Local traditions and culture in Spain

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Spain

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    calling using mobile phone in Spain

    by gwened Written May 18, 2015

    This is a repeated question for Spain as well so will try to post some info on the use of mobile phones in Spain. Their use is out of this world, becoming so popular folks even have two different phones with them to use as the occasion requires it

    For the visitor, the main four carriers there are
    Movistar(part of Telefonica) how to find stores
    Orange (my phone provider)

    Some basic info as I am not technical
    If you are coming from North America or parts of Asia you will probably have a CDMA phone, which will not work. If you have a GSM phone, you need to check whether your phone is unlocked - some phones are locked in to the network you already have - if it is unlocked you just need a Spanish SIM card.
    You have a great comparison here from the phonehouse in Spanish

    And more tips from the pros users sites to avoid roaming charges abroad:
    1. Switch off data roaming
    On iPhones, the setting can be found under:
    Settings> Mobile >
    On Android phones it can typically be found under:
    Settings > Wireless and Networks > More > Mobile networks

    2. Turn off automatic updates
    turn them off. Here's how:
    On iPhones the setting can be found in:
    Settings > iTunes & App Store
    On Android phones:
    Open Google Play, and touch the three lines in the top left corner. Then, to turn auto-updates on or off choose:
    Settings > Auto-update apps

    3. Stick to Wi-Fi wherever possible
    If you connect to Wi-Fi, you won't use mobile data. As a result, it's always best to use it when it's available.

    4. Don't use TV, film or music streaming services
    5. Get a foreign pay-as-you-go sim
    If you think you're going to making a lot of calls when abroad, it may work out cheaper to get a pay-as-you-go sim card on a mobile network in that country, and use that instead of your usual sim. Obviously you'll have to pay for credit upfront, but it will save you money in the long run. You may need to unlock your mobile.

    Some further info from expats groups in Spain like in Angloinfo Spain
    Prepaid and contract phones
    For those opting for a Spanish SIM card and/or phone, phone service can be obtained on a pre-paid or contract basis.
    Identification such as a Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE), or passport and proof of address are required when buying a new SIM card. This identification is required to comply with Spanish anti-terrorism laws.
    Pay as you go: The pre-paid card (tarjeta prepago) provides a number and a certain amount of call-time ("credit"). The credit must be used within the expiry period, or the number may be reissued by the service provider. No contract with the service provider is required.

    Cards can be bought at a number of places: tobacconists (estancos), newsagents, supermarkets, petrol stations and from telephone card machines. Pre-paid calling plans require credit to be bought at a mobile phone store, tobacconist, grocery store or newsagent. Some banks offer an account top-up service available from ATMs. Credit on prepaid phones usually has an expiry date, after which the number will only receive limited service. If the phone credit is not topped up after this expiry date, the number may be reassigned by the service provider. The expiry period varies between providers.

    Some of the favorite stores I know other than direct phone providers as above are

    hope It helps ::)

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    Semana Santa, Holy Week

    by gwened Updated Apr 2, 2015

    Holy week is coming and already in Spain festivities are all over, very passionate and colorful with tradition going back centuries.

    its crowded nowdays even in small town ,very popular;however ,all is worth it. I have been thru several over the years of living and visiting the country I ,also, call my own.

    The Spanish government tourist office has started in 1980 a program for naming the venues that are of international tourist attraction and given them a designation. There are now 23 of these cities.

    The dates change a bit according to the calendar. this year 2015 is MArch 29 to April 6.

    You have good ones in Sevilla, Granada, Malaga,Zaragoza,Barcelona, Valladolid,Palencia, Leon,Zamora,Logrono,Madrid,Murcia,Bilbao,Huesca, Santiago de Compostela,and Valencia.

    some interesting ones to see for sure at at Ferrol ,Galicia to see Cristo de la Luz y de la buena Muerte on holy tuesday. Viveiro, Galicia the oldest celebration in the region from the 4C; Léon,with the pagan celebration of Genarin since 1929 stop in 1957 but continue from the 70's onward. The smallest is at Median de Rioseco,province of Valladolid. Same province at Medina del Campo with a wonderful castle as backdrop. In Valladolid, the most heavyweight with the Sagrada Pasion del Redentor, culminating in the Plaza Mayor.

    Palencia ,province of Palencia done since the 17C. Motes de Zamora, province of Zamora, with its barandales and Merlu amongst many peculiarities. Monumental Salamanca,with 22 processions.Avila with its walls and ramparts around you. Toledo ,and this year the year of El Greco. Zaragoza from 1935 it does even if it took a strike to bring them back.

