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The Spanish flair and British reserve – how do the cultures mix?

It doesn’t matter if you’re Spanish and are thinking about moving to the UK, or British and wanting to live in sunnier climates, moving abroad can be a culture shock!

Join us today to have a look at some of the biggest differences between life in Spain and Britain, and a few tips to avoid the biggest problems. If you’re interested in learning English online or in person at our English academy in Valencia, get in touch now.

What time are we meeting?

One of the first things to know about, is the difference in importance that time has.

In the UK, time is sacred, and turning up late to an interview will not be a good way to start. It even goes beyond professional situations, and most Brits will set a meeting time with their friends and do their best to stick to it.

When people are late or know they will be, it’s normal to send a message ahead and let your group know. As long as you are apologetic, no-one will be too annoyed.

Spanish culture treats timing with a little more flexibility, and it’s something many expats from the UK have a hard time with at first. If you want to spot the UK expat waiting for their Spanish friends, look for the person on their own, looking angrily at their watch!

What it does mean however, is socializing has much less pressure, and you can do things on your own schedule, which can be a massive relief!

A quick snack?

In the UK, the busy schedules, long hours, and long commutes make eating at home a tough routine to stick to. The majority of professionals have an hour for lunch, and will normally buy something quick to eat, or eat at work with their colleagues. Plenty of businesses have small kitchens designed just for this.

Dinner parties amongst friends are more common in the UK but meeting your friends (especially given the price of eating out in Spain) outside is a lot easier to do in Spanish cities.

The climate plays a big part in the food cultures too, with most Spanish cities peppered with sunny outdoor terraces and open-air restaurants.

It can be harder to find a cozy and quiet restaurant, but in return you can soak up the sun year-round.

Don’t touch me!

Life looks very different due to COVID-19, but before close contact meant contagion, Spanish culture was a lot closer than British culture.

Kisses on both cheeks are normal when meeting, and men are more comfortable with physical affection with other men too. It can sometimes lead to a pretty funny entrance to a party, with guests all kissed and greeted by each person that comes in, only getting funnier as more guests arrive and the line of two-cheek kissing grows!

In comparison, handshakes and then later hugs are more normal in the UK. Plenty of young people (especially in the most metropolitan areas like London) have started kissing on both cheeks too, but it’s still not safe to assume.

Standing too close to a Brit, or ‘invading their personal space’ is a fairly big no-no, and in general you’ll find UK restaurants and bars to be a bit quieter, with people speaking to each other at further distances.

So how do we all mix in real life?

In reality, most Brits who come to Spain take on the cheek kissing, the long and delicious dinners and the relaxed timing too. When the sun is out and the streets are as pretty as they are in Spain, it’s hard not to want to make the most of it.

In the more industrial and commercial UK markets, plenty of the Spanish customs don’t make a lot of sense.

However when you experience them in Spain, amongst happy Spanish people, it’s close to impossible to not jump right in.

For Spanish visitors and workers in the UK, you’ll need to adapt to being on time, and there’s not much of a choice I’m afraid.

In general, the UK is a bit more multicultural than Spain, and so hearing many languages and seeing many cultures every day is something that can be a surprise, but only adds to the exciting experience you are looking for.


If you’re thinking of studying abroad, working in an English-speaking country or simply want to improve your English, then get in touch with RKA Valencia. We’re the English academy in Valencia that is teaching the next generation of English speakers.

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