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Public opinion of shorts in Spain

I've recently been told that Europeans don't look favorably upon tourists wearing shorts. We are planning a trip to Paris and Barcelona in July and want to make sure that our wardrobe is appropriate for this travel.

I understand that there are some restaurants and tourist locations (Sagrada Familia) with a dress code that won't allow shorts, flip flops, etc.

Does anyone have and feedback about this?

Thanks!

Posted by
20972 posts

Generally only shorts are worn by Am tourists. Whether the European look favorably or not is not the question. Generally (notice I keep saying "generally" because there will be exceptions) the European tend to dress a little better in public than many tourists. All cathedrals and churches generally have a dress code of covered shoulders, knees and no belly buttons. Enforcement is spotty but majors cathedrals will have someone at the door. Also, it is matter of respect to be appropriately attired. You are not visiting Italian land at Disneyworld. And then we have the perpetual question of blending in or standing out. Difficult to blended in but easy to avoid standing out. I would not wear shorts but others will say, Wear what you like.

Posted by
7124 posts

Always avoid shorts with white sneakers and white socks - it screams tourist.
No problem with shorts in Spain, especially during peak summer months July/August.
It is always more respectful to not wear shorts whilst visiting religious sites.
In Paris you won't see shorts as much as Spain, but when the mercury goes up past 30c you will see them come out.

Posted by
2530 posts

... this is always a passionate issue among people from different parts of the world. My personal motto is "in Rome do as Romans do", without questioning whether I think it's right or wrong. Paris and Barcelona are two large cities therefore you'll find all sorts of residents: different 'urban tribes' (if you catch my drift), different nationalities with different 'fashion patterns', etc. Thus i'd be wrong to say this city is like this or like that, the correct answer is: it depends.

Both in Paris and in Barcelona there's an unofficial dress code, or rather 'style', observed by many of their citizens and that then defines the style of the city. Paris is more formal than Barcelona's, probably because the later is a coastal city and generally speaking coastal cities tend to be less strict, so to speak. In Barcelona, this "style" is smart casual for most things. Shorts are not really used by men, except on outdoor/beach activities or if you're under 25. For women it's a bit different as fashion trends do impact and you'll find many wearing shorts (and sometimes short shorts, prudish be warned!), especially in younger generations. However note that citizens are not tourists, you go to work, to pick up your kids at school, etc so you don't dress the same than when you're holidaying.

But again, 2 million souls living in the city means many different options -including shorts!

Posted by
7124 posts

And footwear is important if wearing shorts.
NO TRAINERS EVER !!
Smart sneakers (Converse or Vans type), espadrilles, leather sandal or leather flip flop at the beach..

Posted by
7124 posts

The question was legitimately posed, seeking advice on what is expected summer attire.
Of course a response may be somewhat 'tongue in cheek' but is nonetheless genuine and appropriate.
It still remains, dressing to 'blend in' is recommended as much as possible purely for safety and security reasons.

Posted by
1047 posts

I have to laugh when I hear comments about wearing shorts while in Europe, especially in Germany. You might be over-dressed in some of the German parks like English Garden in Munich. Most of the people walking through the park when I was there during one hot summer day had no clothes on at all. I can still picture one business man in dark socks and street shoes carrying a briefcase and no clothes. I assume he had is clothes in the briefcase.

Posted by
2446 posts

Shorts are certainly less common than in the U.S. Especially on men. Obviously I'm beach areas there will be shorts, but not often in cities. Especially Paris. Tourists wear them but it does make you stand out more than if you were wearing pants, sundresses, skirts, etc.

I've noticed more of the nicer, fashionable shorts on women under 40. Always with nice sandals, ballet flats, wedge heels etc - not sneakers.

In Barcelona some of the churches won't let you in with bare legs or shoulders. Elsewhere, you CAN wear shorts without offending anyone, it just looks out of place. If I liked shorts, I'd wear nicer ones in Barcelona, except when visiting churches, but skip them in Paris. I prefer casual skirts or dresses in summer - cooler and looks nicer. By dresses I mean casual sleeveless sundresses, often sold at places like H & M or Zara. Above the knee, usually. With flat sandals or ballet flats. Not long frumpy dresses - somewhat fashionable.

Posted by
5649 posts

Lets face it, people do judge you by your appearance, *if they have to deal with you*. I was in a shop in the UK once, when a loud, overweight American man came in, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He got a fairly condescending welcome from the shopkeepers. When he left, I heard one say to the other, "its hard to take a man in short trousers seriously."
In my experience, if you are any two of these things - young, fit, female - you will get a lot more leeway than those of us who are not.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you all for the input!

