Before you head over to this side of the pond you should be aware of the smoking culture that exists in Europe, and we have found it is quite strong in Spain. This is especially important to know 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 such as a shared apartment. This is also interesting to know if you are a smoker but have never lived in a place where smoking is ‘normal.’ It was unexpected for us that in Spain, this smoking culture includes both cigarettes―industrial and rolled―and recreational marijuana, so let’s talk about each.
Legally, these days you are not allowed to smoke tobacco indoors in public places, such as in restaurants or bars in Spain. 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 our perspective, people smoke quite a lot of cigarettes in Spain, both industrial and hand rolled. As two non-smokers, we don’t really like this custom because when your close friends or flatmates smoke, the smell can permeate your clothes or your home even if you are just hanging out for one night. With the legislation in place making it less socially acceptable, we might expect that smoking might decrease in the coming years (it is possible it has begun to decrease already).
On the other hand, it is pretty cheap to smoke in Spain, especially in comparison to other countries in Europe. In fact, we know people who come from abroad and tend to stock up on cigarettes because it is cheaper than back home. This is one reason why we don’t really expect the amount of smoking to drop drastically in Spain, at least not yet.
Although the rules might be a bit confusing, marijuana is illegal in Spain. In 2009/2010, when Claudia first moved to Spain, 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 around 3 or 4 plants per person. However, since 2015/2016 the fines for possession and consumption have risen, although there are some loopholes that people use to get around these fines such as growing for your own consumption and only smoking in private areas.
At the same time, the rules don’t really stop people from consuming, both at home and in the street (although they might be more likely to 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 as well. In addition, while it is completely illegal to sell, coming across marijuana is pretty easy because it can be grown in Spain—Granada might even be the number one producer in Europe—at a pretty inexpensive price as well.
For us, 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. Living in shared flats with people who smoke can oftentimes leave you at odds, although our experience has been very positive if you ask that your flatmates don’t smoke in the common areas. If you have your own home but invite people over, you might find that you have to restrict the amount of smoking that people do in your personal space. On the other hand, if you are a smoker, you will find that it is much more common that you will find other smokers to live with or that people will be more open to you smoking at 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 but, when moving to Spain, we recommend thinking about this beforehand. This is especially important if you are planning to live with people because people might not tell you they are smokers. In our experience, we would say that if they don’t say anything, there is a 50/50 chance they are. Just some food for thought before moving in with someone without checking!
Let us know what you think about smoking and tell us about your experiences with smoking abroad.
P.S. You will also see people leave their cigarette butts everywhere but we would ask that if you do smoke, please pick up your trash.