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To be, or not to be, rude in Spain.

What does it mean to be rude? Are the Spanish people rude? We will explain the difference between being rude and not being rude. It's important to consider that sometimes it's not just a matter of the use of Spanish, but also of the manners and contexts in which it is used.

Let's present 5 examples of situations where there are doubts about whether the way of behaving is rude or not.

1. "Please" and "thank you." Is it correct to use these expressions when we ask for something or when we like someone? Yes. How often should we use them? There's no set rule, but typically, Spaniards use them at the beginning and end of our interactions. Do we always use these words? No. It's here where many people, often from a British perspective, consider this impolite.


It is true that there can be situations where this is the case. However, from a Spanish cultural perspective, the mechanical repetition of "please" and "thank you" doesn't always signify more respect, kindness, and good manners. Instead, showing a smile, speaking without raising one's voice, or not being overly insistent can be equally accepted as polite, even if explicit formulas are not used.

Similarly, many times when we use "please", it's because we genuinely believe that the effort the other person has to make for us is significant enough to ask them to do it as a favor. Likewise, if we say "thank you", it's because we consider that the other person has done something truly significant to express our gratitude.

2. Using the formal "usted" form. Is it impolite not to always use the "usted" form when speaking to a stranger? No. How do I know when I should use it? It depends on the country, the person you are speaking to, and the context of the conversation. Can someone be offended if I don't use the "usted" form? Yes. Is it the sender's problem? No.


As long as the interaction takes place with a basic level of respect, the sender shouldn't worry about using the "usted" form. This is especially true if the sender is not a native Spanish speaker.

I've always considered that the simple act of trying to communicate in Spanish, even if it's not your native language, should be seen as a gesture of utmost respect towards the other person, regardless of whether the "usted" form is used or not.

3. Speaking directly. Is it considered impolite to say something to another person in a straightforward and unvarnished manner? No. Do the Spanish do this frequently? Yes, quite often. Does it happen in all aspects of life: family, work, business? I believe so.


Again, cultural differences lead to the same act being perceived differently depending on the lens of analysis, be it Spanish or British. From a Spanish perspective, not saying what one thinks or hiding the truth with excuses and half-truths can be considered hypocritical, false, and deceptive. From the British viewpoint, on the other hand, showing an open opinion or directly expressing what one thinks about another person to their face is considered extremely impolite.

Por eso, en este caso, no creo que sea más correcto uno que otro, sino que debemos saber en qué contexto nos encontramos para esperar unas situaciones u otras y, sobre todo, no frustrarnos o juzgar a la otra persona utilizando una lupa equivocada.

So, in this case, I don't believe one is more correct than the other, but rather we should be aware of the context we are in to expect different situations. Most importantly, we should not become frustrated or judge the other person using the wrong lens.

4.- Hello and goodbye. Is it impolite to enter a place and not say hello? Yes, it's quite impolite. Is it frowned upon to leave a place without saying goodbye? Yes, it is. These two simple actions can be very different in Spain and, in this specific case from my experience, in England.

In Spain, not saying "hello" (good morning, how are you, what's up, etc.) and "goodbye" (see you later, see you soon, we'll catch up, etc.) is considered extremely impolite. Perhaps this is because we believe it's a sign of respect to let people in a place know that someone new has arrived.

Conversely, in my experience of over a decade in England, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to enter a place and not greet anyone, whether you know someone there or not. I believe this can be explained by a cultural difference where the British prefer to respect individuality and not interfere in other people's lives.

5.- "¡Qué aproveche!" What does this expression mean? It's the same as saying "enjoy your meal" or "bon appétit." How often is it used? Traditionally, always. Currently, less frequently. Is it impolite not to say it? Yes, it's less critical than not saying "hello" or "goodbye," but it's not well-received.


Just like with "hello" and "goodbye," this phrase has been used whenever we encounter someone who is eating, whether it's at their home or in a restaurant, regardless of whether we know them or not. It's a custom of good manners and a sign of respect for the people who are eating when we arrive.

Perhaps these cultural differences surrounding food, both in terms of the Mediterranean diet and the way it's consumed (at a table, with family, without distractions), play a role. Or maybe it's simply a form of respect for what others are doing. While in Spain, the comment of respect is appreciated, in England, it's not even used.

As a final summary for a potential trip to Spain, always remember to say "hello" and "goodbye" when entering and leaving places, as well as saying "qué aproveche" or "buen apetito" if you are sharing a space where others are eating. You don't need to worry too much about constantly repeating "please" and "thank you," just as you shouldn't obsess over using or not using the "usted" form. And remember, it's quite possible that someone may approach you (in a hotel, restaurant, store, on the street, or at the beach) and make a direct comment about you, your country, your Prime Minister, or a football team. Don't take offense; they just wanted to be honest and never meant to be impolite.

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