Last update on April 03, 2020
Written by Kejan Haynes

Dating in the digital age can be a headache, and it gets even more complicated for expats when language barriers can get in the way – not to mention the variation from country to country regarding ways to meet people and dating etiquette.

No matter where in the world you are, everyone seems to unanimously agree that dating isn’t easy – and dating in Spain is no exception. Being a foreigner can make the dating process even more difficult than it is for the folks we’ve left behind at home.

However, the good news is that many people do successfully find love in Spain – provided they know the dos, don’ts, ups and downs of dating in Spain.

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Dating lingo in Spain

To brush up on your dating game in Spain, get to know the Spanish dating vocab. For example, if you want to say that you’re dating someone, you’d say estamos saliendo. If you’re just having fun, you may use the phrase amigos con derecho a roce, meaning “friends with benefits.”

If you had a successful night out – meaning that you met someone – you can use the word liarse. It’s somewhat the equivalent of saying, “We hooked up,” and depending on the context, the extent of your meeting is open to interpretation. Ligarse is also used for a similar meaning. The word most commonly used for a one-night stand is enrollarse.

Where to find a date in Spain

Like many other countries, there are tons of ways to find someone with whom you connect, both out in the real world and online.

Dating apps in Spain

Dating apps are very popular in Spain. The most popular one is Tinder, as in many countries, but the way people use it is slightly different than in the UK or the US where it is mostly used for one-night stands. Of course, a large number of people are looking for that in Spain as well, but quite a lot of people are using it for friendship, which can be confusing, although they’ll usually make their intentions pretty clear once you start chatting. There is also a percentage looking for a genuine relationship.

Bumble is less popular, but the app is gaining traction in Spain. A straw poll of expats seems to show that on Bumble, there is a more even spread of people looking for fun or relationships.

Other dating apps such as Hinge, Happn and Coffee Meets Bagel are not currently popular in Spain, but the older Plenty of Fish app is going strong; Badoo is popular, too, if you don’t mind getting a million notifications daily from a “less curated” crowd, so to speak.

Slow dating

The old-fashioned way – the nightlife scene or through friends and colleagues – is arguably one of the best ways to meet someone in Spain, as explained by these lucky-in-love expats:

Othmane, an expat from Morocco: “I dated a Spanish girl for like five months. We met in a club. I was with my friends. They had the table next to us, and I just saw this cute girl and I told her to take a picture of me and a friend and that was how everything started.”

Amy, an expat from the United States: “I met my boyfriend in a club. I saw him from across the room and thought he was really cute, so I made my girls keep moving closer and closer to him. I was literally standing next to him for like 15 minutes before he actually said something. Once he found out I was from the States, he immediately began speaking English, overjoyed that he now knew someone to help him with it.”

If you’re not much of a clubgoer, don’t worry: singles aren’t limited to meeting in nightclubs or bars. Expats can meet plenty of people through English centres, casual language exchanges and expat groups and clubs in Spain.

Ariadne, a Cuban-American expat: “I met my last Spanish boyfriend while I led a study abroad programme. He taught at the centre where my students were teaching. We dated seriously for six years and were engaged when we broke it off.”

Mike, a Spanish-American expat: “She worked at a language school I attended in Málaga. She was one of the teachers there (not mine, however) and I was completely infatuated with her Andalusian accent. The first words out of my mouth were ‘Hola boquerona’ (boquerona are what Spaniards call girls from Málaga) and she giggled and decided to give me her number. It was a serious short-term relationship; it lasted about four months.”

Some have even met through more traditional online dating services for expats.

Rose, an expat from the United States: “We met on, an online personals website. We dated seriously for almost a year but were on and off. I would tell foreign gay women in Spain to use an online personal website because it is hard to find lesbians, even in Chueca, Madrid.”

The dating game in Spain

The next step after meeting someone is typically chatting via text message, WhatsApp or other messaging service, according to an expat panel.

Tara, an expat from the United States: “We met at a party and exchanged numbers, but I thought it was just in a friendly way. Then I got a text the next day that said something like, ‘No se porque pero lo único que me acuerdo de ayer es que me quede con las ganas de conocer mejor a esta chica.’ (Translation: ‘I don’t know why, but the only thing I remember from yesterday is that I was left with the feeling of wanting to get to know this girl better.’) So that made it clear he was interested romantically. As I was attracted to him, I went with it. Then we hung out after school a few times, and then he took me out on a very nice, kind of elaborate date.”

Amy: “After some time, I looked at my Facebook and saw that he wrote me a message saying something like ‘Hola Amy, Como te va la vida? Que desde que me vine a Alcalá no he vuelto saber nada de ti.’ (Translation: Hello Amy, how is life? Since I arrived to Alcala I havent heard from you.’) I didn’t reply because I thought it would only complicate things. I was leaving the country soon, for good, and I didn’t want to have to say goodbye again. But he got on messenger and we started talking. Next thing I knew, I was on a train to Alcalá to see him again.”

How is dating in Spain different?

Perhaps these expat dating stories sound familiar, but the dating game in Spain may be a little different – at least, according to the panel of expats who have dated in Spain.

Tara: “I felt that our gender roles were very defined and that he appreciated me as a very feminine thing whereas [in the United States], everything seems so much more equal. In Spain, I felt like it was separate but equal (though I guess some people would say there is no such thing). Still, I liked that.”

Mike: “The importance of communication is crucial when dating a Spanish girl. By that I mean you have to constantly verbalize all feelings and thoughts as well as must be in constant contact with them. For example, I had to contact her (email, phone call) a minimum of three times every day, not with any urgent news but just to keep her happy. It seemed to me she needed more ‘communication’ and attention than any other girl I’ve dated.”

Amy: “I think that with my boyfriend, I’ve found an exception to the majority of Spaniards. He doesn’t give empty promises when he says something; he actually does it. Although he’s almost always late, it’s usually through no fault of his own. To me, he seems a lot more mature than all of the Americans I’ve dated. He is older [than I am], but he has his life set, he is off away from his parents (which again is very unusual for a Spaniard) living life on his own. And he has his own car, which is very convenient.”

Rose: “It was different dating a Spaniard because she was way clingier and less independent than Americans I have dated.”

Othmane: “If I have to compare it with dating a Moroccan girl, I would say it is almost the same as they like to know a guy very well before starting to date him.”

Advice for dating in Spain

Obviously, no two relationships are ever the same. However, the panel offered some final words of advice for any expats thinking about starting to date in Spain.

Ariadne: “Remember that people wait a whole lot longer before they get married in Spain. They also have to spend Sundays with the family for a lunch that lasts entirely too long! Be prepared to spend too much time with the family.”

Othmane: “Be patient with Spanish girls. They are not easy to get (most of them), especially if you’re a foreigner. Try to be good friends with her friends, because her friends can influence her!”

Mike: “You do not have to speak Spanish fluently, but you better try to speak her language and remember to communicate constantly even if you are making empty promises. Note: Don’t do this too much! They’ll pick up on it and break up with you.”

Tara: “Spanish men are, from what I’ve seen, relaxed and fun. However, they can also be very possessive and intense. If you’re moving to Spain, you should make sure that you would be happy there alone, too.”