Newsletter August 2012
Popular destinations in Spain

Typical Spanish

Typical Spanish beach behaviour

Beach tourism is relatively young in Spain. Until the sixties, spending holidays on the coast was a privilege of the wealthy people; and the few modest people that could access to it were the ones living in coastal towns. Considering, then, that most of Spain’s population lives inland, we can imagine that most of them were really looking forward to see the sea. And it is still so on these days: it so happens that when a friend tells another that "during these holidays I’m going over to the mountains", his dumbstruck friend replies "is it that bad for you that you are not having any holidays?"

Yes, being on holidays in Spain is still a synonym of going to the beach; especially for the people of central Spain, and in particular for the people of Madrid, who travel for hours to spend some days on the seaside, preferably Levante’s. This is so much so that some say that the population of the Comunidad Valenciana (Valencian Community) is basically made up of Madrileños. So where do the people that lives by the coast go for holidays? They also go to the seaside, but this time either to the north or the south of the country.

Once we have mentioned the migratory movements, we should take a look at the "standard" Spanish behaviour when he arrives at his destination, the beach. There is a big difference, depending on the month: in June the Spanish beaches are packed with couples and newlyweds (the wedding season starts in May), and retirees; from July on the scenario changes and one can see more families with children (the school is over) and grandparents (to take care of the children, that is). This tendency goes on up until the end of August, and in the first weeks of September, the lonely couples appear again (the children and the students are back to school).

Holidays on the coast

Many are surprised by how well equipped are most of the Spaniards when they go to the beach. A family can arrive to the beach with portable coolers with water bottles, food, fruit... Some groups even take their own folding tables to arrange these products. An even when most beaches have well-assorted bars and establishments. But you know: there’s nothing like home-made food.

Home-made food on the beach? Yes, you heard it right. This is due to the fact that most Spaniards cook their own meals in the houses where they spend the holiday season. Most of them prefer to rent a house or apartment on the seaside; they generally have a second residence or know someone that rents one for a good price. This allows a greater degree of freedom as not depending on a hotel’s hours for breakfast and lunch, as well as a better control of the expenses. In the last years this tendency seemed to be drawing back in favour of greater hotel dependence, but due to the economic crisis people are turning back to the old habits.

Going back to the food discussion, we must not forget the traditional chiringuitos (of which we will talk about in the vocabulary and cooking sections). These beach establishments provide the swimmers with food, drinks and, in the case of many suffering parents, of a place to cool down after a family strife. The problem is that some people consider the prices of the chiringuitos a bit too costy, and this is the main reason for them to bring their own food in portable coolers.

And now that we have spoken about family disputes, we are going to tell you a funny fact: it seems that 1 in every 3 divorces in Spain happens after the holidays. Ironically enough, most of those couples met during a holiday stay.

For most people, especially for the youngest, the holidays in the beach are a synonym for relax during the day and fun during the night. But that does not only include pubs and discos. A curious detail is that many shops on the seaside walks of these holiday towns remain open until almost midnight: we have tried it, and we can say that shopping while you taste an ice cream at eleven o’clock at nigh is an experience that everyone should try in their lives.

Well, what experience should not be tried on a Spanish beach? We invite all the readers to arrive to our shores with curious eyes to find out why most Spaniards prefer the sand and the sea to rivers and mountains.

Featured City

Málaga: The Taking of Málaga by the Catholic Monarchs

Each August Malaga celebrates its grand fiesta, one of the oldest in Spain. It is an unknown fact to many, but it commemorates the Taking of Malaga by the Catholic Monarchs, in 1487.

The intention of this event is to celebrate the success of the battle, and the annexation of the city to the territories of the Kingdom of Castilla. That is why the patron saint of the city is the Virgin of the Victory (it is told that the sculpture venerated today was originally part of the desk of Ferdinand of Aragon).And although the taking of the city took place on August 19th, 1487, the first edition of it wasn’t celebrated until 1491... on the 15th of August. The following year the calendar would be set back to the original day of the taking.


The celebration of 1491, although medieval, would seem super Spanish to us today: during the celebrations there was a procession and a small bullfight with four bulls. In the XVII there would be an added element that still today cannot be missing: the pyrotechnics and the fireworks.

Nevertheless, the fiesta as we know it today would be instituted in 1887, with the celebration of the 400 years of the city’s taking. Even if it had been happening every year since 1491, with time it turned into an event of devotion and religiousness that consisted in a special mass and a sermon on the 15th of August. At the end of the XX century, as we say, the war anniversary was recuperated, and two processions were organized: in honour of the Virgin of Victory, and another one recreating the historic events of the entry of the Catholic Monarchs and their army into the city. There were also bullfights, exhibitions, concerts and sports events.

