Posted on October 2, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
14th Mar 2019
If you’re thinking of teaching in Spain, you probably know a little about the Mediterranean diet, mild weather, stunning beaches and relaxed lifestyle. There’s more to sunny Spain than many people know though, much of it weird and wonderful! We’re sharing a perks and quirks of teaching in Spain, some of which you’ll have heard of and others that you might not have!
It can be tricky getting used to siesta time if you come from a country where this doesn’t exist. In most places in Spain, siesta normally takes place between 3pm and 6pm. During the summer months, when Spain can become very hot, you’ll find that the streets become quiet in the afternoon as most locals go for a nap. That means that a lot of the local shops, cafes and restaurants are closed too.
This can be particularly tricky to get adjust to, especially when you’re used to going shopping in the afternoon. It’s no use throwing a tantrum if you miss lunch though – we recommend getting into the habit of taking a siesta yourself. Or, at the very least, stocking up on extra food in case you miss the lunchtime rush!
However, if you’re teaching in Spain at a language academy, you may find that the quiet siesta times actually work in your favour. Most academy classes start at 4pm, which means you’ll be travelling during the quiet hours of the day.
‘Tapas’ literally means a small portion of Spanish cuisine evolved from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ – to cover. It came about by trying to prevent fruit flies from hovering over sherry glasses by covering the top of the glasses with ham or chorizo between sips. Ham and chorizo are very salty, so it made the customers thirsty resulting in an increase in alcohol sales, therefore, making it very popular with bartenders! Nowadays, tapas have become a more sophisticated cuisine and concept being sold worldwide. Though, you can guarantee that if you’re teaching in Spain, you’ll have access to the best tapas around!
Spain has some particularly weird and wonderful festivals! Probably the most famous of them all is the holy festival of Semana Santa. Almost every city in Spain puts on a spectacular show for this event with ‘pasos’ – processions of the Virgin Mary in grieving over the death of her son or scenes of what happened to Jesus in his entry to Jerusalem and his burial.
The most fun festival is the Tomatina, which is in Bunol, Valencia. Basically, everyone gets together and has a massive tomato fight throwing tomatoes at each other just for fun! It has been going since 1945 and is held on the last Wednesday in August.
The top two traditions in Spain are flamenco and bullfighting.
Flamenco originates from Southern Spain and is very popular in the regions of Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura. Based on various folkloric music traditions, it consists of dance (baile), guitar playing (toque), singing (cante), vocalisation and clapping (jaleo), handclapping (palmas) and finger snapping (pitos). There are plenty of flamenco shows across Spain to go and see and if you want a go yourself – try attending flamenco guitar or dance classes!
Though the practice of bullfighting is becoming more and more controversial due to the concerns of animal welfare, funding and religion, bullfighting is still a popular tradition in Spain with toreros (bullfighters) being almost as popular as football stars. Bullfighting uses a set of cultural expectations and guidelines to carry out the physical contest between humans and animals to subdue, immobilise or kill a bull publicly. The oldest bullrings can be found in the provinces of Malaga (Ronda) and Salamanca (Bejar).
Very loud conversations!
This may be something you don’t become aware of until/unless you stop teaching in Spain, but there’s no denying that the Spaniards speak loudly! It often seems like they have no understanding of people around them or the volume at which they’re speaking, tending to talk over each other. Obviously, the louder one group talk the louder the surrounding groups have to talk resulting in places such as restaurants, bars, buses and trains become noisy places. As well as talking loudly they often punctuate with hand gestures which can appear a little wild but could have significant meaning. These hand gestures could be something worth learning if you’d like to understand their meanings and use them yourself! Or check out our blog on the do’s and don’ts of teaching in Spain to get an idea of other ways to fit in.
Christmas is very special
The lead up to Christmas in Spain doesn’t start until December when the lights are lit within the first week. Though Christmas trees can be found in Spain, Belen is the main attraction here. Belen are miniature nativity scenes that can be found in most homes at Christmas time. Big markets leading up to Christmas consist of selling the miniature figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the three kings.
On Christmas Eve, it’s normal for a Spanish family to get together and enjoy a big meal and drinks. On Christmas Day, children may receive a small gift but traditionally, gifts are exchanged in Spain on the 6th of January, where according to the bible the three kings arrived in Bethlehem. On the 5th of January, expect to see processions all over Spain where sweets are thrown from floats to celebrate the arrival of the three kings the next day.
UNESCO heritage sites
UNESCO globally recognises the best of the best sights and attractions around the world and Spain has many, making it a very attractive tourist destination. Some of the most popular sites to visit include the works of Gaudi in Barcelona, the old town of Santiago de Compostela, the historic city of Toledo, the Cathedral, Royal Alcazar and Archivo de Indias in Seville, Teide National Park, the Archaeological Ensemble of Merida, Las Medulas in Ponferrada and Monte Perdido in Aragon. And there are many more to this list – why not tick off some must-sees!
If you enjoyed learning a little more about what weird and wonderful sights and traditions you’ll find teaching in Spain, you may also enjoy our guide: Everything you need to know about teaching English in Spain.