Sunday, September 1, 2019

Etiquette Observations in Spain

Artwork depicting clashes between the working classes and the Spanish elite – 1909 may not have been the best of years to travel to Spain. By late-July, a series of violent confrontations between members of the working classes of Barcelona and other cities of Catalonia (Spain) and the  Spanish army, during the last week of July 1909, is known as the “Tragic Week.” The clashes were the result of the calling-up of reserve troops by Premier Antonio Maura to be sent as reinforcements when Spain renewed military-colonial activity in Morocco on the 9th of July. Many of these reservists were the only breadwinners for their families, while the wealthy were able to hire substitutes. –image source, Pinterest

An Etiquette Travel Journal

From what we saw, and from what happened to us, I made up a page of Spanish etiquette. It is probably not correct, but I offer it as the result of our experiences. If you are of the female sex, never wear a short shirt, a sailor or English walking-hat unless yon are willing to have people stare at you and sometimes call after you. If you have red hair, dye it or be prepared to be saluted as “Rubia.” Never bow to a man unless he lifts his hat first. 

If you are a man, you may dress as an Englishman, an operatic tenor or a chorus singer from Carmen, without exciting remark. Never wear glasses if you are blind, take to a dog on a string. When you sit down at the table, or arise, always bow and say, “Buenas,” this is imperative. You may jostle people without apology, but never speak to any one without saying “your grace” be he noble, friend or beggar. “Will your grace do me the favor to bring me my coffee at nine o'clock tomorrow,” would strike an American bellboy with dismay. But it is the literal translation of the Spanish request. 

Never tell a beggar to clear out, but say that you have left your purse at home, and that you will remember him tomorrow; or, gently murmur that God will reward him, whereas he will smile, thank you and depart. These same beggars, which spring up on every side, seem to have a code of etiquette we could not fathom. After two or three days, there were a few who besought Jean. Evidently, we were understood to be the patrons of certain beggars who, out of a crowd of mendicants, were the only ones to approach us, who would take their dole with thanks, or if we said “tomorrow,” would smilingly back away at once. 

A trip into Spain ought to mean more than sketches of life, as we saw it in a single city. Yet it was our pleasure to linger on in Madrid—with the exception of three days spent in Toledo and the Escorial for the whole of our two months’ holiday, and to return direct to Paris without seeing any of the southern country so beloved by other tourism. So can any one wonder that, to us Spain means Madrid, the city of marvelous contrasts. – From “A Second-Class Trip into Spain.” in The Outing Magazine for February, 1909

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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