What no one knows is when the "dual" character of this celebration started. This means that the people of Malaga often say that there are two coexisting Ferias of Malaga: a "day" one, in the city’s historic centre; and a "night" one taking place at the Cortijo de Torres neighbourhood. We infer from this fact that one of them is more "formal" and the other one is more "fiesta"... but what’s important is that if the traveller comes to Malaga, he’ll surely find what he’s expecting.

Famous Person

Georgie Dann (We must make clear that, although originally French, Dann is technically Spanish)

Before we start, we must make clear that the famous character of the month is not a Spaniard... but it is just as if he was. He is so famous here that he’s practically one more, not only of the country, but of the family too! We are talking about Georgie Dann.

And why is a Parisian born in 1940 one more Spaniard? We will tell you about it... But let us start with some details of his life. Mr. Dann was called to be on the way to jazz, of crooners and of his father, a trumpet player. At the age of 8 he enters the School of Music of Paris, where he studies music theory, instruments... and achieves a first prize playing clarinet.

Since music doesn’t bring enough money to even buy food (we all know that), Georgie studies at the same time teacher training, and gets a job as a middle school teacher in France. During this time he writes some humoristic songs that abound in the relationship between teachers and students, thinking about playing them in class. A record label notices the songs, likes them, and offers him the possibility to make a record with them. The LP has a decent success and granted him other musical jobs, like the writing of the French versions of the songs in Disney’s "Snow White".

Georgie Dann

At the end of the sixties his solo career takes off through an event that would turn his life around: the participation in the Mediterranean Song Festival, celebrated in Barcelona. He fell in love with the city and decided to set his second residence there, at the same time as he decided to adapt his songs to the Spanish language and character.

It is shocking, then, that his first hit song in our country, the one that initiated the "summer song" saga in Spain, was "Casatschok" (1969), a free version of the classical Russian song "Katiusha". Its dance and exotic appeal (let’s remember that in the Spain of those days anything sounding Russian had the added attraction of the forbidden) made a deep impression in the "Spanish fiesta feeling".

The amazingly rapid success of the song was echoed in Latin America, what had Mr. Dann travelling the Americas. He was also successful there, and he also imbibed the Caribbean and Latin rhythms of that part of the world. As a consequence of this, his songs started to be optimistic and also they normally had a "risqué" double meaning; they were simplified but they used to feature simple but provocative dances. Around this time, the rumour started that Georgie Dann didn’t know what winter was, for when he wasn’t touring Spain in the summer months, he was touring Latin America in the winter months (remember that the Southern hemisphere’s summer happens during the Northern’s "winter" months).

From the seventies until the past decade (with an important and inexplicable drop in popularity in the nineties), Georgie Dann has been punctual to his date every summer. His arrival is for some like that of the mythical Persephone, who announces the arrival of the warm season. His golden age was during the eighties, and his greatest hits were "Macumba", "El Chiringuito" (The beach stall) and "El negro no puede" (The black man can’t do it). In 1994 he would have his most famous success, "La Barbacoa" (The Barbecue). As you can see, we’re talking about a type of music with the only pretension of making people have a good time.

We know little about Georgie lately, although he can be heard in some commercials that modify his songs to advertise cruise travels or travel agencies. Maybe Mr. Dann is thinking about taking a summer holiday the right way and rest from the touring and the performances to enjoy summer, which has always been for him as is winter for us: a season of hard work and cold stress.

Spanish recipe

Chiringuito food (special mention to the "espeluznaos")

You have probably seen one of those bar-restaurant-grill places that are on the seaside and we call "chiringuitos" (beach stalls) in Spain... These establishments have developed a peculiar type of gastronomy based on simple unornamented food, ideal for a meal on the beach: a moment in which, after struggling against the waves, we crave a strong but light food, and preferably cheap. The only problem is that we sometimes ignore what the name of the dish refers to. Don’t worry, here are some examples:

  • Bienmesabe: it literally means "something that tastes good", that is, something delicious. The one served at chiringuitos is the one known as "gaditano": pieces of dogfish (a fish of the family of sharks) that is marinated in vinegar, water and spices, and is then fried. There are other types, like the "canario" (an egg cream with almonds, sugar and lemon) and the "antequerano" (a dessert made of cake, citron and cinnamon).
  • Calamares a la romana: many mistake them with the breaded squid, but it is somewhat different. The "a la romana" (roman style) ones have been put into a mix of flour, milk and egg, and then fried.
  • Clara: A very typical summer drink, resulting of the mix of soda water (or lemon soda) with beer. It is very refreshing, and an alternative to the "tinto de verano" (red wine with soda).

