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Life Stages: Dating and Courtship

Dating Norms

Dating starts in the teenage years and is publicly accepted in Spain. Dates are more of a one-on-one than a group affair. Relationships are more or less platonic among those aged 13 to 14 and only get more physical in later years. By the time young adults are 18, dating couples start thinking about marriage. The social and financial status of the prospective partners and their families are the underlying factors while choosing the partners.

Boys usually meet girls at prearranged sites with the consent of her parents. The dating expenses are borne by both partners. The couple may be chaperoned by one of the girl’s older brothers or a good and trusted friend of the girl’s family. Courtships often last for a few years while the couple works to save money for their new home (usually an apartment). 

Spanish girls have the liberty to choose their own partners. If their partners and their families get along, an engagement ceremony may take place. The man gives his bride-to-be a necklace or a ring as a symbol of engagement, gives his would-be father-in-law an expensive watch as a token of his regard, and promises to take good care of his prospective bride.

Cross-cultural or inter-religious dating was traditionally not welcomed by conservative Spanish society, and people were expected to date within their own social, economic, educational, religious, and ethnic boundaries. Over the last hundred years, however, the culture of Spain has become increasingly open to the point where one in every seven marriages now involves a foreigner.