6 Things That Shocked Me About Spain as a Filipina and Asian Traveler

Spain has got to be one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. For the many breathtaking sites and its world-renown culture, there's always a reason for me to go back in this country. But more than that, Spain spells deeper impact to me given its historical link to my country, the Philippines. Traveling it is somewhat a travel to the past, with much of it highly resembling the old side of the Philippines, such that of Intramuros, Ilocos Norte, and many others.

Also read: Spanish for Filipinos: Tips to Learn Spanish

However, not everything in Spain hits home to me. There are those habits, customs, and traditions that surprised me, made me laugh, and tickled my curiosity to know more about it in one way or another. I’ve listed some of them, explaining likewise as to how they’re different from the way I travel as a Filipina and Asian.

1. Everything starts late in the day

Think of 7AM as a ghost town in Spain. If there’d be someone on the street, it would probably some guy with a bad hangover from last night’s party. One thing's for sure: The early-bird-that-catches-the-worm person is definitely not from Spain.

That's the reason why this shocked me first as it's the exact opposite of my usual travels in Asia. I’m so used to starting as early as possible (say, at 7AM), and I do so because 1.) it's a rule of thumb to be early to avoid the swarm of tourists and 2.) it's my way to cover as many places as possible in a day.

Also read: When in India: My Number One Tip to Enjoy Taj Mahal in Agra

The way I see it, the Spaniards love to take their time. Lazy times in Spain are golden moments. When you're there for travel, the fact that everything starts late in the day could be treated badly, but you'd probably appreciate it; as slow mornings and taking everything slowly is what makes Spain travel unique.

During my first time in Spain, I once got up way too early to look for a breakfast place. Grumpily, I ended up hungry for hours after not finding any open restaurant or bakery at 7AM. With that lesson learned, that same night, I hoarded and stacked food for next day's breakfast (and for the next ones too!).

It's also worth mentioning that most tourist attractions in Spain do not open earlier than 9AM. This includes museums, parks, and even government buildings. On the other hand, what’s good is that these attractions have nighttime and extended operating hours, especially during summer (that runs July-September) where the days are longer.

2. Even meal times are late

Meal time in Spain is as late as you could ever think of. While breakfast starts at 7AM in the Philippines (or earlier), el desayuno (the breakfast) in Spain is stretched until 9AM or later. You do not expect a lot of restaurants or supermarkets to open before 9AM, but if you’re lucky enough, the earliest would probably a panaderia (bread shop) at 8AM.
Photo from womanscribbles.net
Fun fact: Speaking of panaderia, every Filipino would've probably eaten a Spanish bread or simply know what it is. A Spanish bread is that sweet, rolled bread sold in local bread shops in the Philippines, which sits along with pan de sal, pan de coco, and ensaymada. I assumed it originated in Spain, given the fact that..DUH? It was named Spanish bread? However, after visiting several cities in Spain and barging through every bakery, I realized that Spanish bread in Spain is just an urban legend. It’s like Vienna sausage and french fries where the name doesn’t live up to the existence in that place.

Aside from breakfast, lunch time is as late as 2-3PM and dinner is at 9-10PM in Spain. Thinking of a reason why, I noticed that most Spaniards live by the night as they’re nocturnal. When traveling Spain, it’s no excuse to be a sleepy Asian at 10PM because that’s only when the party gets started! As it's said and done there, you must go out and party hasta las tantas (until the wee hours)!

3. Rice isn't life, but it does exist

Rice is life for the Asians. It's a staple food that's part of every meal. Most especially for the Filipinos, rice is eaten 3 times a day.
On the other hand, even if rice is well-known in Spain (thanks to paella), I realized that it's unlikely to eat it all the time, neither to have it for breakfast.
In Spain, people don’t usually eat rice very early, so don’t expect paella to be on the menu at breakfast. They’d probably eat pan con tomate (bread with tomato - yes, tomato as a spread! And I love it!) with coffee. Usually, people tend to eat more there at lunch and dinner, with most of them heavily relying on meat as their main source of energy. If you haven't heard of the Spanish tapas, then this best describes as to how they love their meat big time!

Nowadays though, with the influx of Asian migrants in Spain, there have been a number of restaurants that serve rice meals  As I noticed, there are a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese across Spain and whenever I crave for rice close to how it’s cooked in my country, Asian restaurants are my go-to places.

