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HISPANIC CUSTOM
 

When you receive a compliment, a simple "thank you" is usually not enough. It would be far more appropriate to say something like "Thank you very much. You are very kind." "Muchas gracias. Usted es muy amable."
THE SIESTA
To be Spanish and fully enjoy a siesta it is very important to have a good lunch with friends and/or relatives.

1. The real siesta takes place in bed and in pyjamas, but a comfortable sofa is also fine if a bed is not available.

2. Timing is very important. A siesta should last between 15-30 minutes, no more.

3. Don't let anything disturb you. The siesta is a very serious business. Some people can't enjoy a siesta unless the TV or radio is on. If these kind of things help you to fall asleep, use them.

4. The best way to wake up from a siesta is to hear a delicate human voice. If you don't have anybody near, remember to use an alarm clock.

Tips:

Right after the siesta, a glass of water and a piece of chocolate will make your life easier.

Disconnect all telephones!

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Hours

Perhaps because of the benign climate and the long hours of sunshine in Spain, Spaniards tend to get up later in the morning and stay out later at night than the rest of their European neighbours. Shops and businesses are usually opened from 9 or 9:30 am to 1:30pm and from 4:30 or 5pm to 8 or 8:30pm though it has become more and more common for businesses to stay open through the traditional "siesta" hours.

Business establishments are usually closed for a day and half per week, most often Saturday afternoon and Sunday, while many shops close only on Sunday. In tourist areas, in summer, business hours are often expanded to 10 or 11pm with stores open 7 days a week.

Restaurant hours are quite varied, with the norm being from 1:30 to 3:30pm for lunch and from 8:30 to 11 or 11:30pm for dinner. In summer, these hours are often expanded, with many establishments offering continuous service and still other serving food into the small hours.  Bars are usually open all day and close late at night.

In general, the nightlife in Spain is quite intense, and the bars and discotheques stay open long past midnight. In summer, they often stay open past 3 or 4 am. In big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, for example, there are many places that stay open until dawn, even in winter.

Pharmacies

Pharmacy hours are established by each Town Hall, though such establishments are generally open from 9.30am to 2pm and from 4:30 to 8:00pm.

Besides this set schedule, however, a series of pharmacies are required to remain open on an "on call" basis as well. All pharmaceutical dispensaries provide a list of addresses of the establishments that are "on call" with the nearest ones clearly indicated. This list is also printed in the daily newspapers.

Banks

Bank offices are open for business from 8.30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday, except in the summer months when they are closed on Saturday. Some branch offices are open in the afternoon.

Tipping

Tipping is a great tradition in Spain. While practically all establishments currently include a surcharge for service it is still common to leave something of a tip. This custom, common in bars and restaurants, has extended to hotel porters, theatre ushers and taxi drivers, though in none of these cases is it obligatory nor will anyone recriminate a client for not tipping

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TAPAS

"La tapa" is eaten to sustain the body between meals.

Some assert that "the tapa" was born when, due to an illness, the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th (Alfonso the Wise), had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals.  Once recovered from the disease, the wise king ordered that in all the inns of Castile's land, wine was not to be served unless with something to eat. This royal providence was considered wise in order to avoid drunkenness in those who drunk the wine, and feed those who, hadn't enough money to buy themselves a normal meal.

Alternatively consider the theory that "the tapa" first appeared, because of the need of farmers and otherworkers to take a small amount of food during their working time, so allowing them to continue on the job until the main meal time.

This main meal, with lots of fat, left the body so busy digesting that a "siesta" had to be taken for a couple of hours before going back to the fields or in the workshop. The longer the morning working hours took the less one had to do after the meal.
This snack needed wine, because alcohol enhanced the enthusiasm and the strength, and in winter it warmed the body up so as to withstand the very cold days in the fields and in the workshops.  In summer, the drink to be taken in the South was "gazpacho" (cold tomato soup), instead of wine.

Once the "botillerias" ("bottle-shops") and "tabernas" (taverns) were open throughout Spain, the King decreed that the glass or jar of wine was served covered with a slice either of smoked ham or cheese, with two aims: first to avoid that insects or other impurities could fall into the jar and also for the customers to soak up the alcohol they drunk with something solid.   That was the origin of "la tapa" (a lid),   a word rooted in Spanish tradition, a solid food that covered the wineglass.  So the tapa's tradition spread all through Spain, right to the present day, when it has been adopted and modified in other countries.

Spain still eats three main meals: breakfast, mid-day and evening.

The long time between breakfast, and the midday meal then the late evening meal, encourages the taking of a "tentempié" (snack), an appetiser or the "tapita", when it is time for a social chat or discuss how the job is going.

The traditional drink to be taken with the tapa is wine, either "peleón" (young and cheap) or "reserva" (aged in oak-barrels) wine of each region: young "txakolí" in the Basque Country, Penedés wine or Cava in Cataluña, "ribeiro" in the Northwest, young Valdepeñas or Rioja wine in Castile and in the centre, or fine sherry in the south. In Asturias and in northern parts, where apples grow widely, cider replaces wine.

The tapas' receipes vary according to the traditions of each region. But usually, olives in its many varieties are often used, as well as different dry nuts and all kinds of cold cuts.
The green, Manzanilla, machacadas (crushed), gordales (big), rellenas (stuffed), aliñadas (flavoured) or deshuesadas (boneless), could by themselves fill a book of tapas.  Together with the olives, slices of garlic or smoked-ham sausages, slices of cheese or jamón curado became world-wide known.  Tapas recipes use all sorts of food: meat, fish, vegetables, eggs and any other product could enter the tapas' world.

There are fried ones - "boquerones" (whitebait), calamaries, sausages, doughnuts, croquets, potatoes and "torreznos"  --  Casseroles and stews, like the madrilenian "callos" or the Almagro's aubergines, or the flavoured string beans. And finally, recipes like potato tortilla, codfish doughnuts,.  Croquets and escabeches remain obligatory at this time of the day and,  accompanied by a salad, could perfectly replace a complete lunch.

Today, additional to those traditional snacks, new ones have appeared, some of them used to be only to be seen on a properly dressed table, like the "paella" or the stewed potatoes with meat  --   other foreign recipes have arrived as tapas like smoked salmon, pate or caviar, vegetables spring rolls, smoked fish from the northern countries, German sausages, Swiss melted cheese and cakes or pate.
The art of eating tapes can replace the need for lunch or dinner where there is sufficent quantity and choice.

But, without any doubt, the most singular aspect of the "tapa" is in its position promoting companionship, and informal ritual.  The elegance of the tapeo, the aesthetic of the rite, belongs in a sort of indifference to the table and the chair,  and even to the food that, although delicate and tasty, is eaten standing, and in small portions, even the verb "to eat" is rejected in favour of "to scratch" as used in the bird world.

Speech and gesture is all part of "tapeo". The art of eating on foot has almost sacramental appearances.  The "tapas" are a very characteristic part of the Spanish cooking tradition that impossible to be exported to other cultures, but it has become popular everywhere in the world.

Why not! The tapeo would be, without a doubt, the best fast food formula if it did not require time and a break long enough to practice the Spanish elegance the art of eating while standing.

 

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