    Cuenca, and its turbas disturbances to create it,and its name the camino del calvario. Hellin and it tamboradas, province of Albacete going back to the 14C when San Vincente Ferrer walk the streets with musiciens and singers. Càceres and its Cristo Negro;processions in city center. Crevillent ,province of Alicante; eat the pa torrat, bread toasted in an oven and plenty of oil for breakfast with coca de crevillent ,flour with fry fish (boqueron), white beans, codfish ,and garlic.

    Orihuela, province of Alicante, all started in 1536 with the poetry of Nazareno. Murcia with dressing different than the rest of Spain. As the body is seems for the most part on the people taking part in the processions. Cartagena, province of Murcia, the oldest is marrajos from 1631 . and we go to Lorca, same province here you see the white and blue sticks.

    From Sevilla to the world, with 82 processions or cofradias. The costaleros of Granada with more than 2000 marching on the streets of old Granada. The tronos or thrones of Malaga, the men who carry the saints are men of tronos.


    I put up some , all can be found online;all are wonderful, just take your pick and Happy Easter.

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    by GentleSpirit Updated Apr 5, 2013

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    You have been studying your Spanish and you are confident that you have mastered at least a few Spanish words and phrases. Suddenly, you're in Spain and you are hearing them use the word
    "vosotros"-you can't make heads or tails of it.

    Vosotros is the second person plural in Spanish. Generally, only Spaniards still use this actively. In Latin America you would hear it now and then in poems and some formal occasions (like in church). That is increasingly rare in Latin America. In Spain it is used commonly.
    The nearest equivalent in English (American) would be "y'all".

    You can use "ustedes" instead, which is commonly taught in Spanish classes and used actively in Latin America. In Spain "ustedes" is more formal. If you hear "vosotros" and you don't know how to use it, just use "ustedes instead.

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    Police in Spain

    by GentleSpirit Written Feb 27, 2013

    It is a bit confusing to the visitor. There are three main law enforcement bodies in Spain, aside from the tourist police.

    Guarda Civil- they wear green uniforms and are a national body. They are mainly responsible for national security, crowd control at large events, customs. One Spaniard I talked to more or less compared them to the FBI here in the States.

    Policia Nacional- they were black uniforms or sometimes a blue military style uniform. They are armed and are responsible for security of public buildings. They are responsible for most day to day complaints and investigations.

    Local police- they are employees of the local government and are mainly responsible for traffic and parking control as well as some other smallish duties. They are considered quite approachable.

    Local Police

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    A little language thing- police

    by GentleSpirit Written Feb 27, 2013

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    This tip is something I ran across in Spain. I find it interesting that the way that I heard Spaniards say that they would have to call the police. In Spanish they say "le voy a denunciar a la policia" which means "I'm going to denounce you to the police." I found it interesting that they way of referring to it still exists. A Latin American would say "llamar a la policia" to express the same thing.

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    Eating in Spain

    by GentleSpirit Written Nov 5, 2012

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    The first thing you should remember is that Spaniards love to go out to eat but they take their time. A meal is never hurried and a waiter will never hurry you.

    You should also get used to eating somewhat later than in other places. Likewise, restaurants and eateries are open much later than would be the norm in the States and a lot of other places.

    Breakfast- Spaniards eat a very light breakfast, usually some coffee, chocolate con churros or some tostadas (toast). You can get breakfast at a bar, which are often open quite early (7 am in Madrid). You might have a difficult time if you are yearning for a full breakfast like in the States.

    Lunch- Lunch is the main meal of the day for Spaniards. Usually served anywhere from noon onwards. If you get the "menu del dia" you will get a full 3 course meal with bread and drink. This will be the most economical alternative.

    Dinner- Spaniards don't usually eat dinner until fairly late. Whereas Americans and many others eat around 6, Spaniards most often eat at 8 (that is early!) . Since a Spaniard will traditionally take their time with meals you can expect that dinner will go somewhat late. This is usually a lighter meal

    Tapas- Tapas have become very popular outside of Spain. Originally, what they were were little snacks to hold you over until it was time for dinner. These have become much more fancy but are still mainly considered snacks, though you can easily make a meal of them if you eat enough. Can get somewhat expensive.

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    Names you will hear in Spain

    by GentleSpirit Updated Jul 11, 2012

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    Following are some names you will hear while you are in Spain. just so you know

    1. Don Juan Carlos- King of Spain. The monarchy was restored after the end of the dictatorship and the King is widely credited with helping the transition to democracy. Juan Carlos was selected as King by Franco, skipping over his father in the line of succession. By all accounts the King is greatly respected throughout Spain.

    2. Infante/Infanta- the Spaniards call their Princesses/Princes this.

    3. Prince of Asturias- Felipe of Borbon- Crown Prince of Spain. Born 1968. Received Law Degree in Spain and graduate studies at Georgetown University.