I guess I should've been more specific about who would be wearing shorts... I am mostly curious about my father-in-law who will be traveling with us, in his 60's, but not a "large, loud, arrogant American". I will give him the advice listed above - that he will "blend in better" (though he is very pale skinned and will likely stick out no matter what he wears ;)) wearing pants, but that it is accepted/expected that American tourists in Spain will likely wear shorts, especially in the summer months.

We definitely plan to be respectful at the churches we visit.

Thank you all for the input and advice. We're looking forward to our trip!

Kassie

Posted by
2446 posts

I also think the temperature threshold for shorts is also way higher. Here in Chicago people are in shorts as soon as we have a sunny day over 60-65 F. In Barcelona thst would be ridiculous but if it's 90F then not so crazy. 30C is 86F.

Posted by
971 posts

As a Scandinavian, I hope I am not included in the group of Europeans who don't look favorably upon tourists wearing shorts. But as a European who has travelled a lot in Europe I would say that you should wear whatever you like. Respect the dresscodes in churches and if you want to dine in fancy restaurants, but apart from that you will stand out as a tourist regardless of what you wear just, so don't try to blend into a dresscode for that reason. I have worn shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops in Barcelona and have not been treated badly because of it.

Posted by
2530 posts

hahaha... as I said: ... this is always a passionate issue among people from different parts of the world.

Posted by
7311 posts

For a man in his 60s we can assume these are discreet bermudas, which would be fine. Even plaid ones!! Times are changing and there are so many tourists that he'd fit in with his "tribe" which is tourists from all over the world. OTOH my husband is Paris born and raised, but I've never seen him or any of our friends wear shorts in the city. They aren't sightseeing for hours, which is exhauting, but they are going about their business, so they dress differently. It doesn't matter what FIL wears to avoid pickpockets; the French have their walkets stolen just like everyone else. Go for it.

Posted by
5838 posts

Getting pick pocketed is a function of being a walking buffet not being a tourist -- although looking like a naive tourist may mean you get more scrutiny by pickpockets. If the FIL in question carries a wallet in his pants pocket whether it is slacks or shorts, it is very likely to be taken -- this includes front pockets. Pickpocketing is ubiquitous in big European cities. This is organized crime and the people who practice it are skillfull. The only way to avoid losing valuables is to not make them available to pick pockets. This is harder to do in summer when scantily clad since money belts then are not invisible. I often use a zipped pocket behind the flap pocket of my travel shirt for a few critical essentials like credit card and cash. A purse worn properly can also work, or a messenger bag. But a wallet in shorts is likely to be stolen and a wallet in plaid bermuda shorts almost certainly.

Posted by
565 posts

I was just in Spain and wore shorts a couple of times. Now, when I say shorts, I mean long ones that came down past my knees. Also with fashionable Naots (black canvas top, no buckles) and NEVER gym shoes with them. No problems noted. It's hot in Spain in July. HOT.

Just look nice for dinner. It's a kind of respect thing that I've adopted whenever I go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant anywhere in the world.

Posted by
650 posts

I was in Alicante Spain two years ago and lots of people were wearing shorts and athletic shoes including locals. As long as you are presentable and not looking like a slob you should be fine.

Posted by
11798 posts

Really it depends on the day's activity.

If you plan to spend the day at the beach or park, shorts will be fine.

If you plan to visit the Barcelona cathedral, shorts are not allowed. I haven't seen anyone kicked out but they do have a sign at the entrance that says (in cartoon form) that knees, shoulders and midriff must be covered to enter.

If you're going to eat Tapa's at a chain place (most of them are), visit Starbuck's, McDonald's or KFC, or plan a day of shopping in a department store or the Ramblas, no one will bat an eye that your father-in-law is wearing shorts (though pickpockets might pay more attention).

If you're planning on dinner at an upscale restaurant, shorts won't be appropriate and may get you turned away.

Posted by
35 posts

Just returned from Spain. I saw plenty of people in shorts, women in short short shorts especially. But men also. Some Spanish men in pink shorts. As long as you have paid your 8 or 9 Euros, you can enter the cathedrals, no one is a fashion policeman at the door.

Posted by
35 posts

We didn't go to Barcelona. We were in southern and western Spain. We went to the cathedrals in Cordoba, Grananda, Sevilla, Toledo, and Salamanca. No dress code at any of these.

