5 Things New Yorkers Should Know When Going to Spain

1.) Coffee Is Not On The Go

 While New Yorkers for the most part (90% of our weekly lives) have our coffee on the go, on the subway, on the way to a meeting, and expect nothing but quick service in our process to get our sweet addiction—must realize that this is a no-go in many of Spain’s establishments.

I can’t count how many times I have gone into coffee shops, and diner-like places for a quick cup of coffee to take on the go to work, and am given a small plastic cup with no cap because they do not have on-the-go cups (or have a very small limited supply…ahem Paneria)



Not only can I not physically hold it due to how hot it is, but there is no way I can bring this on the metro or bus.

Positive side of this? Having a coffee is an actual experience here in Spain, and many European countries. It is meant for you to sit down, drink slowly, and enjoy.

(Also, quick shout out to Vienna who has the best European coffee culture hands down. Not only do they have some of the most beautiful coffee shops you can spend hours in, but they even give you a cute glass of water to drink after your caffeine indulgence—they actually get it!)

i love you Vienna.

I love you Vienna.

In Spain and many European countries you can even sit at  very posh restaurants and just order a cup of coffee with no odd annoyed looks, or sense of rush from the waiter who is pressuring you to buy more, as we would commonly get in New York.

I never had so much pressure to finish a meal than I do in NY where the waiter constantly checks up on me, or tries to take away my plate of food I did not finish because I’m taking a 3 minute break from eating.

I actually enjoy being able to finish my food in peace, without reassuring the waitress/waiter in between bites that I need nothing else, but just time.

Which brings me to number 2…

2.) You Must Ask The Waiter For Your Bill

Relax. Come in, eat that delicious paella, and feel no pressure to leave any time soon. This is something I truly value in Spain.

How can I not need time for this beauty?

How can I not need time for this beauty?

As I mentioned above, many restaurants in N.Y have waiters that sit you down and have a goal to get you in-and-out (this reflects not on the waiter, but the establishment/American cultural norm we are accustomed to, and our idea of customer service). It is also common to bring you the bill even while you are still eating, which I feel is an “indirect” manner to let you know you should probably leave soon.

Not in Spain—they let you eat in peace, give you the bill when you ask for it, and eso es todo!

Also, tip is voluntary and only given if you liked the service. Leaving 30 cents to a euro is perfectly fine.

*It should be noted that wage difference exists in these two countries, and American waiters/waitresses make their money from tips, so please always tip 18%+ in America!*

3.) Chipotle-esque Service Does Not Exist

I thought this was the best way to describe it to some fellow New Yorkers. We all love Chipotle, not only for its’ delicious addicting food, but also for how efficiently they work!

Going there during lunch hour in the middle of the city and waiting on that line that even stretches out around the tables, does not intimidate me, because I know how fast and well those workers work.

They worked out a perfect system, and they are clearly the most awesome people.

This does not exist in Spain. You must have patience, even if you have 30 minutes for lunch (yes, not everyone has 3 hours of siesta, trust me)


Closest thing to Chiptole I had in Valencia.

The wait of 3 people ahead of you at subway or a chiptole-like establishment, plus the adding of all your ingredients, will take its’ sweet sweet time. So as New Yorkers, we must relax.

4.)  Subways Are Actually Clean?

Riding the subways in the 3 largest cities of Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia) has truly made me question what is going on in New York.

Our subways are…ahem, lacking in a few departments.

How is it so clean here?!

They even have trash cans in the Valencia metro!

Oh and they are quite organized in their lines.

Red lane states "In a rush" and green lane states "Not in a rush"

Red lane states “In a rush” and green lane states “not in a rush”

BUT one factor Spain doesn’t have is 24/7 metro lines working.

We win right there. Sorry Spain.

 I would rather be able to get home at 4 a.m in some smelly train cart then take a $40 cab ride home.

5.)  Culture Shock: The Spanish Work To Live, Not Live To Work

Maybe you have heard this expression before, but it is damn true. After work, on any given day of the week, bars and restaurants are filled with people in Spain. And due to the late timetables and culture, there is always something happening.

After work drinks! Vocal noudles do not keep me from a sangria! And see, I have tea too.

After work drinks! Vocal nodules do not keep me from a sangria! And see, I have tea too.

The Spanish seem to truly value their social time, as we all should to stay sane, but though NYC has many places to go, many people agree that it’s another social culture. In NYC we live to work, and though our well-known work ethic is a highly valuable trait, I think we all need to sometimes stop and learn when it’s all too much.

Yes, that means you sir.

Yes, that means you sir.


Spain is a breath of fresh air for many New Yorkers. This is not to say that stress does not exist here—I had my fair share of frustrating professional and personal experiences working here for a year, but maybe the Spanish just know how to handle it better.

Also, who can’t love a country with a motto that boils down to “no pasa nada” ?


2 thoughts on “5 Things New Yorkers Should Know When Going to Spain

  1. Haha love this post! So true, love that you put the no to-go coffee first…I really missed being able to have a cup of coffee and enjoy it in a park or grab one on the way to work. But agreed – the upside is you can totally chill with a coffee at a restaurant and no one cares, whereas I think I’d be murdered by the death glares if I tried that in NY.

    One thing that I only noticed when I went back and visited the US after living in Spain – people are so much more chatty and open with strangers in NY than in Madrid for example…I loved making random conversation with people on the train, and seeing other people doing the same..I didn’t realize it until then but you don’t see as much of that in Spain. (example – I had bright purple hair for a while and strangers were constantly saying things to me about it in NY, not a single peep from anyone in Spain!) Anyway that’s just my personal experience!

    • Thanks Samantha! I really noticed it when I came back this summer and went to a diner in the city and just ordered a cappuccino. The waiter looked at me waiting, and asked if I needed anything else, in which i said no, and she gave me the weirdest look and left annoyed.

      Haha that is true! I agree, we are more chatty here, which I enjoy as well 🙂

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