After 6 weeks in Spain, I have not yet synced to Spanish lifestyle. I haven’t adopted the rhythm of life. I wake up and there is not much going on: a few folks prepping for the day. So, I wonder about, see the sights, ogle the architecture. Until I get hungry. It’s then I realize I haven’t had breakfast and it’s too early to have lunch. I wander some more, hoping to find something. By time I finally find lunch, it is mid-afternoon. When I am ready for supper, it’s still again too early. So, I have a snack and I wait. By time restaurants are open, I’m no longer hungry. The cycle repeats. Maybe, if I took a nap in the afternoon, I could make it work?
Siesta. That mid-day break that is common throughout the non-English speaking world, and reviled by English speakers. But the rest of the world is governed by it. Some say that siesta dates back to ancient Rome, and probably the Romas appropriated it from older times. I can imagine Og kicking back under a tree, hoping sabretooths did the same. They say it is to get out of the mid-day heat. That’s probably fair… but, the hottest part of the day in a city filled with concrete, masonry, stone—all materials which readily absorb and store heat—is around 6 or 8 pm. Some say the siesta is about spreading out a limited work week. Maybe. But it all smacks of the same logic that drives behind daylight savings time. It is, because it is. And that leads to tradition, probably as important a reason as any. Where ever it comes from, siesta sets the rhythm of life in Spain.
And, frankly, no one here is bothered about the siesta. Except for me.
The typical workday starts at around 10:00, with the mid-day break coming at about 1:30. Give or take an hour. A generous break, and then start working again at 5:00 until 8:30. Business might open earlier, say 9:00, and might have a shorter mid-day break, but that’s the general idea. A few places, mainly grocery and small convenience stores, will be open all day. Some rare shops, a busy convenience stop on the odd pharmacy, are open 24 hours. Many shops, restaurants, and even tourist attractions are closed on Monday, and have at least shorter hours on Sunday.
Life in Spain syncs up to that cycle.
Restaurants don’t open for lunch before 1:00 or 2:00, because their customers are all at work. Then they’ll shut down when everyone goes back to work in the afternoon, only reopening for the evening meal at 8:00 or even 10:00 at night. No point in just sitting around, everyone else is at the office.
It all makes sense in the way a dream makes sense until I try to explain it. Ok, so the Salvador Dalí clock read noon, and the Cafe was empty. Then, for some reason, I was on the subway, it was 5 o’clock, rush hour, but the car was empty except for a man carrying a potted plant and folding chair.
What’s a clueless Gringo to do?