One thing you’ll really have to get used to if you spend some time in Spain is the issue of punctuality. Don’t ever worry about being late, because you might still be the first to arrive! You will quickly have to get used to the Spanish way, and here is some more information that you might find useful.


My first personal experience of this was when I did my first Spanish course in Spain in Granada. On the second day of the course, the school had organised a little welcome drink and tapas for the newcomers at a bar in the Albaicin area. Meeting point was at the school at 8pm. Me being British, I arrived at the school building a few minutes before 8pm. There was already a Swede and a Belgian waiting. A couple of Germans showed up exactly on the hour, and by the time the last few stragglers turned up, it was maybe around ten past at the very latest. However, there was no sign of the 3 teachers who were going to escort us to the tapas bar.

We waited and waited and it wasn’t too long before a few people started getting a bit nervous and disappointed that we might have been stood up. Self-doubt began to creep in that we were in the wrong place and in fact should’ve met at the bar. Two people actually headed to the bar themselves at this point. The rest of us stuck it out - convinced we were in the right place.

At 8:35, two of the three teachers rounded the corner into the street we were waiting in and nonchalantly strolled towards us without a care in the world - and certainly not any sign that they were in a rush. They greeted us all with a hug and a kiss like best friends before declaring “Vamos al bar!” I think some of us were expecting an apology but none was forthcoming. However, the mood was great and off we went, up to the Albaicin to have tapas.

You may be wondering where the third teacher got to? Well, he actually showed up at the bar about an hour after we got there - again without the need for an apology or any kind of explanation. Admittedly, most of us didn’t have the best knowledge of Spanish at this early point in our Spanish course. It didn’t really matter. We had an amazing night, with the barman treating us to tapas, free drinks and even sat down with us to tell us his best jokes. It was an unforgettable night, and everyone - especially the beginners like me - came away from it with the feeling we had learned a lot about Spain and Spanish already.

The ‘apology’ (of sorts) came the following day in our various classes from the teachers themselves. They all admitted that they had been late the previous night to teach us a lesson in Spanish punctuality. They explained that Spaniards can be unpunctual but it’s certainly not everyone and not all the time. Having been to Spain many many times, I think the general message is this: If you’ve arranged to go out in a group to a bar and there’s a time arranged to meet, there WILL be people late. Spaniards work on the presumption that the get-together is from time X, not at time X as is especially the case in northern European countries. Of course, if they’re invited to a wedding, a business event, an interview for example, they’ll generally be on time.

If you come from notoriously punctual countries, it does take a little bit of getting used to. I suppose the motto is: just try to get used to it. The longer you stay in Spain the more the Spanish way of life will rub off on you. Before you realise it, you’ll also be showing up 5 minutes late as well!