Are you going to Spain on holidays? Lucky you! Perhaps you have read a lot about Spain before making your final decision, and probably you read even more after, just to make you sure that you don´t miss anything. However, there are some details that are rarely mentioned, and sometimes some information published by the most reliable and serious papers and magazines is just wrong. Some of those small details that can just ruin your holidays on your first day, or that kind of thing that may cause you a great embarrassment.
Protect yourself from the sun.
Summer is the hardest season in Spain. The temperatures can reach up to 50C in some cities like Sevilla or Córdoba, and are usually above 35C. This, along with the absence of rain, might be great for a relaxing holiday by the sea, but they are not so good for your health. From sunburns and dehydration to heat strokes or even death, Spanish heat is something that must be seriously taken.
Every year, the media in Spain gives the same advice about protecting yourself from the sun and the heat. Even with all that information, it´s not rare that grave sunburns ruin your holidays from the very first day. So, before running to the closest beach or swimming pool, please take this advice:
- Always use sunscreen. Factor 20 is the maximum sunscreen that you can find, and after that, higher factors just mean that the sunscreen lasts longer. During your first two or three weeks, you should wear at least factor 20 sunscreen, but ideally, you will be wearing factor +50. Also, check the indications on the bottle: they will tell you how long does it take to start acting, how often you need to use the sunscreen to stay protected, or if it is waterproof.
- Stay under your umbrella. Sunscreen is not enough. Even if you are wearing sunscreen, you should stay under your umbrella if possible.
- Don´t sunbath during the most dangerous times of the day: from 12:00 to 16:00. If you can stay indoors until 17:00, it is even better. Make the most of the hottest hours of the day having a proper siesta.
- Wear aftersun lotion after your evening shower. It will help your skin to heal and to be ready to go to the beach again tomorrow.
- Do not wear any perfume or makeup when going to the beach or swimming pool. If after wearing your aftersun lotion, you still feel your skin tense and sensitive, you should leave the makeup and perfect for any other day.
- Drink a lot of water and other liquids (but especially water) to keep you hydrated at all times. Alcohol is dehydrating, so beer and sangria don´t count. Drinking very cold water is not a good idea either, because it can cause a sore throat. That´s why in most Spains homes you will always find two bottles of water: one in the fridge and one at room temperature. We mix them before drinking.
Believe it or not, if you follow all this advice, you still will get a beautiful suntan, that will be more pleasant and healthy for your skin, and that also will last longer (because the damaged skin is rapidly replaced by healthy skin). It will also reduce your probabilities of developing skin cancer.
Unfortunately, touristic places are also great attractors of thieves and scammers. It happens all around the world and Spain is not an exception.
- Take as little stuff to the beach as you can, and make yourself sure that somebody is watching them while you are swimming.
- Never leave your phone or your purse over the table if there is a possibility that somebody just grabs it an runs away. This is especially important if you are having tapas outdoors and your table is on the sides of the terraza.
- Watch your bags, handbag and backpack. Pull and run is one the most usual thieving styles in Spain, but some fine thieves can also introduce their hand in your bag and search for your valuables. You will not realise until it is too late!
- I always travel with two identity documents (i.e. passport and driving license) and leave one at the hotel. This means that if something happens, you still will be able to get the flight back home.
- Do not leave valuables on the hotel. If you do, keep them on the suitcase. Hotel housekeepers will never touch any of your belongings, but some thieves are quite good opening hotel doors, and when properly dressed, nobody can tell if somebody is a guest or not.
On the table.
- Spanish lunchtime is from 13:30 to 15:30. Spanish supper time is from 20:00 to 22:00. If you walk into a restaurant or bar that offers food out of those times, you are in a place for tourists.
- However, you don´t have to starve until lunch or dinner time. Following the best hobbit tradition, Spaniards have two breakfasts, one when we wake up, and the second breakfast from 10:00 to 12:00. The second breakfasts usually include coffee and toasts. From 16:00 to 18:00 we have a kind of a second lunch that is called “merienda”. It usually is a cup of coffee and biscuits or any sweet, but it can also be a sandwich and a juice.
- Tapas are ordered one by one. You first order your drink with a tapa. Once you finish, that one, you order the next. The time in between is to chat with your friends.
- Salads are to share, they are dressed with salt, olive oil and vinegar only (well, vinegar is optional) and they are mandatory. They come in big serving dishes and if somebody on the table says “shall we order a salad?”, it is rude to say that you don´t want to. If the salad is already present at the table and you don´t have any, sooner or later somebody will notice and ask “why are you not eating salad? Can´t you reach it? You don´t like it?”. Especially when visiting your in-laws. On the positive side, a salad made with seasonal, local vegetables is delicious, and you are allowed to be picky and avoid those ingredients you don´t like.
- If you are having lunch or dinner with some Spanish friends or family, please allow some time to chat over the table once the food is finished (it is called “sobremesa”). Depending on how nice is the chat, and how much time you have, it can last from 10-20 minutes to several hours. If you are really enjoying the company, the sobremesa can reach the merienda. You will notice because a pot of coffee, a lot of cups and a tray of sweets will appear out of the blue.
- Some so-called experts about Spain recommend dropping your napkins and toothpicks to the floor as a sign of satisfaction when you find your food is good. Please, don´t do that. It is as rude in Spain as in the UK.
- Spain is an olive oil country. You will not find a lot of butter around (if you ask for that, you will probably end up with margarine instead).
- Drink water with your meals. As I said above, alcohol is dehydrating, so if you are having a beer, wine or sangria to go along with your meal, you are accelerating your dehydration. That´s why you will always find a big bottle of fresh water over the table, even if other drinks are served.
I´m sure that you will have a pleasant, safe and fun holidays! And when you are back home, you still can enjoy a piece of Spain in the UK! Have a look at our catalogue and get ready to experience the best of the Spanish cuisine right at your table.