Cultural Faux Pas on Gran Canaria

Nightlife, Travel Tips — By alexbramwell on May 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Canarians are a laid back lot well used to the eccentricities of tourists and there is really very little you can do to genuinely offend them. These hints will help you to blend in and not come across as an average Guiri (the Canarian word for a foreigner).

Canarians have a very Mediterranean and completely healthy aversion to eating on the go. If you can’t spare the time to sit in a café and have a snack then find a park bench and sit down to eat your sandwich. If there is anyone sitting next to you then offer them your food. They will almost always say no but will appreciate the gesture.

Save the shorts for the beach

Walking about away from the beaches in shorts or bikinis is like carrying a big sign saying Tourist Here! Canarians, or both sexes, are happy to sit on the beach in the skimpiest of beachwear but instinctively believe that the knees are best covered, especially after the sun has gone down. Many nightclubs outside the tourist zones will turn you away if you are wearing shorts and trainers or even a T-shirt. You wouldn’t wear a bum bag or fanny pack at home so why inflict them on the locals?

For an island that believes that a good time to go out to eat is after midnight and a good night out shouldn’t end until the birds start to sing, public drunkenness is surprisingly rare on Gran Canaria. Canarian drink measures are enormous and the rum and coke (a Cubata in the local lingo) goes down very easily. Stumbling and shouting at three in the morning won’t make you any friends at all and vomiting in the street just isn’t on. Canarians go out to talk and dance and don’t understand the Northern European habit of drinking for the sake of it. The exception to this rule is the annual Carnival in Las Palmas and the all night Romerias held annually in every town. During these street parties, a certain amount of drunkenness is considered polite.

If you get into conversation with the locals it won’t be long before you are asked what you think of the island. Under no circumstances compare it unfavorably to the rival, next-door island of Tenerife. Gran Canarian beer is called Tropical and Tenerife beer is called Dorada. While both are made by a South African brewer it is always best to praise the local brew over the Tenerife one, even if Dorada is slightly nicer.

Images: © 2010 Alex Bramwell

Tags: behaviour, culture, drinking, faux pas, local, tips, travel