7 Spanish Food Customs You Should Know

Spanish Food Customs
Spanish Culture / Tips / Tips

7 Spanish Food Customs You Should Know

When you are in Spain there are certain Spanish food customs you already might know. One of the things you will notice the most is certainly the meal times, which are different from the rest of the world. Spaniards eat breakfast at a time when lunch is already eaten in other countries. Lunch is taken between two and four in the afternoon and dinner between nine and ten in the evening.

The most important and sumptuous meal is usually lunch, while dinner is usually much lighter. It is common, especially in the case of children, to have a snack called a merienda in the afternoon between lunch and dinner.

You should probably already know this information. We would like to introduce you to Spanish food customs that you usually only know after living in Spain for a few years. Our goal is to save you embarrassing situations due to misunderstandings and instead to give you the feeling of being at home in Spain.

The focus is on human relationships

Because eating is one of the most important social rituals in Spain: not only is food is shared, but life is also shared. What’s more, eating alone can be a very sad experience for a Spaniard. All of this can best be seen in eating customs. Spaniards are naturally sociable. They love the crowded tables at family celebrations, the laughter, the toasts. You always take enough time to eat and there is always a reason to celebrate. Spaniards know that food always tastes better when shared in good company.

Here are the 7 most important Spanish food customs you should know about:

1. Everyone is waited for: eating does not begin until all guests have sat down. Even if dinner was scheduled for two o’clock and the last one shows up at two-thirty. Skipping this rule is a violation of basic table etiquette.

2. Dipping bread allowed! In Spain it is socially recognized to dunk bread in sauces. Spaniards love that! It is also a praise to the chef that the food tasted good. So the next time you eat gambas al ajillo or fried chorizo, dip the bread in the leftover liquid or the olive oil on the plate, everyone will do this. By the way, bread is never missing from the table in Spain, bread is eaten with everything (even pasta!!).

Sharing is a given

3. Don’t just eat the last portion: very important! The last bite of a dish is called · “la de la vergüenza“ (“the one of shame”). Eating it would be an expression of selfishness or gluttony, because you are effectively taking it away from the other. That is why it is customary not to touch the last portion for a while until one of the group asks at some point whether someone would like to eat the last piece of cheese or the rest of the calamares. Often it is the questioner himself who really wants to eat this last portion, but first politely asks.
This often leads to funny situations in which several people offer the others the last bite out of generosity, even though they would actually prefer to eat it themselves. At some point the last piece of cheese will be divided into several pieces so that everyone can still get something out of it.

Beware of criticism of the food

4. Criticism of the food only if you know the host well: Of course, you can admit it if you don’t like something. But you should only do this if you are dining with your family or close friends. In official or professional situations, however, you shouldn’t say anything. The best thing to do is to try a little of the food and then nothing more. If asked why you stopped eating, you can say that you are already full.

Spanish Food Customs

5. No visit during meal times: If you are at someone’s home and it is time for lunch or dinner, you should only stay if you have actually been invited to dinner. Likewise, it is rude to visit during normal meal times. That is not welcomed.

6. Offering food to others: If you have a snack in between, such as almonds, chips or something else, it is customary to offer it to the rest of the group. Usually, they will politely decline, especially if you are not very familiar with each other. They just do it that way. For this reason, you should always ask again, as it may well be that the others would like to try something of it, but initially decline it out of politeness.

The Sobremesa as the epitome of Spanish culture

7. Sobremesa: This very Spanish custom is that after clearing the table, everyone present starts long conversations on any topic. Interestingly, in Spain it rarely happens that you start a serious conversation while you are eating. It is common to wait until dessert and coffee with it. This “sobremesa” can last for hours, especially on weekends. Sometimes it lasts so long that those present also have dinner together.

We hope that this information about Spanish food customs and rules will help you to immerse yourself even deeper in the Spanish culture and way of life on your next holiday in Spain!

If you want to learn more about Spanish food and wine culture we recommend you our post about exciting Spanish wine and cheese combinations. Enjoy it!

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Comment (1)

  1. AntonioEmurn

    Grandmothers will insist that you go for seconds and thirds, friends will gather around food, and there is not a celebration that does not include good food. When you travel to a Spanish speaking country, do not try to keep your normal eating habits. Embrace the foods from the country, their customs around the table, and their schedules.

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