4. Booze is an appetizer

If you don’t have high tolerance for alcohol, then prepare to get drunk early in Spain. Unlike in Philippine culture where happy hour starts after dinner, wine or beer gets served first before any meal in Spain. In fact, when you sit in a restaurant, they’d usually hand over the liquor menu to you first.
In Catalonia region, for example, there’s this liquor called vermut (vermouth), which is a common appetizer taken before lunch. It's said to trigger hunger, gives a huge appetite, and an aphrodisiac as well. There are several types of vermut, which is usually classified between dry and sweet. In Barcelona, I was able to try one, which I believe was a dry vermut. I enjoyed every sip of it, which to me highly resembles the taste of a martini, and I also enjoyed the green olives that came as a pica-pica (side dish). 

Also read: When in Barcelona: Itinerary Ideas for Easy DIY Travel

Also, there are Filipino drinking traditions that, as I noticed, are very unacceptable in Spain. Things like: there’s no chaser, there's no shared shot glass, and there's no ice cube at all (it's a no no for them to put ice in the liquor as they say it ruins the taste!). On top of all, there's no way for them that San Miguel beer is Filipino! It's been a highly contested debate that you don’t even get started with them because you'll never get the end of it. LOL!

5. They kiss in a different way

In the Philippines, socializing with friends, colleagues, or relatives usually begins with a smack on the cheek, or most likely just a damp of cheek-to-cheek if you aren’t that close with the person. In the Philippines, this beso-beso is also done, but usually among the ladies only. With such conservative culture in the Philippines, it’s unlikely that a guy and girl do this, unless they’re close friends, siblings, or a couple.
In Spain, on the other hand, given its open-minded liberated culture, people can kiss each other there without any malice. During casual acquaintances, even if it’s the first time you meet a person regardless of gender, you usually give him/her dos besos (two kisses), which is a kiss on both cheeks. So you have to remember that when in Spain, kissing is always done TWICE.
The way I perceive it, kissing is very casual in Spain. Just like other Europeans, the Spaniards treat a kiss with less to none value as compared to the Asians. When a guy kisses a girl (vice versa), it doesn’t right away mean the person has romantic feelings towards the other. This is why you have to remember that you must not right away fall in love IN Spain; you just have to fall in love WITH Spain!

Though I have to mention that it’s very common to see people kissing (torridly!) and making out in public spaces across Spain--something that truly shookt me as a Filipina and an Asian at first, as it’s something that I don't often see when traveling Asia. It's also worth sharing that Spain is LGBT-friendly, so it's no taboo to see the rainbow community expressing themselves freely in this country - love wins!

6. Siesta time is for real

Siesta is a Spanish word that refers to an afternoon nap, which takes an hour or two, and is usually taken after eating lunch. Many times I experienced this in Spain and even took siesta myself there, and that’s when I was able to convince myself that siesta is a habit that we, Filipinos, truly got from the Spaniards.
In Spain, a typical afternoon break time lasts for 3 hours. This is far from what it's like in the Philippines, which is just limited to an hour. I don't even know a lot in the workforce who take siesta in the Philippines because given the heavy traffic or queue in restaurants during lunch time, there's no spare time anymore to take a nap.
I remember an afternoon in Granada when I saw a nice blouse by the glass of a local clothing store. When I was about to enter the store to hopefully to fit it, I realized that the store was closed because of siesta time. I had to come back a little later, to find out the señora at the store had just woken up from her long siesta.

While siesta is taken seriously in Spain, they kind of compensate the lost hours by extending the hours at night. Although it varies, the office hours usually end by 8PM (or later) in Spain.

Have you been to Spain? What are the things that surprised you the most while traveling this country?

6 Things That Shocked Me About Spain as a Filipina and Asian Traveler 6 Things That Shocked Me About Spain as a Filipina and Asian Traveler Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 13.7.19 Rating: 5


  1. Havin a filipino girlfriend nd being spanish myself i fully agree with ur post. I will add though tht we both love hangin out with people nd friends to socialize nd many other things that more than 350 years together we have in common

    1. Hi Milo! That's true! Both nationalities love socializing! :)


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