    4. Francisco Franco- leader of the Nationalist military rebellion, general and dictator of Spain from 1936-1975.

    5. Velasquez- Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez (1599-1660)- The great Spanish court painter of Phillip IV. He is known for outstanding portraits and court paintings. One of his best is the one of Pope Innocent (Pamphili Gallery, Rome) and his best known is Las Meninas (Museo del Prado, Madrid). The Prado Museum holds a large collection of his work. One of the things I love best in his painting is the degree of almost photographic quality.

    6. Reyes Católicos- the Catholic Monarchs. Refers to Ferdinand and Isabella. Their marriage united the Spanish Crown under the House of Trastamara and was the first truly national dynasty. Previous to their union there had been feuding regions/principalities, under the Reyes Católicos, Spain became a nation and a European power. Under their reign, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula occured, thus ending Moslem dominion over large parts of Andalucia.

    7. Carlos V- Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.-(1500-1558) Son of Phillip the Handsome (of Burgundy) and Joanna of Castille. Heir to the crowns of Spain, the Habsburg Empire. He became Spanish King in 1516 following the death of his grandfather Ferdinand. Under Carlos V, Spain became a world power led by the colonization of the new world and the attendant wealth that created.

    Carlos V
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    Eating with Olive Oil- warning

    by GentleSpirit Written Jun 9, 2012

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    Spain is one the leading producers of olive oil and if you should be traveling by train between Seville and Granada (for example) you will see endless fields of olive trees. Though I personally have not done this, Ive heard that there are a few farms that will show you how the olive oil is pressed and so forth.

    Though olive oil is considered quite healthy, it seemed to me that Spaniards cooked with a large amount of olive oil. Look, for example, at some of the stores that offer paella already prepared.

    Though I do like olive oil, my system finds it hard to digest very well. Therefore I tend to avoid things that clearly have a large amount of olive oil. I got quite sick in Seville (on my last day) the day before I was heading out to Granada to finally see the Alhambra, that I had dreamed of seeing for so many years. My stomach was still quite unsettled but much more stable. The night manager at my hotel in Seville prepared some very nice tea (te de manzanilla) which did a great job of calming my stomach.

    After that, when i went out to eat I would ask the server to please prepare my meal with little olive oil. They were usually a little shocked at first, but were happy to comply.

    olive oil= "aceite de olivo"
    Please can you fix my food with less olive oil= "Por favor, me puede preparar mi comida con muy poco aceite de olivo."

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    Semana Santa & Pasqua (Easter)

    by DSwede Updated May 12, 2011

    Spain is a predominantly Christian country, and in many ways, the south has the traditional roots going deeper.

    During Semana Santa (Holy Week) and ending on Pasqua (Easter), there is no shortage of religious events, processions and celebrations. Since Easter floats on the calendar, I will not give specific dates, it is best to simply review the current year's schedule. But during this week, many offices will be closed, operating hours reduced, etc.

    The traditional processions are somber in tone. The marches are very slow and often labored. But that is to be expected, because many of the groups will be carrying on their shoulders the various Stations of the Cross, leading through the events that mirror the circumstances of Christ.

    The bands of drummers, the robed patrons of the hermanidads (brotherhoods) of the churches and other followers are to be found everywhere. The member of these brotherhoods pay modest membership dues. However, those who wish to carrying the Stations typically bid for the honor, paying sometimes hundreds of Euros!

    Stations of the Cross in Sagunto Bands of drummers in Tarragona Penitentes in Salamanca
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    by DSwede Written May 9, 2011

    While it may be argued that the Gigantes are typically witnessed in Catalunia (example: Barcelona and Tarragona), they are seen outside of the region too (example: Morella and beyond).

    These large costumes are hollow and worn on the sholders of their 'drivers'. The frames are made out of wood and/or aluminum typically and the exteriors are paper-maché.

    These figures typically come out during the particular town's namesake festival, but are not limited to just then.

    The Gigantes depict archetypes of the area. Dark skinned Gigantes may be the African or Moorish people of the old days. White women may be the noble class. Others can be peasants, important clergy, other nobles, etc. Throughout the festivals, they are used to reenact the important events and relationships in the town's history.

    Gigantes in Spain

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    The Fallas in Valencia (province)

    by DSwede Written Apr 27, 2011

    The Fallas are a spectacle to see. Happening on a sliding calendar, depending on the year, they are typical in the month of April.

    Originally, people used to do their spring cleaning and had to overcome the problem of what to do with their discarded rubbish. Long time ago, the communities would get together, help each other and eventually burn the unwanted items.

