How to Dine Like a Spaniard

by John Kyle de Guzman

Since childhood, we were taught table manners and etiquettes based on our culture. Each country has its own unspoken guidelines which may have similarities to others but can also be entirely different. We want to be sure that all our gestures, especially when dining, don’t cause any insults or create an awkward situation. Learn the basics of Spanish table manners and save yourself from any embarrassment.

A delicious Spanish meal is even better when youre doing it right. Know your Spanish etiquette while teaching abroad.
A delicious Spanish meal is even better when you’re doing it right. Know your Spanish etiquette while teaching abroad. Photo Courtesy of Jordan Luke

Hands Up! 

Remember the childhood nursery rhyme, “I have two hands, the left and the right. Hold them up high, so clean and bright?” Whether you’re up on your nursery rhymes or not, this song is quite handy (pun intended) when dining in Spain. Locals enforce the habit of leaving their hands on the table for everyone to see. Why? Spaniards believe that individuals, who drop their hands below the table, may be up to no good. May it be for seduction, a personal itch, or simply comfort, people’s minds will run wild and find it inappropriate. Whatever the reason, it’s a good idea to trim your fingernails and leave your hands on the table. Other actions, including the itch, can be saved for another time and place. 

Foreplay At The Table? 

Yes, but the significant other is the food on your plate. It is common to tempt yourself with food in Spain. When eating soup, many individuals scoop a spoonful of soup directly from the bowl to their mouth, but in Spain it is common to scoop the spoon outwards before bringing it in for the kill. More like a seesaw motion, Spaniards always scoop their food away from them, savoring each second, before digging in. Either it is a secret technique to make dining more exciting or just a way to avoid stains on a person’s clothes, following the norm can be a fun way to really savor a local meal.

Talk Your Heart Out. 

Spaniards love to talk and they find the best place to converse is over a meal. Don’t be surprised if they talk loudly and aggressively. Spaniards are very expressive in terms of their opinions and they welcome everyone to support or debate their beliefs. Talking back to them, even if its against their opinions, will not ruin your relationship or friendship but rather enforce it. Talk your heart out and you’ll enjoy their passionate conversations. 

Coffee

To Dip or Not To Dip? 

Many people know to stay away from or at least ask before going for the infamous double dip but in Spain don’t even try the single dip. It is considered to be very rude to dip your bread in the soup. Dipping it in sauces is also uncommon in the Spanish culture and should be avoided. If you have the urge to do so, be discreet.

Coffee While I Wait Please? 

Coffee is traditionally served after dessert in Spain. Having a cup of coffee isn’t done before meals, during meals, or with desserts. Whether you are a coffee lover or just need a boost of energy, coffee won’t be served unless you’re done with all courses. Drink coffee at home before leaving if you feel a crash coming. 

Wine, Wine … and More Wine! 

Many people in Spain don’t think a meal is complete without a glass. Many locals still continue the traditional norm of drinking wine anytime of the day. Let it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Spaniards will drink a glass of wine. Supposedly wine is good for the heart so drink to your health!