just my opinion.

  • Verónica

    5-yo people should really not be allowed to use the internet…

  • Verónica

    plus… it sounds as if you hate your job more than you hate Latin Americans… maybe a career change would be a good move (may i suggest motivational speaker?).

    Kisses from Spain

  • Verónica

    that made me lol :))))))

  • Verónica

    Mainly your opinion, but thank you for such a contributing insight.

    I got conned out of £50 by an English man in London, been attacked in Málaga province by gypsies for my Ray-ban glasses, been mugged and beaten up in the Walthamstow area of London by a group of black youth in an attack that was worthed £5 cash, a Nokia phone and my Starbucks uniform to them and for which i spent a night in hospital, been bullied by a 10-yo Spanish brat for having freakles in my face, been given some abuse in Amsterdam by a Dutch dude because my snooker match was taking -according to him- too long -and i’m sorry, i’m not that good at snooker-, been robbed of (yet another) mobile phone when i past out in the Barcelona metro and missed my stop, the night before flying back to London, almost been beaten up by a fellow hostel stayer from Poland in Clapham North, London, for standing for my principles, and almost raped by a Slovakian guy in the Slovak Republic, among others. So you could say that trouble follows me, and I say that after all of these experiences i do not hold any hate towards any of the countries involved or would stereotype their populations based on these experiences, but i rather chose to see these particular individuals as an unfortunate representation of their respective countries or ethnic backgrounds and my heart goes to their peers who are honest citizens and human beings and who will eventually have to collect the xenophobia and prejudice planted by the actions of just a few.

    So, from my own experience, no nationality or ethnicity is less or more trustworthy than any other. You just need to be careful who you trust base on individual traits, and you always take the risk of miss judging people, both for good and bad.


    I am Spanish and for my age I do not speak well the English (I learned it already late) therefore I want to ask for excuses for my English. I believe that all the persons are from the country that they are they see very influenced their behavior for the received education, (i would say that almost 80 %) and the rest (20%) for the culture of the environment . And i think that fact explains the difference between the different nationalities.

  • bethany cook

    bollocks have lived here for years am fluent , this is simply not true , no matter how you adress people , the british are put down frequently , looking forward to re locating to home pastures ,

  • ncg1

    Im spanish and all that you’re saying is really insulting because there are people that havent studied that are rud like in every countrie and of because of that is nor allright to say that every one is rude or that we speak loud english speak to low
    I dont speak to people that rudly and normally 15 year old dont smoke grannoes dont do that
    If a spanish does you dont have to judge “spanish people”
    soy andalucia OLEEE

  • S

    Hello everyone,

    I am a spanish girl, and sorry in advance if I do some mistakes writing.

    I piss myself laughing when I read those kind of things about my country.
    What means for you to be “rude”? As Matthew wrote, “rude” people can be everywhere in earth. Everyone in his/her whole life no matter from which country are, has been rude (not polite).

    So, one thing very different for me, from my spanish-native-point of view is to be loud (people who seems to shout) and be rude (not polite). There is a difference that foreign people don’t apreciate or try to.

    I have travelled not all around the world, but some countries in Europe, China, some southamerica’s. And in all those countries I found some behaviours that where weird for me. In China, people also normally speaks loudly (okay, that I understand quite fast, as spanish people… you know, are noisy too), in many northern european countries (German, even England, Denmark….) I found people very shy and withouth the funny humour of mediterranean ones, well familiarity. Maybe it is a reaction because we, spanish, are normally very close or familiar with people, not matter where they are from. But you know, at first I thought it was my fault, that they didn’t want me to be their friends. I was mistaken, they were only a little scared about my fast familiarity. However, they finally get along with very well. Then I understand that they have different ways of relate to.
    As two spanish people who know each other for the first time, in 10 minutes they can know everything about the life of the other….for other countries that is somekind of rudeness.

    You know, normally this “rudeness” of the spanish people, it is not rudeness as impoliteness.
    When you, a foreigner, you are in a spanish bar, you may think we are all crazy and rude, shouting, saying only “two beers please” without saying “hello, could you please put me two beers? Thank you, god bless you”
    Have you ever think that sometimes that this is not to be rude in Spain? That maybe that familiarity is also accepted by the wait/waitress? And maybe the real rudeness (impoliteness) is getting in the way you say “two beers please”.

    Time is short, say only that our “rudeness” is defined by the foreigner’s perception of their point of view depending of their common social-cultural behaviour.

    Finally: rude and impolite people are everywhere, I found them in China, Brasil, France, England, Denmark, Poland, Curaçao, etc, etc and even Spain! O god, when we want to be impolite in Spain we could be very very rude, pay attention!
    However, we are a very familiar country, without generalisation not every spanish is familiar many of them are very cold, but as I have seen in friends, family, people… we want you foreigner to come to our country and enjoy it, and we are glad to help people. We are eager, we love to be cheered up, and show it to others. That is why sometimes we could shout, loud, but it is not rudeness!

    PS: I am going to be rude now… (as a sample) I could be really rude if many people, normally young european from the north, came to our country to get drunk and high. They even know where they are (at least, in which part of Spain), cause damages, treat spanish people as shit or servants…
    When I’ve found people like that I am rude, I could not want those people in my wonderful country. But, I think that not one want it.