    Over time, these piles of rubbish and the burning of them became more the focal point than the spring purging. The piles and fires became more intricate, larger and more grandiose.

    Today, the Fallas are a week long festival. Local communities each make and display their large sculptures from flammable (wood and paper-mache) materials for a week or more. Then, on the final eve of the festival, they are lit on fire.

    The fires are hot and fast, being forewarned by a loud procession of fireworks (the Mascleta). The firemen and firetrucks are on hand for crowd control and obviously the fires. After one is successfully torched, the crew moves to the next one. In the late hours of the night, the last ones are finally lit.

    The Fallas are typical in the southern region of Valencia. Please see my Benicarlo or Valencia pages for more details.

    The Fallas in Fire
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    Santa Tecla in Tarragona

    by DSwede Written Apr 27, 2011

    The third week of September in Tarragona is filled with festivities to honor Santa Tecla, the local saint. Not that they need any other excuses to stay up late with loud music or fireworks, but now they add the extras of road closures, parades and street performances. Most of it was pretty good, but after 10 days you just want the 6am concerts to stop. Regardless, this is the time when they have the contest of the Castellers, or the human tours, which is only found in Tarragona. There are also other activities, such as the parade of the Gigantes, music, fireworks, etc.

    There are contests in the city plaza (Placa de la Font), as well as larger contests in the Plaza del Toros! I simply cannot describe how amazing this is to see first hand!!

    See my Tarragona page for more details.

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    Riñones al Jerez - Sherry Kindeys

    by Danalia Updated Jan 29, 2011


    10 fresh lambs' kidneys
    1 big onion, chopped
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    4 oz bacon
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    2 tablespoon flour
    4 fl. oz fino dry sherry or Montilla
    1 tablespoon tomato concentrate
    2 sprigs fresh thyme
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Fry the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil over a low heat in a big frying pan. When it starts to soften add the diced bacon and garlic.
    Remove the membranes and cut out the middle cores from the kidneys, then cut them into large dices.
    Remove and reserve the onion and bacon from the pan and add 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil.
    Put in the diced kidneys, a handful at a time, over the highest heat and stir occasionally. When they are sealed, pull them to the sides of the pan and add the next handful. When they are all sealed and coloured, return the onions and bacon, sprinkle with flour and stir in.
    Add the Sherry, tomato concentrate and thyme and bring to a simmer. Season to taste.

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    Tuna and Goat Cheese Empanadillas

    by Danalia Written Jan 29, 2011


    1 tablespoon olive oil
    5 tablespoons minced onion
    6 oz canned tuna, packed in olive oil
    4 oz goat cheese
    3 oz pimento-stuffed olives, chopped
    5 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
    5 tablespoons capers, chopped
    1 teaspoon paprika
    Salt and pepper, to taste.
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    16 oz puff pastry, defrosted if frozen


    Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    Using a fork, mash the tuna with the onion, garlic, goat cheese, pimento-stuffed olives, pine nuts, capers, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
    On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out as many dough circles as the dough will allow, rerolling the dough sheets if necessary. Cupping each dough round in your hand, spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filing into the center of each dough round, then brush the edges with a little water. fold the dough over the mixture to form a crescent. Pinch the edges of crescent to seal the dough closed. Use the back of a fork to further press the edges of the dough together.

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    Pulpo a Feira - Galician Octopus

    by Danalia Written Jan 29, 2011


    4 quarts water
    6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
    1 frozen octopus, about 3 pounds thawed overnight in the refrigerator
    1 pound new potatoes, boiled with their skins on and kept warm
    1 cup extra virgin oil
    2 tablespoons hot paprika


    In a large stockpot, combine the water and 5 tablespoons of the salt and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, rinse the octopus under running cold water. Using sharp kitchen scissors, cut out the mouth and the eyes.
    With a long fork, pierce the octopus to get a good grip and dip it into the boiling water. Lift out immediately and, when the water returns to a boil, dip it briefly again. Repeat this dipping procedure 3 or 4 times, or until the tentacles have curled. (Dipping the octopus into boiling water helps to tenderize it.) Submerge the octopus in the water and let it boil over medium heat for about 2 hours, or until it is tender when pierced with a knife.
    Turn off the heat and let the octopus rest in the hot water for 10 minutes. Lift the octopus from the water and cut it into pieces with the scissors: the tentacles into 1/2-inch-thick rings and the body into small chunks. Divide the octopus pieces evenly among 6 plates.
    Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/2-inch-thick slices and surround the octopus pieces with the potato slices. Drizzle the octopus and potatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with hot paprika and the remaining tablespoon of salt. Serve the dish while the octopus and potatoes are still warm.

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