Britain & Spain – a fun cultural comparison

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Britain and Spain are two fascinating countries. One of the benefits of being a UK expat in Murcia, Alicante or other Spanish regions is that you can witness the two cultures close up. Often, there are funny moments when mistranslations and innocent misunderstandings happen.

Recounting some of the key similarities and differences between Britain and Spain can be entertaining but also informative. As a British expat, this knowledge can be useful to evade some common social faux pas when dealing with friends, colleagues, shop workers and other Spanish people. Below, our financial advisers at Scottsdale offer some ideas to help you.

If you want to discuss your financial plan with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation financial consultation, at our expense:

+34 966 460 407

The weather

The climate in Spain is quite different to the UK, of course. Yet attitudes to the weather can also contrast quite sharply. In Britain, we often initiate conversations by talking about how wet, dark or unpleasant the weather is. This helps us overcome social inhibitions, fill awkward silences and divert away from awkward subjects.

In Spain, however, people are more likely to celebrate the sun with exuberance. The phrase “Hace sol” (It’s sunny) is a common mantra. In fact, studies have shown that the Spanish language has a high degree of inherent “positive bias”. The idea that positivity can be “baked into” a tongue is called the Pollyanna principle, with Spanish having a lower number of negative words to choose from compared to other languages.

Tea or coffee?

The UK has been one of the world’s biggest tea consumers since the 18th century. The average per capita supply is about 1.9 kilograms (4.2 lb). Indeed, the British can have vicious debates about how tea should be drunk. George Orwell even went so far as to lay out 11 Rules for making the perfect cup of tea in his 1946 essay in the London Evening Standard.

In Spain, however, coffee is the preferred beverage with 60.5% of people drinking it in some variation. There is no “wrong” time to drink it, with traditional bars serving espresso late into the night. This touches upon another subject – sleep. Whilst the British are more likely to power through their workday, the Spanish still love their midday siesta to avoid the heat!


Everyone has their own unique sense of humour. However, the British approach is often characterised as deadpan, subtle and relying on irony and sarcasm. This dry wit can be lost in translation in many countries (including Spain), especially if a non-fluent English speaker is listening. An interesting case study is The Funniest Joke in the World, by the treasured British comedy troupe Monty Python:

“My dog’s got no nose.”

“How does he smell?”


The sarcasm here is typically appreciated by British people but can lead to puzzled looks by foreigners! Spanish comedy, in comparison, is more likely to feature physical humour, repetition and hyperbole. A British expat may revel in the awkwardness of a character like David Brent in The Office, whilst a Spaniard might burst into laughter at a lively, animated conversation.


The British are widely derided for their culinary skills. Yet this is a bit unfair. To turn to George Orwell again, his light-hearted essay called In Defence of English Cooking lists some widely-loved British creations such as saffron buns and marrow jam.

With that said, the British love for a hearty fry-up breakfast with baked beans and black pudding is not always shared by the Spaniard (who is more likely to prefer a light pastry and coffee). The British person might like a quick sandwich or salad at their desk. The Spaniard is more likely to prefer a leisurely, multi-course lunch followed by a nap!


British people are commonly known for their strictness when it comes to being on time (e.g. for an interview or dinner date). Unless you are in an emergency or in a traffic jam, to be late is seen as very disrespectful – although this attitude is perhaps softening amongst younger Brits.

Other cultures, however, are more flexible in their attitudes to time management. In Spain, social gatherings often start a bit later than the officially designated time. If you are 30 minutes late to a party and you apologise, then you are likely to hear “no pasa nada” (it’s not that important”). For a business meeting, of course, things will probably be a bit different.

On that note, please do not be late for your next financial planning meeting! (Are we being sarcastic? You decide!).


We hope this has made you laugh and helped open the eyes of some British people who may be considering a move to Spain (or who are still settling in). Do not take the article too seriously. We are all different and there are bound to be Spaniards who like tea and Brits who like siestas!

If you are interested in discussing your own financial plan or inheritance tax strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-commitment financial consultation at our expense:

+34 966 460 407


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