    PS2: Verónica has writes a good example.


  • lol

    Not really.

    Im from Mexico and all these racial harmony is a charade. White people still dominate, mixed people are middle class and indians are at the very bottom.

    Nothing has changed since the old days of Cortés.

  • truth sayer

    The fact that we are even talking about it means there is a problem. Spanish people are rude and as for the usa being polite, well I got robbed at gun point my first day there. I have lived in Spain for years and am well acquainted with how people try to occupy the space you are already using. Saying they´re tactile is absurd. They walk on your toes and if they don´t like you they will tell you. I am skinny but was actually called fatty in a shop because the sales assistant was having a bad day. I was taken aback by what she said and asked her to repeat, which she did. Needless to say, I didn´t buy the shirt. Lots of Spanish people themselves will tell you how rude Spaniards are if they are honest. Bus drivers won´t stop for you if they are pissed off and on many occasions won´t even tell you where the bus is going, because everyone behaves as if they have a grudge and demand to be superior to others. They also have a class system and a royal family of clowns who think they are gods. The fact that they are treated so, absolves them of their stupidity when they believe it. They have a great climate in Spain and they fucked it up by being assholes to everyone else. You can´t leave your house without ID (in my country we don´t even have one) And if you look foreign, people will stare at you and have no idea when the stare-saturation point is reached unless you actually tell them. Spanish people even hate each other and now that there is a recession they hate each other even more. I rescued a blind lady recently who was not only standing still as she had no idea where she was, but people were actually bumping into her and trampling on her white stick. The only reason Spain is better than the usa to live is because they aren´t stupid enough to allow guns. In my country we don´t call rudeness tactile. If someone bumps into you from the side and cuts your cheek with their sunglasses, they think it´s tactile. Stop trying to excuse this awful street-hostility by calling it different names. A spade is a spade. The fact that you are even writing about it means there is an issue. And they´re not happy, they´re loud to the point that the council will happily mow the grass they have decided to grow along tram tracks at three o´clock in the morning regardless of whether people have to get up at six or not. The word tranquillity is meaningless to the Spanish. I could go on and on. My partner is from here and we have both agreed that if I wasn´t the only one who spoke English, we probably wouldn´t be here now. stop making excuses for bad manners.

  • truth sayer

    You don´t even know what anglo-saxons are. People call me anglo saxon all the time because 99% of continental Europeans have absolutely no idea what Ireland is. thy think it is part of the uk, British, friendly Anglo-Saxon country, but it isn´t. It´s independent, not Anglo-Saxon and not remotely related to the uk in a cultural sense. the only thing we share is the language which is called English. Please stop using the term Anglo-Saxon to describe us. we are celtic irish and anglo-saxons are our neighbours. Muchas gracias españa por negar nuestra cultura irlandesa. mi abuelo murió por la independencia de irlanda, no nos insulteis llamandonos britanicos o anglo sajones. no odiamos a los britanicos tampoco. pero hay que reconocer que eramos una colonia britanica como españa era una colonia de los moros. The correct term for a country that speaks English is ´English-speaking´ not Anglo-Saxon. and the language is called English. In Ireland we also have our own official language which is not connected to English or England. it´s called irish.

  • truth sayer

    stop generalising, jilipollas

  • truth sayer

    Nothing is worth taking THAT seriously.

  • Armando Paredes.

    Alright… I must say that almost everything i’ve read in the comments below is… completely true. I’m spanish, and i admit it: we’re loud, we’re unpolite, we can be very “aggresive” people without even a good reason, we sincerely distrust everyone who’s not spanish, and specially, we hate each other. That’s the spanish way. We’re continuoisly looking for a new reason to hate our neighbor, our boss, or whoever messes with us, because of football or politics, or shit like that, and you know what? I’m sorry. I apologize for all the “spaniards” who’ve ever been rude or insulted or shouted at a “non-spaniard” without a “real” reason, but we can’t do anything about it. That’s the way we are, and i know it must be a little disappointing to read all this stuff coming from a native, but we’re happy with the way we live our lives (… sort of).
    So, if you, whoever you are, are thinking about coming to this beautiful (sort of) country, take this as a friendly advice. Don’t complain, don’t think we have some kind of problem with you, that is personal or something, or believe that we’re just pissed off all the fucking time. We are hot-blooded fuckers, but we can also be nice and kind to people we appreciate (spanish way), and we care about our friends and families as we do with our own lives. And remember: every single “spaniard” will complain about spanish people and about Spain itself all the fucking time, but… it’s like when you kick your brother’s ass every day and its fun until someone else does it too: maybe our country sucks, but it is OUR country, and only we can spit on its name x).
    En fin, gente, buenas noches y a mis paisanos, no os piquéis con los yankees y esta gente, que tienen razón en el fondo; somos un poco capullos y no hacemos más que gritar, emborracharnos y despotricar; pero el que quiera apreciarnos, verá el encanto en y debajo de todo eso, y el que no, pues que le den mucho por el culo xD Un saludo!

    [Sorry if i mispelled something, i'm not really a pro in english, i'm i little bit drunk right now (our national sport, by the way)]