Despite the diversity (the cultures, food and even languages) a few rules hold true, no matter where in Spain you’re planning on visiting and indeed, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or tenth visit, Spain always manages to find brilliant ways to surprise and impress you.

Spain isn’t just Spanish

There’s an amazing amount of diversity in Spain – this is a country made up of 17 semi-autonomous regions, each of which clings fiercely to a unique culture. From the Basques in the north to the Andalusians in the south, the Catalans in the east to the Leonese in the west, the language, food, culture and even architecture changes quite dramatically depending on where you are.

The Spanish don’t speak English

You’re in Europe, right? Everyone speaks English. Or at least a little bit. Except in Spain, that is, where once you veer off the tourist paths of Barcelona and Madrid you find that very few people are able to speak to you in English. This doesn’t mean locals are unfriendly – they’ll go out of their way to attempt to help – but don’t assume you’ll be able to be lazy with language.

Only tourists eat before 9 pm

One thing to note (especially if you’re not from Southern Europe) is that dinner is usually much later than its Northern European neighbours. Dinner will usually start around 9 pm for locals which goes until midnight. The Spanish like to go out late, and stay out late. You’ll need to adjust your body clock accordingly. And embrace the siesta.

Jamon is the best thing ever

To outsiders, it’s just a cured leg of ham. To the Spanish, however, “jamon iberico” is a work of art, from the breeding of the pig to the curing of the ham, to the way it’s finely sliced fresh off the bone. This is a true delicacy, and one that the Spanish are intensely proud of. Don’t even mention prosciutto, the Italian version of cured ham, in the same sentence.