It sounds like after just a short time in Spain you are noticing that PDA is everywhere! What is it with Spanish people and their constant public displays of affection, you ask? At first, this may make you a bit uncomfortable, especially if you’re coming from the US where such intense PDA is typically frowned upon. However, after spending some more time here, I have come to accept it as rather normal and I imagine you will soon, too.
So, what kind of PDA are we talking about?
The PDA you can find while walking the streets of Spain on a typical day truly runs the gamut from innocent hand-holding and pecks on the cheek to full-on making out in restaurants and canoodling in parks.
For me, the most shocking part has been that this kind of public intimacy does not only come from horny teenagers who “should know better,” but from individuals from all different age groups (as well as sexual orientations). You’re just as likely to see the grey-haired couple kissing at the bar as you are to see the middle-aged couple grabbing each other’s butts while stopped at the traffic light as you are to see the teenaged couple macking on each other on the park bench.
Obviously, not everyone is “going to town” with their PDA all of time but you are far more likely to encounter this kind of behavior here in Spain than in the USA and many other countries. The difference for me is not that everyone is partaking in PDA regularly but that nobody seems to be shocked or bothered by even the most intense PDA in public places.
Why does nobody seem to mind?
Granted, I am speaking as a guiri so my interpretations may not be 100% accurate but I believe the normalization of PDA in Spain comes down to two key factors.
1.) It is quite normal to live with your parents well into your thirties and many of Spain’s youth will live with their families until they get married. Of course, this is not the case for university students who choose to study in another city (mostly the case when the university there is specialized for their major) but it is very common for young people to continue their studies close to home so that they can commute from mom and/or dad’s place.
That being said, you can imagine why young people might feel more comfortable showing their partner affection in public places, rather than their homes. Now, don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that everyone is having sex in the park, but from the normalcy with which people lay out blankets and roll around with each other, I also wouldn’t be completely surprised.
Since most everyone in Spain has experienced these conditions in their own stages of young love, it doesn’t seem to be looked down upon by most and it is then carried over into (perhaps less ostentatious) PDA in later life as well.
2.) The Spanish are simply affectionate people. When you consider the fact that they give two kisses to complete strangers and that many of my girl friends here will take my arm or hand when we are walking through the streets together, it should really not come as a surprise that the Spanish are then that much more affectionate with their partners.
As an American, I used to have a very serious ‘personal bubble’ in which the average person was not welcome. That may sound funny, but think about it—How often do you stand within a foot or two of the person you are speaking with or touch their hands, arms, or face? If you’re like the average American, I would imagine that this is very rare outside of situations with your partner, family, or very close friends. In Spain, however, I’ve found that it takes much less time to reach the point in which people are that close and touchy-feely with you. Thus, if friends already display the kind of affection I would expect only from lovers in the US, it seems rather natural that lovers therefore display more affection without eliciting much backlash.
My Personal Thoughts
As always, I feel it is necessary to point out that not everyone in Spain will fall into the category of being unabashedly affectionate in public nor being okay with this kind of behavior from others. As with every culture, not everyone is the same. I have simply noticed a trend in more people partaking in PDA than I was used to as well as less people seeming bothered by this and so I’m sharing my thoughts on why that is.
While at first this trend surprised me, I have come to accept it and actually warm up to the idea a bit. I kind of like the fact that people don’t seem afraid to show their feelings in public. Of course, I’ve encountered certain circumstances that seemed a bit much to me, but on the whole it makes me smile, especially when I see older couples who still seem so into each other. I don’t know, there’s something hopeful about that to me…
Would you agree or are your thoughts on PDA different? Have you noticed this trend during your time in Spain?