Practical Spanish (español práctico)

The idea here isn’t to teach you Spanish from scratch, promise fluency or bag you a Spanish partner (see my website for that), sino [but rather] to share practical words and phrases that have been absolutely indispensable to me since my arrival.  So, chances are that they’ll come in handy to you at some point!  Even if you’re learning Spanish at advanced/degree level, I’d imagine that you aren’t yet 100% linguistically prepared for the bureaucratic, trámite-laden aspect of Spain.

1. Battling with bureaucracy (jobs, flats, banks etc.)

  • un trámite:  an official procedure or process
  • una cita:  an appointment or meeting (and sometimes, a hot date).  I think my local NIE administrator abused the ambiguity of the word.  What a cita cheater!
  • la NIE (Numéro de Identidad de Extranjeros):
  • el empadronamiento: registration of residency in a town.  If you’re staying for 3 months+, get this done but ensure that you’re in your fixed address if possible.
  • los impuestos / los tributos: taxes
  • la seguridad social: social security
  • cotizar: to pay contributions to Social Security
  • una factura / un recibo: a bill (utility; phone)

2. Idioms and idiosyncrasies (quirks and craziness) 


  • Trabajar como un burro:  To work really hard (lit: like a donkey)
  • Tomar el pelo:  To pull someone’s leg (lit: to take the hair)
  • Quedarse de piedra: To be stunned/amazed (lit: to stay like a stone)
ponser la pila cubo lo pillo


3. Sussing out slang (use with caution)

  • coñazo*: bore / pain in the ass (rude!)
  • lo pillo: I get it / I know what you mean
  • hacer botellón:  to drink alcohol in the street
  • cojonudo*: awesome / amazing

Pop any suggestions or thoughts in the comment box!