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The Spanish Workday

By Edited Dec 20, 2013 0 0

An average workday in Spain takes some getting used to

If you are going to spend an extended amount of time in Spain, you should know what to expect from the culture and it's people. There are plenty of behaviors unique to Spain (the volume of the people and their penchant for smoking, to name a few). But one of the most remarkable differences to that of North America is the Spanish approach to work. It will take some getting used to if you are planning a move or to study over here. Because the Spanish workday looks nothing like your average North American workday.

The day begins...late

A typical working day starts later here, as people get out of bed lateI am aware that there are cafes that are open by 7 am, maybe earlier, though I've never been out at that hour to witness this, because of where Spain sits on the edge of a timezone, at 7am the sun is not yet up.

Most people head off to the office around 9:30 or 10:00,  which means they are dressed and making their way there byu foot, bicycle, scooter, metro, train or less often, by car. This typically includes a stop on the way for a short coffee, maybe even with some brandy in it if the night was particulary rough. Then it's time for some real productivity, before a breakfast break around 11.  If the job is a blue collar job, and thus begins a bit earlier, the employee with will stop at 10:oo for their breakfast or  a beer...because as we all know its helpful to be relaxed while working with tools and machines.

Lunchtime is siesta time

14:00 (2pm) is siesta time. In the cities, this means lunch, because a journey home for a real siesta would take far too long. But it is still called siesta and it lasts anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. Most workers head off to a restaurant with coworkers or friends for a big meal, as luch in any local restaurant is a three course affair, (sometimes four) called a menu del dia, and includes beer or wine and a coffee at the end of the three courses. So naturally you’d need at least a couple of hours to ingest all those courses those restaurants insist on serving you.

8pm is still considered "afternoon"

After lunch it is back to the office to work straight through (although supplemented by several smoke and/or coffee breaks) until between six and eight, when they call it quits. This naturally pushes dinner to much later than what we in the US might be used to, and thus, extending the length of the day. In fact, up until about 9pm is considered "afternoon".

Life happens after work

Most office workers hurry home after work to have an actual siesta before they run, hit the gym, bike or rollerskate along the ramblas - open spaces usually between main streets running both directions in the centers of town, with trees, benches, bike paths and lots of space.  Or folks will exercise and then take a siesta and get ready for their evening, which is more often than not spent with other people - in bars, cafes, for a paseo through town, maybe dinner, sometimes out until very late (3:00 or 4:00am), but just out – to meet with friends and be with others. Then it’s finally  to bed whatever time  they collapse into it, (though it is most certainly well after midnight),  and they do it all over again the next day.

Summer Hours in Spain

In August, if a business does not actually close for the entire month, then they at least go on "summer hours". This, and the closing of business, is to deal with the heat. August heat can become unbearable in the cities, and while offices have air conditioning now, this is a left over relic from earlier days when it did not exist - or the company just couldnt afford it. Work during summer hours begins earlier, loosley around 8:00am, and ends at 15:00 (3pm). The rest of the long afternoon is spent at the beach, park, or going to and from said relaxing places where a siesta is almost certainly involved.

It is usually one of the biggest adjustments when spending any amount of time in Spain, and it can take years to acclimate to the drawn out working hours and long nights. But one thing is certain if you want to adjust into the Spanish timetable- you must master the siesta. 


Lunchtime is siesta time in Spain

The Spanish are late night folks.

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