A Smoking Culture

Dear Jaime,

A burning cigarette.

Before you head over to this side of the pond you should be aware of the smoking culture that exists here. This is especially important if you are not a fan of smoking and are doing a homestay or will have some other living situation where you will be sharing your space with other people. This is also interesting to know if you are a smoker but have never lived in a place where smoking is 'normal'. In Spain, this smoking culture includes both cigarettes―industrial and rolled―and recreational marijuana, so let’s talk about each.


Legally, you are not allowed to smoke tobacco indoors in public places, such as in restaurants or bars. For those of us who are non-smokers, this change in 2011 was a huge relief (going home when your hair smelled of tobacco after a night out was no fun). However, in outdoor patios, places closed for ‘private parties’, and people’s houses, smoking is permitted, and fairly socially acceptable.

From my perspective, people smoke A LOT of cigarettes in Spain. Personally, I have never been inclined to smoke one, not even one drag, so I don’t understand the interest in cigarettes at all and do not think I ever will―they are bad for your health, make you smell bad, and are kind of an overall waste of money. I am constantly trying to get my smoker friends to stop because I just don’t see the point (and really don’t want to hug you if you stink). However, smoking is socially acceptable in a way that I never saw in the States and, therefore, I don’t expect people to stop any time soon.


On the other hand, marijuana is illegal in Spain. When I first arrived, the criminalization of this drug was fairly lax and you could even have your own plants as long as it was for your own consumption―something like 3 or 4 plants, I think. However, since 2015/2016 the fines for possession and consumption have risen. This doesn’t really stop people from consuming, both at home and in the street (although they might look for dark corners to smoke in), and wandering around cities like Granada it is common to catch a whiff of this illegal, but pretty socially acceptable drug.

For me, this smoking culture (that can also be found in countries like Portugal, France, and Italy) was very surprising, and not necessarily in a good way. I have lived in several shared flats with people who smoke and I can assure you that I am that annoying flatmate who insists that smoking is not to be done in common areas. Now, I just don’t want to live with anyone who smokes at all and feel like I smell after staying with smoker friends for a few days (even if I love to be with them). Dani has also lived with smokers and while she doesn't mind sharing living spaces with people smoking, now that she lives alone, she doesn't really want people smoking in her home. 

If you have never lived/spent a lot of time with a smoker, moving in with one might not be the best idea (or it might not bother you at all). If you are coming to Spain and planning on living with people you don’t know, make sure that you think about what might bother you beforehand! And don't expect people to tell you they are smokers, if they don't say anything, the probability that they smoke is high. This could mean that you actively seek out non-smokers, but maybe this is the time when you will feel socially acceptable to partaking in a habit that you enjoy that isn’t accepted back home.  

Let us know what you think about smoking and tell us about your experiences with smoking abroad.


P.S. I also find it gross that people leave their cigarette butts everywhere―if you do this PLEASE PICK UP YOUR TRASH!