This is a sándwich:
This, on the other hand, is a bocadillo:
The bread matters. Sándwiches are made with sliced bread; the most typical being sándwich vegetal (tomato and lettuce, possibly mayonnaise and boiled eggs), and its variations: con pollo, con atún… Another classic is sándwich de jamón y queso. Bocadillos, made with sturdier regular bread, can hold almost anything you can imagine.
— ¿Comiste algo?
— Me hice un sándwich de pavo antes.
— Did you eat anything?
— I had a turkey sandwich before.
— ¿Qué llevamos para la ruta de senderismo?
— No sé, nosotras hemos preparado bocadillos de chorizo.
— What should we take for the trekking route?
— Just whatever, we made some chorizo sandwiches.
In Madrid, bocadillos de calamares (squid sandwiches) are the most typical, while pepitos de ternera (beef sandwiches) can be found over almost the whole country. But one fun fact not many foreigners know, is that the archetypical bocadillo is that of tortilla —I’d even say it’s the default bocadillo if you don’t know what to buy. Whether with green peppers, tomatoes, or by itself, nothing is as Spanish as un bocadillo de tortilla.
And now the insider info to blend in. A colloquial term for bocadillo is bocata:
— ¿Vienes al partido?
— Sí, espera que prepare un bocata y voy.
— Are you coming to the match?
— Sure, wait while I prepare a sandwich and then I’m coming.
No me gusta comer bocatas en el sofá porque se llena de migas.
I don’t like having sandwiches on the sofa because I get crumbs everywhere.
There’s even a Spanish franchise called Bocatta (the Italian touch of the double t is just for show), which specializes in bocatas, of course:
Originally published in Talk like a spaniard.