Espetón de sardinas

  • Espeluznaos: this Word means something like scared, but it is not that you should fear the food it refers to. It’s something as easy as the tentacles of a squid or a cuttlefish that have been put into flour and fried in a pan full of oil. The result looks similar to someone’s hair after a hair-raising fright. Maybe that’s why they’re called "espeluznados".
  • Espetón de Sardinas: Even though municipal ordinances are more and more strict, there are some chringuitos in which you can see long bars of iron into which sardines are strung, to be later grilled. They are the "espetones".
  • Gazpacho: the Spanish cold soup par excellence is made of ingredients such as tomato (basically), cucumber, onion, garlic, oil... and sometimes a spurt of white wine, all of them put in the mixer together. At some places one can also find it as a cold beverage: in a glass with ice.
  • Mixed Paella and "Classic" Paella: We have to male clear that what some tourists understand as "paella", the one containing seafood, is really "mixed paella". The real paella, (the traditional recipe) is composed of French beans, hare or chicken and paprika. Many family hates have begun after an argument on what true paella is made of.
  • Pipirrana: this specialty has been defined as "a salad that hasn’t decided to be a gazpacho yet". So, basically, it is composed of the same ingredients of gazpacho without beating them. It is usually eaten as an appetizer or as a side dish.
  • Salmorejo: it is usually mistaken with gazpacho even though it is something different. Salmorejo is thicker and is elaborated only with tomato, bread, water, oil, slat and garlic.
  • Sepia (cuttlefish): the half-sister of squids is the star of the chiringuitos, in which they usually prepare it on the grill with alioli sauce (mayonnaise with garlic) or a different sauce, depending on the establishment.
  • Shrimp Tortilla: they are small tortillas (sometimes smaller than the palm of a hand) elaborated with small crustacean. They are typical of the isle of San Fernando, in Cádiz.

There are some dishes missing, but we don’t want to take space from other sections, so we recommend you to visit a chiringuito this summer. By the way, a funny fact: many Spaniards consider the chiringuito food a bit unhealthy (because of the thick sauces, the frying and the fat in many dishes), but not so long ago a study revealed that it is one of the healthiest that are offered in the summer.

Popular saying

"Hacer el agosto" ("To make the August")

In the summer months it is very typical to hear this expression from presenters and journalists. "The thieves are making their August this season", "in this time of the season the hotel entrepreneurs are making the August"... or the crazy one, heard some months ago: "the shopping malls make their August during the January sales". These are expressions that are heard constantly.

"To make the August" means "to do business or feather one’s nest taking advantage of a timely situation for it". But, why is that month used specifically? To answer this we have to travel in time to times when Spain was mainly an agricultural country. And everyone knew that the vintage of cereals, grapes and other fruits is made in August... and a good harvest means good revenues. In fact, the original saying stated "to make the August and the harvest".

The peculiar Spanish humour immediately wanted to identify this agrarian recollection with the recollection of other people’s possessions –like thieves-, or the recollection of bills –like a banker-. Thus, the concept of the saying has been slightly corrupted and connoted: the person that "makes the August" seems to be doing it on us and with treachery, as if they were taking advantage of selling something that we demand on certain months of the year. This is why it is applicable to a soda seller in the summer or a lottery seller in Christmas.

The object is to show that there is an important benefit, but with a seasonal regularity. This is an important detail because a telephone company, for example, doesn’t "make the August" because their business runs all year long and doesn’t have a peak season... at least that we know of.

It is clear, then: you can use this apparently summery expression the whole year around, whether it rains, is sunny... or is the month of February.


Useful summer vocabulary

During your holidays in Spain you’ll often hear some expressions that you haven’t heard before. They are specifically summer terms (well… some are used the rest of the year, but they experiment a peak of usage in the summer season), and can distract you. We leave you some examples.

