Monday, March 1, 2010

Learning Manners From The Spaniards

Unlike those from a bordering country (rhymes with "pants"),  the Spanish always make you feel as though you've made their day just by being their country.  You go to Pants and, unless you're down on one knee apologizing for the Bush years, your attempts at speaking the language are met with a sniffle and a sneer.  You come to Spain and you're greeted with a kiss on both cheeks, a platter of Iberian ham, personal Spanish lessons and a hand-written thank you note for entering the country.  There's no comparison.

Turns out, the way Spaniards treat Americans is pretty much the same way Spaniards treat each other. Great emphasis is put on spending lots of time with family and friends and on being nice to strangers.  Here are a couple tips on Spanish etiquette for your next visit:

Always greet people on elevators... 
When entering or exiting an elevator, always greet the other elevator dwellers by saying Buenas dias! or Hola! (good day or hello). Say Hasta luego! (see you later) when getting off the elevator.  Don't make the same mistake Delora has made for months by saying Adios! when exiting. Saying Adios! implies that you don't expect to see your new elevator friends again and that's rude! Who knows when you might enjoy another few seconds with that same person on another elevator ride?

And at neighboring tables at restaurants.
Next time you're at a restaurant, ask yourself this question: am I being rude to the other diners? How many times have you followed the hostess to your table and avoided eye contact with others? Not here!  In Spain, you greet the people you pass while walking to your table at a restaurant.  Delora has noticed this mannerism mostly in smaller Spanish villages, but she plans to try this in New York City and see how it works there.  Try it yourself: enter a restaurant, give your name to the hostess, then nod at every person you pass and say, Hola! and Buenas! all the way to your seat.  Kind of makes you feel like the Mayor of the city.

Group singing - a must!
When our three returned from Spanish immersion camp this summer, they told stories of kids singing everywhere they went. Whether riding in buses or walking to the beach, group singing is always encouraged.  Camp life is a real-life version of High School Musical. The popular song by Pitbull, I Know You Want Me, made it impossible to mutter the words: one, two, three, four, last summer without every camper hoping onto a picnic table to finish the song: Uno, dos, tres, cuatro! We dismissed this behavior as child's play until we boarded a bus in Tenerife at 11:30PM and listened to 50 grown Spaniards sing for the full bus ride.  Or,  try a spinning class where you can enjoy group singing while getting exercise at the same time. What better way to make new friends?

When leaving a party, say goodbye to everyone.
Well-mannered Americans thank their hostess when leaving a party, but Spaniards say goodbye to all the guests too.  It's not mandatory to kiss everyone goodbye, but if you are too hasty with your exit, people will talk.

Attend the after-party.
It's only steps away from the party or the function you's right outside the party, in the street.  There, you'll have another opportunity to say goodbye to everyone and to chat a little bit more about whatever you just did. Are you starting to see why the Spaniards are famous for staying out all night?

If you come to Madrid and don't follow these suggestions, be forewarned.  The Spanish have a way of describing people who leave parties without saying goodbye properly -- Despiderse a la Francesa
(leaving like the French).


Mental P Mama said...

LOL. I cannot wait!!!!!! Way friendlier than Pants!

Anonymous said...

Reading this post made me home sick :(...
And yes the after parties are a must!!!
[I love reading your blog Deb :)]

Jim said...

"...greet all the people that you walk past when entering a restaurant and walking to your table." I want to read your account of what happens when you try this in a NYC restaurant :)

Amaya said...

I can see my little help was useful....I do feel strange when I get into an elevator in NYC and nobody says hi or bye to spaniards it is a bit rude...
Hope you guys are having a great time

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't try singing on a bus unless you want to end up in the hospital.

Gilman said...

First to Anonymous. You must not really know Delora cause she sings beautifully. Me not so much.

The Spaniards are wonderful people full of life and incredibly friendly. Hopefully we will bring some of this home to NYC and the surrounding areas. Or we will just bring a bunch of our new buddies with us. Amaya you up for it?

Maria said...

It's been way too long since the last update. I'm having Delora withdrawals!

Nathalie said...

Agree with you that general friendliness to foreigners, and people in general, is a lot better in Spain than in France. Didn't know about "despedirse al frances." The French call it "filer a l'anglaise" :)

You forgot my favorite quirk of Spanish greeting from relative strangers: "Hola guapa!" The first few times my bank teller or street news vendor said this to me, I beamed and felt very special, until I learned that they say it to (practically) everyone :(

Also, manners in the Northeast and NY area in general are completely different from the South or the Midwestern US. In my Southern mother's unsuccessful attempts to raise me to be a lady, much emphasis was placed on the hand-written thank-you note (preferably on some high cotton content stationary with your name on it, but not printed because that's smudgy and tacky) to be dispatched and mailed within 24 hours of the party or lunch. I discussed this with a Spanish woman and she said "We don't do that any more--que cursillada!"