For members


My Spanish habits that foreigners just don’t get

Do the Spanish have certain habits you just can't work out? Here Spanish author Alberto Letona lists a number of typical national traits or customs that leave his foreign friends bemused...or if queuing is involved, even enraged.

My Spanish habits that foreigners just don't get
Spaniards like to pace along the beach. Esparta Palma / Flickr

1. We are very noisy

Photo: SETShots / Flickr

Noise is everywhere in Spain whether in restaurants, on the buses, or at the beach. In bars the TV is often on, even if people aren’t watching. This makes conversations louder and the Spanish difficult to understand, for non-native and natives alike.

The latter are more resourceful; They will raise their voice even louder to be heard.  

.2. We go to bed late

Photo: Bark / Flickr 

Staying up late is part of daily life in Spain. At home it is not unusual to have dinner at ten and if you go to a restaurant, you’ll find it difficult to get a table before 9pm. At weekends we don’t start going out until at least 9pm and the night can be very long. Work is mañana.

3. We kit ourselves out for sport

Photo: The Pug Father/Flickr 

Dressing in the correct way to take exercise is a rule for the locals. So much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at the Vuelta de España with professional cyclists when you use Spanish roads on the weekends. Don’t blow your horn at them, they would not take it graciously.

4. We like to be in a crowd (in pre-Covid times)

Photo: Allen Skyy/Flickr

The Spaniards are very gregarious. We all go out for a stroll at the same time and usually to the same places. Sometimes with friends, and other times with family, but very rarely alone.

5. We like to party…a lot

Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

The summer fiestas of every village in Spain are a kind of social event that you cannot miss. This is the place to see and be seen. The younger ones enjoy their first drinks in life, and their parents are most likely enjoying themselves preparing traditional dishes with their friends.

6. We are a contradiction in terms

Photo: AFP

Liberal-minded but conservative in their life style is a description that fits many Spaniards. Even the most politically left wing citizens are ready to take part as a pious believer in the religious processions at Easter. 

7. We pace up and down the beach

Photo: Esparta Palma/Flickr

Pacing up and down the seashore is a favourite pastime for anyone over thirty. Sometimes the beaches get so crowded with people marching back and forth that it is difficult to imagine this activity as a pleasurable stroll. But we do it anyway. 

8. We all want to work in the public sector

Photo: tec_estromberg / flickr

Being a “funcionario” (civil servant) is a very sought after and carefully planned occupation for many. A job for life is often a source for admiration or envy among the different social classes in Spain.

9. We abandon our offices en masse at 11am

Photo: Alda Chou

Mid-morning is the time when everybody working in an office walks out to have a long coffee break in the bar with their colleagues. This is the moment to talk about the trials and tribulations of domestic life. Sometimes if the conversation is very engaging the break can go on a long time.

10. We don’t do queuing

Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr 

Jumping the queue is a national trait. Very few people respect queues in this country. If you are catching a bus, please be aware of old ladies. They are sometimes the most pushy and will try to go first, even if they know that you have been waiting longer.

Alberto Letona is the author of Hijos e Hijas de la Gran Bretaña – Sons and Daughters of Great Britain – in which he delves into the psyche of the British in an attempt to explain them to his own countrymen. 

Read more on his opinions of the British

For members


What are the penalties for drug possession in Spain?

Though Spain has quite lax laws about drug consumption for your own use on private property, punishments for public possession or trafficking can vary from fines to prison time.

What are the penalties for drug possession in Spain?

In Spain, penalties for drug possession greatly depend on where you have them and if you have the intention to sell them. Generally, the penalties will be less severe, or even non-existent, in the case of certain drugs, if you have them in your own home for example and they’re for your own private use. Possessing drugs for your own use is not considered a crime by the Penal Code in Spain. 

Possession and use in public, however, is an altogether different story. Although the mere possession of drugs alone is technically not a criminal offence, so long as they are not intended for illegal trafficking, it is punishable. 

READ ALSO: What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

For minor possession offences, which are treated by Spanish law as ‘administrative infractions’ equivalent to misdemeanors in the US, or a community order in the UK, fines (multas) are issued. For more serious offences with higher quantities, where intent to distribute can be proven, jail time becomes a possibility. 

Multas (fines)

The fine system is outlined in Spain’s Organic Law 4/2015 on the Protection of Citizen Security, where a whole range of fines are established from €601 up to €30,000 for the most serious crimes, depending on the type of drug it is, the quantity, and whether it’s your first time being fined for public drug possession (the concept of recidivism in Spanish law, which multiplies the fine).

For first-time offenders caught with a small amount of any illegal drug for personal consumption, it is extremely likely the minimum fine (€601) would be issued, though it can be halved if paid within a certain timeframe of formally receiving the penalty notice. For repeat offenders, the fine is likely to be multiplied.

According to Spain’s National Drug Plan website, fines can be issued for the following:

  • The illicit use or possession of toxic drugs, narcotics or psychotropic substances, even if they were not intended for trafficking, in public places, roads, public establishments or public transport, as well as the abandonment of the instruments or other tools used for this purpose in the aforementioned places. When the offenders in matters of consumption or possession are minors, the penalty of a fine may be suspended if they voluntarily agree to treatment or rehabilitation, if necessary, or to re-education activities.
  • The transfer of people, in order to facilitate their access to toxic drugs, narcotics or psychotropic substances, provided that it does not constitute a crime.
  • The execution of acts of illicit planting and cultivation of toxic drugs, narcotics or psychotropic substances in places visible to the public, when they are not criminal offences.
  • Tolerance of illegal consumption or trafficking in toxic drugs, narcotics or psychotropic substances in public premises or establishments or the lack of diligence in order to prevent them by owners, administrators or managers thereof.

What constitutes personal possession?

For people caught in public in possession of drugs, the maximum quantities considered for personal possession according to the Spanish government are as follows:

  • 100 grams of cannabis
  • 25 grams of hashish
  • 7.5 grams of cocaine
  • 3 grams of heroin
  • 1.2 grams of methadone
  • 1440 milligrams of MDM, MDMA, MDEA
  • 900 milligrams of amphetamine
  • 3 milligrams of LSD

READ ALSO: Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Drug trafficking

If you’re caught with quantities that exceed these personal amounts, you could be charged with intent to supply or traffic drugs, something that is considered a crime in Spanish law and could warrant prison time.

In terms of supply, Spanish law takes into account the ‘harmfulness of the substance’ and differentiates between drugs considered to cause ‘serious damage’ to individuals and society more broadly, such as heroin and cocaine, and substances that don’t cause ‘serious damage’, such as cannabis and hashish. 

Prisons sentences vary depending on a number of different factors, such as general criminal offences with no aggravating factors, which carry a potential sentence of 3-6 years, aggravated cases (very large quantities, selling or supplying adulterated substances, to children, or educational centres, and so on) which can earn you 6-9 years, all the way up to participants in organised crime, who can receive 9-12 years, and the heads of drug trafficking organisations, who would face 10-15 years.