  • Aután: it’s the name of an insect repellent (ideal if you are going to swim in a lake or reservoir). It is one of those cases in which a brand ends up turning into a generic name. Even though it is a different brand, there will always be a grandmother shouting for "Aután" for her grandson, bitten all over by mosquitoes.
  • Bochorno (sultry weather): with this word, Spaniards refer to that sensation of suffocating heat during the summer days. The type of heat that doesn’t let you breathe right and that seems to penetrate through every pore of your skin.
  • Cambiador (changing room): many people use this Word to refer to the changing rooms at swimming pools. Of course, this is so because they enter in one fashion and come out "changed" with a swimsuit or a bikini. In the past you could also find them at beaches.
  • Cangrejeras: it is a type of footwear that is very useful in rocky beaches. They are usually made of plastic and are formed by straps that protect the foot from scratches and cuts against the rocks.
  • Caracola (Conch): if you are walking down the sea shore it is very probable that you come across a conch. Conches are different from seashells because while the latter are flat, the former have a snail shape. It is said that you can hear the sound of the sea if you put it against your ear, but it really is the sound of air through its holes.
  • Chanclas (flip-flops): it is the typical light footwear everyone wears at the beach. It usually consist of a modest plastic sole with a strap over the instep or a plastic or fabric thread placed to grasp the big finger of your feet.
  • Chiringuito (beach stall): it is that establishment half way between a bar, an outdoor table, and a restaurant in which they serve typical summer dishes. They are usually very close to the beach and their clients usually wear swimsuits.
  • Esterilla (mat / wicker): it is a small carpet made of plastic or a reed-like material. It is cleaned in one shaking; so many people prefer them to the typical beach towels.
  • Hamaca (hammock): a hammock is supposed to be a net hanging from two trees and that can be used as a bed. But in Spain it is also a low seat with an adjustable back, yes, like those that are rented at beach stalls.
  • Paraeta: it is a widely used term in Levante, but unknown in the rest of Spain. A "paraeta" is one of those improvised flea markets on the seaside promenade of beach towns in which you can find anything from African crafts to candy.
  • Parasol: not to be mistaken with a beach umbrella. The parasol is something similar to a small size camping tent that is lately substituting all beach umbrellas.
  • Sombrilla (Sunshade, beach umbrella): the classic method to have some shade at the beach, those thick fabric umbrellas that protect us from the sun. The most famous in our country have the logo of a famous Madrid beer on them.
beach towel
  • Toalla (beach towel): that fabric rectangle with multiple uses: lying on the sand, drying up, covering oneself when a cold air gust hits you, as a tablecloth if we brought our food… and even as a beach wrap! If Douglas Adams would see what we are able to do with a towel, we would be honorary galactic hitchhikers.
  • Torrá: it is a way of saying "heat" or "sultry weather", characteristic of rural atmospheres. The exact sentence in which it is used is "Jo, qué torrá!" that could be interpreted as "Wow, it is super warm and it is certainly a most unpleasant situation!".
  • Tumbona (deck chair): this would be the exact term for the "hammock" we have talked about before. It could be translated literally as "chair to rest lying down". They are a bit uncomfortable to carry because they are usually very big, but there is always a family around the beach that takes one or two with them.
  • Tupper (or táper): yes, as you may imagine this is the way in which us Spaniards refer to "tupperware" cake tins… but not only the ones of that brand; a táper can be any plastic container with food.

These are not all the words there are, but they are all that there are here... At least we believe that these will be the words you hear most when you are lying in the sun.

Augusto y agostar (August and parching / exhausting)

As you can see, these words look similar to the current month’s name; do they have anything in common? Yes and no. The month of August has that name because the Roman emperor Octavius Augustus decided to imitate Julius Caesar, who gave his name to the month of July.

Nowadays, "Augusto" and "Agosto" have nothing to do with each other (in fact, we could say we are talking about a false friend for those who don’t speak Spanish). To avoid mistakes, we are going to specify what the word of the month actually means.

The word has three meanings. The first one is the one referring to someone who deserves respect and admiration: we could say that a venerable and wise professor is "augusto", but it is an adjective, not a title. The second one refers to the historic naming of the Roman Caesars from Octavius on, one of the best ways of confusing many classic history students. The third is less common: an "Augusto" is also a type of clown; the one with the red nose and anarchic but innocent ways that represents freedom in opposition to the seriousness of the white Pierrot.

If this wasn’t enough, we will mention that in the Spanish vocabulary there is also the verb "agostar", which also has multiple meanings: on the one side, it refers to ploughing the land to clean it from weeds, a task that’s usually carried out in August. But this verb also has more sinister connotations, because it also means to destroy someone emotionally and morally.

They are both words that are rich in shades of meaning; it’s one of those words that work like a surprise box: in the end they have an unexpected meaning. It is a shame that small treasures like this one are no longer very used.

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An intensive course is one of the best options to learn a language. And even better if we add to it a stay in the country in which that language is spoken: the student will be able to practice what he learned as soon as he walks out the school’s door.

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Don’t doubt it and come with us: we have the best courses and the best offer. Come to Spain and learn our language, our culture... And our lifestyle! And remember that if you need more information you can just ask us, we’ll be happy to help you!

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