In light of the article published this week in the Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/10329093/Times-up-for-siestas-delayed-meetings-and-late-nights-Spaniards-told-in-effort-to-make-them-work-better.html I want to let you all know my views on the Spanish siesta. The siesta is a two or three hour gap in the middle of the day between 2 and 5pm where shops close, people go home from work typically to eat dinner, rest and sleep. It was originally established because this was the hottest part of the day and it was impossible to work in such heat without today’s modcons like air conditioning. After this rest, people are ready to go back to work for another few hours, meaning that shops and businesses are often open until 9pm or even later in the larger cities.
I am still undecided on whether I like the siesta or not. After spending the summer in mainland Spain and the last four weeks in the Canary Islands, I think that the siesta in Canaries is much more exaggerated and frustrating. As a student, living a society that encourages mid afternoon naps is a dream come true…especially as parties in Spain often end at 6am, being able to grab a few hours kip in the afternoon before going back to uni is a win win situation.
Spaniards eat a big lunch and having a few hours rest to let the food go down before having to go back to work or uni is also a benefit for everybody. Instead of a rushed working lunch, the three hour void in the afternoon allows people to prepare meals and eat peacefully with no rush. It seems that here (especially in Canaries) the whole world stops when it’s time to eat and nothing is more important than sitting down to have a good meal (except Whatsapp…that’s always the most important thing in Spain I’ve noticed!).
However, while people are napping, spending time with their family or just lolling around watching tv, some people don’t sleep the siesta. This is where I start to get annoyed. If you don’t sleep the siesta everyday (like me) and want to go for a walk during the siesta, in La Palma you will find streets like this…empty!
Pretty much all of the shops close, so if you want to go clothes shopping, buy a newspaper or even a plaster to put on the blister that’s formed on your foot from the amount of time you’ve spent walking around an empty city, you have to wait until after 5pm. Coming from the UK where most cities have at least one 24 hour Tesco where you can buy anything, it is hard getting used to weird opening times and not being to buy or do things at the moment you want to. I appreciate the historical and the cultural aspects of the siesta, but we’re in the 21st century, cmon!
So I’m still in two minds about the siesta. On one hand it’s a nice long lunch break that breaks up the day and it’s socially acceptable to say that you did nothing in the siesta. The encouragement to sleep in the siesta is good too, but a midday nap often leaves me feeling more groggy and disorientated when I wake up.
On the other hand, it’s bloody frustrating that in a country where people need to be spending money in shops to regenerate the economy close for three hours of the day when people are generally free to go and spend their money. Even if Canarians don’t want to go out during the siesta, there are the tourists that come most Fridays on the big cruise ships. If they inverted a few euros into paying a shop assistant for these siesta hours on cruise days I am sure they would generate a profit.
To conclude, I think the Spanish should conserve their siesta tradition, but that businesses and the government should try to promote other activities to do during the siesta instead of eating, sleeping and tv being the only options. With a more active siesta, people can put these hours to good use by learning new skills, doing exercise or making money and I would be less bored!