Planning a trip to Spain? Are you going to come here to study abroad or to teach English? Even if you haven’t been here yet, you have probably heard about Spain’s infamous parties and nightlife. Home to places like Ibiza’s famous clubs and festivals like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain sure knows how to throw down. But what’s their secret? How are people in Spain able to go out all night and have the time of their lives? How can us Americans fit in? Check out my five tips for how to party in Spain!
1. Set your clock to Spanish time
It’s no secret, the timing of the day is way different here in Spain than in other parts of the world. Lunch is usually around 2 or 3 with dinner being served up as late as 10 or 11. Logically, when people go out at night, they don’t leave the house til after midnight. It is completely normal to be out til 5 or 6, or even til the sun comes up. So prepare accordingly. Take a siesta during the day and have a late-afternoon coffee if you are planning a night out. There’s nothing worse than being too tired to go out and miss a fun night in Spain with locals! Be well rested and for a worse-case scenario? Order a drink with red bull and you’ll be good to go.
2. Don’t get sloppy
When I first came to Spain back in 2004, I remembering asking what the drinking age was. The waiter laughed and replied, “when you can reach the bar.” After a few years in Spain, I’d say that’s fairly accurate. The rules for drinking are very lax in Spain, so teenagers get the accidental binge drinking out of their systems by the time they hit university. Basically, the 13 year olds have an excuse to get sloppy, but if you’re my age, watch yourself or you’ll look like the idiot foreigner. Behave and go slow.
3. Pace yourself
When is anyone ever in a hurry in Spain? Never, except with the sales starts or when there is a Madrid-Barcelona match going on. Time moves slower here, especially when it comes to the fiestas. The idea of drinking games, taking lots of shots, or seeing who can drink the most is rather abstract in Spain. You go out with your friends, and DRINK SLOWLY, if at all. Most of my Saturday nights in Spain consist of going out to dinner or for pinchos or tapas with friends, maybe sitting on a terrace talking and drinking beer or wine for a bit, before heading to a bar and then a discoteca (club) around 3 to get dancing. It is not unusual to end the night eating a doner kebab around 6am.
In Spain I have experienced some marathon fiestas, most memorably for my 23rd birthday and my village’s Romería in Córdoba and again this summer for San Fermín and the running of the bulls in Pamplona. I really had to take it slow or I would have not been able to stay awake and enjoy all the fun! Both days the party started around 10 in the morning and didn’t finish for almost 24 hours! You have to pace yourself or you’ll end up asleep under an olive tree before dinner time!
In general, I’ve noticed Spaniards are a bit more careful about how they dress, during the day and night. That’s not to say you can’t go out in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers, but usually, most people are a bit more put together than back home in the States, especially when going out at night. It’s completely normal to see girls tottering around in high heels with their hair poofed up with guys wearing nice sweaters or button-ups and good shoes. If you want to fit in, slap on some mascara and a nice shirt, put on some comfy wedges (ladies) and head on out!
5. Lose your inhibitions!
This might be the hardest and most important point on this list. Over the years, I feel that Spaniards are more relaxed and tend to have more fun out at night. Spain has an incredibly social atmosphere, people are less reserved and more outgoing. People still go out dancing and partying well into their thirties and forties. I almost always run into one of my older students or colleagues in a club or a bar on the weekends, and it’s totally normal and fun. In the bars and discotecas, people dance like no one is watching, you go up and talk to strangers, make new friends. Not only is it a great way to meet new people, but also you can practice your Spanish and gain a lot of self-confidence.