12 things that surprise me in Spain by Monika

You can think that cultural differences is only a myth, which you can't notice in everyday life. Well, no. Living in Spain, some things don't stop surprising me, sometimes make me laugh, and what I like the most – I can discover new ones every day. So I created a list of things that caught my attention in some way.

1)Tio/ Tia

Language differences are something that I love to discover the most. You can quickly see certain phrases which Spaniards like to use. They call to each other „tio / tia” (depends of gender), which simply means „uncle / aunt”. Young people use it, middle-aged, kids - I think I didn't notice that only with old people.

2)Guapo / Guapa

It's another very common phrase, meaning „handsome, pretty”. You can hear it veeery often, from friends who want to say hi (hola guapa), from a shop-assistant, even with confirming the appointment with an orthodontist, when I got an official sms with a reminder and a request to confirm the visit, I confirmed and I got a reply „see you guapa!”.

However, it is also a term that you can use in a flirt situation, it will not be just a polite phrase, but a compliment.


As you know, it's part of the language culture, in Spain very big part. Swearing here is not beeing seen so bad like for example in Poland, my country (when you can do it with your friends, but when you do it in public places, people could think that you are a hooligan from stadiums or just a person with very low education). In Spain specified expressions are used in colloquial language, in conversation with the boss, on television. I just started to watch a TV show from here, „El Internado” (I've seen it before but with Polish lector and now I'm watching in original version), about Spanish teenagers from good houses. They curse a lot, but not only kids, everybody.

Several expressions used every day:

mierda – shit,

la puta madre – la puta is bitch and madre is mother. Important – you can use it if something is bad, but also good, when you are impressed. *(tu puta madre => insulting, de puta madre! = awesome!)

agarrar una mierda que te cagas – this is my top 1, using mostly by teenagers. It means „to be very drunk”, but literally is much more interesting, something like „grab shit during shitting”. *(grab a shit that you shit)

joder – it's the closest to „fuck”, used very often.

hostia / mala hostia – it's a hostia from church, but this word is also used as a curse.

There are many, many more, and in different parts of Spain you can hear different words.

4) Jesús

Spain is a very catholic country and if someone sneezes, people say „Jesús!”.

5) Translating everything

The Spaniards don't accept English words in their language. So we have:

selfie stick – el palo selfie

fast food – la comida rapida

hot-dog – el perrito caliente
puzzle – el rompecabezas (which you can translate like breaking heads)

bungee – puenting (el puente means bridge)

I add something to this list all the time and I can't stop being amazed.


On television and in the cinema, everything is with dubbing. On the beginning these fake, Spanish voices made me crazy, but I've already got used to it. Some of Spanish also don't like it, but most of them can't imagine different way and protect dubbing. For sure everyone are surprised about our Polish lector and the fact that two voices can be heard simultaneously.

7)More problems with English

As we already know, Spaniards are not experts in English. There are no words in Spanish that start with „s” and the second letter is consonant, then everything has a vowel „e” on the beginning (like España or la estructura). So if they suddenly have to face English, they can't pronounce such words and they add „e”. So we have: eschool, espanish, espain…

8)Heating, vacuum cleaners

Lack. In the winter, especially at night, I just freeze. You can warm the house with a heater, but electricity is very expensive. Houses are completely unprepared for the winter, which, fortunately, doesn't last long in the south. If I complain they tell me that I'm from Poland so I shouldn't complain (but in Polish house I can be in a short-sleeved T-shirt not in 5 sweaters!).

Vacuum cleaners are rare, probably because hardly anyone has a carpet (in Poland everyone has both). But everyone in Spain knows that they invented the mop and they're very proud of it. And this longitudinal mop is something other than an ordinary mop (which has a different name, la fregona). They look at me like I'm a big ignorant if I make mistake in this case.


On the streets is not very clean. Also not in the bars, people tend to throw olive seeds and garbage under themselves. I guess because of that, special garbage trucks run every night, washing streets, shining lights and making noise (I have a window facing the street). Strangely, most of the people clean up after the dogs, much more than in Poland.

10)Driving skills and parking
They drive fast and accidents are frequent. On the one hand, in smaller towns, if someone blocks your way, because he's just chatting with a passing friend, it is completely natural and you should wait. On the other hand, living in Murcia, I'm thankful if I start to drive on the lights 3 second later and no one will use the horn. In the morning in places where is a lot of traffic, they put next to working traffic lights additionally a policeman, to guide this traffic, otherwise they probably would kill each other. And about parking, I don't know how it happen, but in every city where I've been so far, find a parking place is almost like a miracle. That's why everyone parks where they can and they turn on emergency lights. I have to admit that sometimes I do it also, once even to go eat kebab.

11)Love for lotteries and fireworks

Just before Christmas, in Spain is big Christmas lottery for which almost everyone buys a tickets. You can buy for example 1/4, 1/8 of ticket, so people in companies buy these pieces (my friend bought it because he thought „what if everybody in the company wins, except me?”). This lottery is also known for very touching and pretty advertisements (2016, 2015), and last year they created almost a short movie.

You can buy a ticket for lotteries during the whole year, and sales points or people selling them are on the streets in a lot of places.

Fireworks are used for each occasion and each fiesta. In the towns of Sierra Nevada (where I've been before Murcia), it works like "who is better", every town tries to fire its fireworks and have more of them, better and louder than their neighbours. In Poland campaigns „I don't shoot on New Year's Eve” are more and more popular. Here I didn't find it, because they shoot much more often than on New Year's Eve.

2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HsZh4Fkb4A&feature=youtu.be
2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2QHRuHsMHg&feature=youtu.be
2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ugHsMQ_UE&feature=youtu.be

12)Christmas and the Epiphany

Of course there is a lot of tradition about that, so I will focus only on a few. Gifts are more often given on the Epiphany and it's the Three Kings that people dress, not for Santa, like in Poland. Like in Spain, the fiestas are celebrated very pompously and with fireworks. So there is a huge parade, throwing candies. In Poland for the naughty kids we have a rod, and here sweets which look like a pieces of carbon. It's also a tradition to eat ring-shaped cake, called Roscón de Reyes, which can be stuffed with white or chocolate cream. Inside of the cake there is a hidden figurine and bean seed. Who during the eating finds a figurine, he's lucky enough to be a fiesta king and to wear a paper crown (attached to the cake) and bean means that he has to pay for the cake.

All Spanish holidays are very family time, even New Year's Eve – spend on a family feast until midnight, after which young people go out to clubs with friends.

Spaniards rather than dressing the Christmas tree, are attached to the Christmas crib. There are special stores with elements for the construction of cribs, which are much more extensive here, show the daily life of Bethlehem. But the most interesting element, and the most oriental for me, is El Caganer, a figure of a Catalan who squatted in need. It shows the ordinary life which also was during the moment of the birth of Jesus. It is a popular thing mainly in Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia. It developed so much that they're figurines of famous people, so we have pooping Madonna, Obama, Pope, Spiderman etc...

I don't know what's wrong with Catalonia, but they have another weird Christmas tradition. It's a piece of wood, Caga Tió, which is covered with a blanket on Christmas Eve, and kids hit it with sticks, singing a song, for Caga Tió „defecate” the sweets hidden under the blanket. The song is also about making a poop and defecate sweets.

If you have this super power and you understand Polish, you can read my blog: www.farbowane-rzesy.pl

If not, you can find me on Instagram, with a lot of pics of Spain and more: https://www.instagram.com/farbowane_rzesy/

This is a publication expressing a personal opinion.


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