Moving from Australia, the country which goes to bed earliest, to Spain, the country where people go to bed the latest in the world, has been quite a shock to the system. Everything happens later here and some people argue that in fact Spain is in the wrong time zone, as a result of General Francisco Franco changing Spain’s time zone, moving the clocks one hour forward in solidarity with Nazi Germany.
In Spain, most cafes don´t open until at least 9:30am or 10am, at which point old men come for their daily catch-up with friends, accompanied by a glass of red wine and a breakfast of tostada with tomato and olive oil.
“Morning” is understood to be until around 2pm, rather than noon as it is in Australia and many other parts of the world. A friend recalled how he waited in for a “morning” delivery of furniture. When it hadn´t arrived by 1:30pm he called the company to complain that it hadn´t arrived and was informed that it was still on schedule to be delivered that morning. Sure enough it arrived by 2pm!
Generally at around 2pm, people will then have a large lunch. It´s very unusual to eat at your desk here, instead you go for lunch with colleagues and enjoy a longer lunch – often with wine. After eating it´s time for sobremesa, a word which doesn´t have a meaningful translation in English (literally “over the table”), but means to linger after a meal and enjoy the company of your companions.
Siestas after lunch are still enjoyed by the older generation and also my friends on their days off, but with office hours starting to move towards the standard times of those elsewhere in the world, it´s not typical for younger Spaniards to siesta during weekdays. These days only around 20% of Spaniards take a siesta. As my Spanish colleague noted, somewhat sadly “Modern life simply does not allow for it”.
In most workplaces in Spain people will work until around 7 or 8pm. Shops also open until 9 or 10pm most nights. No surprise then that most Spaniards don´t get to bed before midnight during the week.
Dining later has also taken some getting used to. Most restaurants don´t open until after 8pm, and expect to dine alone if you turn up at that time. It´s not unusual for Spanish people to dine at restaurants at 10pm or even later, often with children in tow.
And at weekends it´s anything goes, Spaniards like to party hard and often go to bed as dawn rises. During one fiesta, I asked a Spanish colleague what time the nightly festivities went on until during the week and he told me quite seriously “Not that late….only until about 4 or 5am”.
No surprise then that things start slow again next morning….and maybe that siesta will come in handy today :)