One of the biggest differences between Spain and the States is the timing of the day and the concept of time in general. If you understand how time works here you can understand a lot more about why things are they way they are. To say that time runs slower in Spain is an understatement. In Spain work usually starts between 8 and 10 in the morning and ends at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. There are plenty of people who have more of an American schedule and work through the afternoon, but a lot people leave work to go home for a nice big lunch with the family. Afterward is the famous siesta, where you stay inside and relax while you digest your big lunch; foreigners nap but the Spaniards that take a siesta usually just lay around and doze, read or watch TV. I usually lay down and read or watch TV and maybe nap for half an hour. In Spain lunch is the biggest meal of the day, not dinner, and it usually consists of 3 courses, which means of course you need some down time afterward to digest, but of course this isn’t everyone. It’s really interesting because if you walk around outside around 4pm, you will hardly see anyone. It’s funny because sometimes you even see the bums in the parks and the gypsies taking a siesta, napping under trees or on park benches. Almost all shops are closed during this part of the afternoon, only the commercial chain stores stay open. And absolutely everything is closed on Sundays, except cafés and bars. It’s intersting because when you refer to morning afternoon and evening in Spain, the hours they use are totally different from the States. For example, you say 8 o’clock in the afternoon. Afternoons are very long here!
At around 5 or 6, the stores reopen and people head back to work until 9 when they head back home for dinner (of course there are plenty of people who don’t go back to work then, which I think is one of the big factors in the declining economy here). Now there are several very good reasons for having this long break in the middle of the day. Spain is a beastly hot country, especially as far south as I am. Relatively speaking I am not that far from the Equator. It never snows where I live, and it hardly ever goes below zero. Once summer arrives, its brutal, and I mean BRUTAL! I’m talking 105 to 115 °F average, the only positive thing is it’s a desert climate so there is no humidity plus there are some incredible beaches here. Almost everyone leaves central Spain in July and August to head to the beach. Basically it’s like an oven, and I am really scared for this summer because my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning. CRAP! So of course the hottest part of the day is the afternoon, which is why everyone just stays inside trying to stay cool. Logical, no? And I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to have an afternoon nap scheduled in everyday? It’s perfect!
I have begun to enjoy how almost everything closes down for three hours in the middle of the day so there’s always time to eat lunch, drink wine, and take a nap. When I first arrived, I thought the Spanish were crazy, but now I know that they’re sane-it’s the rest of the world that’s gone mad! Something has happened to my body clock this year. It runs slower in Spain, because what’s the point of rushing through life while everyone around you is busy enjoying the moment? There is less urgency in everything I do now. I am more tranquil, composed, even serene. Who would have thought?