Spain has a lot of amazing traditions. They like celebrations, drinking parties, dinner parties, and parades. They are very social and energetic, but they have one lazy custom – siesta! If it is lazy or brilliant, it’s up to you to decide, so let’s dig into it.
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Table of Contents
Why do you need to know about the siesta culture in Spain?
If you are reading this text, you are probably interested in visiting Spain one day. If that is the case, then you should, without a doubt, prepare yourself for their daily flow.
That daily rhythm is very closely related to siesta time, and that is why you need to know about it. If you come unprepared, siesta will surprise you and get you off your rails.
What is a siesta?
A siesta is a nap during the day. The word simply describes napping or resting after lunch. This is the literal and correct translation, but siesta in Spain goes beyond that.
Many people enjoy taking naps after lunch. It gives us more energy for the evening and helps our body rest. So, how does Spain differ from other countries in this practice?
In most countries, people at home in the middle of the day, like housewives, home-based workers, or the elderly, sometimes take naps. But, working people don’t usually have this opportunity since they are at their jobs during this time.
The difference is that Spain gives everybody this opportunity and the whole nation takes a break.
So, here is how that works.
What is a siesta in Spain?
Siesta time in Spain is a time of the day when almost every store, restaurant, and business close their doors for a break. Workers end their shifts before siesta, or they have a long pause between two shifts.
Siesta in Spain feels like 3 am in other countries. The streets are empty because everything is closed, and if you forgot to do something by that time, you feel helpless.
For example, if you forgot to buy groceries on your way to work, there is a big chance you won’t have the place to buy them. This especially applies to smaller cities or towns, where they don’t have as many shopping malls.
Shopping malls usually don’t have siestas. I guess it is too complicated for them to close. Other places that can resolve this kind of problem are little foreign seven-eleven types of markets.
How long is a siesta?
Siesta time in Spain is not up to your personal choice, as napping usually is in other countries. It is a determined period that can vary one hour up or down, but it is the same in the whole country.
A siesta is usually 2-3 hours long, and yes, it happens every day.
Siesta hours in Spain are between 2 and 5 pm, and with differences, they can go down to 1:30 and up to 6 pm.
It is not law-enforced that shops must take a siesta, but it is something that everybody does.
Some businesses have a 2 hours siesta, and some have a 1 and a half or a 3 hours siesta. It depends on the owner, but it is almost the same everywhere you go.
Workday in Spain is 6 to 8 hours long, and it usually doesn’t start as early as in some countries.
Typical working hours in Spain start as late as 9 or 10 am and end somewhere between 8 and 10 pm. Most of the shops close by 9, whereas restaurants and cafes work up to 3 am.
Clubs usually open around 11 pm and work till early morning.
Between morning and evening, there is almost always a siesta break.
Some studies confirm that siesta benefits our minds and working productivity.
It may sound like a lazy routine, but if it increases work productivity, can we call it lazy?
Studies have shown that an optimal nap after lunch shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes, so we don’t enter deep sleep mode. A 2-3 hours break from work is just enough time to come home, have lunch and take a nap in our favorite armchair.
The Spanish work system allows its workers to make a routine out of resting and napping, which, according to research done by NASA, increases efficiency by 34 %.
Not only it increases efficiency, but also the mood!
I cannot get enough talk about how Spaniards seem so happy and energetic all the time. Well, maybe the siesta has something to do with it. I mean, who wouldn’t like it if their boss said: “Hey, you worked 4 hours, take a nap, you deserve it.”?
Siesta culture in Spain is there for centuries; the question is: Where does siesta originate from?
The word comes from the 11th century Latin word HORA SEXTA. Translated to English, it means the sixth hour, which refers to the middle of the day.
The napping culture dates thousands of years back. There are proofs of it in the Roman Empire and ancient Islam. However, the workday rhythm we see in Spain is a bit different.
That practice comes from the post-civil war period in Spain when many people worked two jobs as a result of a poor economic situation. Normally, one job was in the morning and the other in the evening.
This middle-day break was meant for resting between the jobs or traveling from one workplace to another. Even if this period has now long passed, and 60% of Spaniards don’t actually nap during siesta time, this workday routine is still present.
Siesta in other countries
Siesta is not native nor limited to Spain. You can find it in Latin America, Italy, Greece, and some parts of Asia as Taiwan.
The most striking thing that these countries have in common is the hot climate. In southern countries, the middle of the day can be excessively hot, which makes working hard and unhealthy. In Southern Spain, temperatures in summer can reach above 40 °C (104° F). Working at this temperature is not only harder, but is also bad for our heart, respiratory system, and blood pressure.
A question that people often ask is: “Is there a siesta in Portugal?”. It would be normal to assume that Portugal and Spain share many similar traditions, having in mind that Spain is Portugal’s only neighbor. Well, maybe there are some similarities, but this is not the one.
Siesta culture is something that is not practiced in Portugal. They do have lunch breaks, which often take 1 hour from their workday. If you live above your workplace, then maybe there is time for a quick siesta, but there is no official siesta time in Portugal. 😃
Latin American countries do have siestas. It depends on the country, but many of them had siestas.
For instance, siesta time in Mexico used to be like in Spain. However, nowadays, the practice is less popular in Latin America as it was in the past century.
For the best siesta, there is a website called Napflix, which helps you fall asleep with its content!
So, is siesta the best Spanish tradition?
I wouldn’t say it is the best, because they have so many fun and beautiful ones, but one of the best – absolutely!
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