I'd add that I tried to play a guessing game about people's nationality based on how they were dressed. I was attempting to pick out the Americans. I couldn't. People around the world pretty much dress so similarly that distinguishing a person's nationality based on how they are dressed is very difficult. In other words, nothing you wear will scream "American tourist". The only difference I noticed was that Spanish men will wear red or pink pants and shorts, something I've never seen American men wearing.

Posted by
650 posts

I noticed in Alicante that a lot of the Spanish men wore pink shorts or very nice tailored Jean shorts. I will be in Barcelona the last 2 weeks in July. Does this mean I won't be allowed into a casual restaurant because of my dress code? I am not planning on visiting any upscale restaurants but will be wearing shorts and sandles a lot.
BTW..I was in Paris last September and lots of people were wearing shorts including me. Nobody treated me different or with distain.

Posted by
63 posts

the only place where you can begin to distinguish between americans and europeans based on clothing is at the beach and then only men. the euros like speedos which you will never see an american man wearing, especially the young ones

Posted by
650 posts

So again I ask. Will I be denied service in a casual restaurant in Barcelona because I am wearing shorts that come to my knees? Will I be denied entrance to the Barcelona cathedral or Sagrada Familia? As I said, I wore shorts most of my time in Paris last September and no restaurant made an issue (Latin Quarter). This is a non issue. It is more like a " I want the locals to treat me respectfully and not judge me for what I am wearing". I think no one will care as long as I am neat, clean and polite. Comments...........?

Posted by
2530 posts

Not being the case but for the sake of argument Steve... your "I want the locals to treat me respectfully and not judge me for what I am wearing" is someone else's "I want tourists (you: guests) to respect our habits and customs (we: hosts)". You wouldn't dream to impose when you're visiting say your in-laws, would you? on the contrary, you'd adjust to their rules (even if you find them absurd or nonsense)... and then of course you can decide not to visit them again if you don't want to have to follow them.

But again, this was for the sake of argument because we Catalans are quite easy going when it comes to "social rules" so, despite "there are" rules -and some are expected to be respected!- these are pretty much the same than anywhere else in Europe (or other European-like cultures like yours). Yet, in shorts do not expect to be allowed into the Opera house and many upmarket restaurants... and regarding some religious buildings (ie. La Catedral), well, that'll depend on who you find guarding the door when you visit, yet I already posted earlier the sign that's clearly visible at the entrance of La Catedral...

But that'd be a very different case if you were visiting say certain Muslim countries which have some very different customs and habits (and beliefs)... it's their home so it's their rules and we visitors must be aware of them and adapt to them, or else not to travel there --again my dear friend, for the sake of argument ;))

Posted by
4981 posts

Just my view, but if a variety of things are planned for the day, I prefer pants to shorts, simply to allow for any activity I encounter. If only the beach, then sure, shorts are OK. But then, I am always puzzled by the people that insist shorts are "cooler", try a nice lightweight pair of "golf" pants that look dressy to casual, they breathe well and keep the sun off your legs. Take a cue from warm weather populations, they tend to dress to keep skin covered, protected from the sun, not expose it to be burned and dryed.

Posted by
4981 posts

Regarding the "warm weather" folks, the Florida photo shows a beach area, so yeah, there will be shorts. Also just about anybody in Florida is not native, it tends to be a State made up of people from elsewhere, usually from the colder northern climes, so shorts on old folks there is the norm.

Posted by
1 posts

I am ok with shorts on any of the occasion. It is important to consider the level of comfort instead of considering the type of clothes according to occasions. Shorts are any time comfortable and fashionable at the same time.

Posted by
650 posts

This was posted back in May.
However, I will add that I was in Barcelona in July and there were tons of people wearing shorts. I did see one young girl get denied entrance to the cathedral because she was wearing very "short" shorts if you know what I mean. But I was allowed in as were many others due to the appropriate length of them.

Posted by
126 posts

Instead of shorts, why not wear a skirt. Someone on this site suggested it and it worked well for me. It was a denim colored tiered cotton skirt and it went with all my blouses. Rarely have seen anyone in shorts in a city center except for tourists.

We had a lady on tour last month in Spain and she wore a different outfit every day and she had a very small suitcase. She wore light fabrics and could layer and mix it up.

Posted by
650 posts

People wear shorts all over Europe and I doubt they are just tourists .