Spanish Table Manners

Remember when you were a child and your parents or grandparents were always telling you to shut your mouth when you're eating, keep your elbows off the table and which spoon is used for which dish? What am I saying, they still do that! But do you know what the Spanish table etiquette rules are in Spain? This is one thing that is essential to learn and is best learnt when you are in Spain whether that is to live there or to study Spanish there. You might not have your own Spanish granny to tell you what the Spanish table manners are so we have endeavoured to help you to not make a fool out of yourself at the dinner table!

Rule 1

Table MannersDo not dip your bread in the soup! This is very rude and the concept of dipping things into sauces isn't very common anyway. However don't be surprised to see a Spaniard holding a fork in their right hand and a small piece of bread in their left. The bread is then used to help push things onto the fork which is particularly useful at the end of a meal when you are trying to catch the last few morcels of food. The use of a piece of bread as a separate piece of cutlery is completely acceptable at a family meal and the local pub but is probably not the kind of behaviour you would expect in a fancier Spanish restaurant. Oh and one other thing! Bread is not normally put on your plate, but rather by the side of your plate on the table cloth.

Rule 2

Elbows off the table! Yes, this rule still exists in Spain but it has, like in most cultures, got more relaxed over the years. There is an old saying which says 'All joints off the table, except those waiting to be carved'! Also you should keep your hands visible and not hidden under the tablecloth. Either side of the plate is a good place for your hands to sit while you are waiting for your Spanish food to be served.

Rule 3

The use of cutlery is also something to bear in mind. Large tablespoons are designed to be used for things like beans, lentils and of course, soups. When it comes to dessert however it is customary to use a small spoon like a teaspoon. This means that eating your dessert will take much longer, but it also means that you get to savour every bite!

If you go to a Spanish restaurant for breakfast, you will often receive a small knife and fork with your piece of toast or croissant for spreading jams and butters. Also, at smaller and cheaper restaurants, once you have finished one course you should hold onto your knife and fork as you won't be getting another set. Of course, this isn't the case at the more up-market restaurants.

Rule 4

Rule 4

Always keep talking. The Spanish love to talk and especially at meal times so it is extremely awkward to be sat in a Spanish restaurant in silence. There is a Spanish saying for such quiet moments at the dinner table; people say 'Ha pasado un ángel' (An angel has just flown over), which has left everyone speechless! Normally, people like to talk to the person who is sitting diagonally opposite them which means you may have to raise your voice to get heard over everybody else. Also it is almost expected that you should say 'buen provecho' (Bon Appétit / Enjoy your meal) when someone is about to eat their meal, whether you know them or not.

Rule 5

Rule 5

If you have anything left over such as olive pips or serviettes, there are different rules for different establishments. In some fancier Spanish restaurants, you are provided with a bowl of olives which is also where you can leave the stones. However, at some of the less classy places it is common for people to drop their discarded napkins and olive pips onto the floor, which is cleared every so often by one of the staff members. With regards to whether napkins should go on the lap, the best option is to see what everyone else does. Normally if it is a paper napkin then you don't need to put it on your lap, whereas napkins made of material, which are normally found at more up-market restaurants in Spain, should go on laps.

If you have mastered all of these rules then you must either be Spanish, have spent a long time in Spain, or be studying on a immersion program. Of course, the best way to learn is to copy the locals and don't be afraid to do as they do. Furthermore, although not following these rules may create some awkward moments while you're at a restaurant in Spain, they won't be so bad as to lose you your new Spanish friends!