Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sundays and Siestas

When we moved to Barcelona, one of the toughest things to get accustomed to was the way the whole city shuts down on Sundays and every day in the afternoons for siesta. All day Sunday and every day of the week between 2 and 5 pm roughly, any shop or business and even some cafes and restaurants will close their doors to give their employees a nice, long time to have lunch and maybe a little snooze before going back to work. This is quite nice for the employees but it can be a little annoying if you're new here and not accustomed to it. In Miami, as in most large cities in the U.S., most shops are open every day of the week until 8 or 9 o'clock at night (some are even open 24 hours!) and even on national holidays you can expect to find reduced hours. So when we arrived here, it was a bit jarring to realize that we'd have to make some adjustments and plan accordingly. I have to admit that this planning does take some of the spontaneity out of everyday life. If you feel like baking a cake on Sunday but don't have the ingredients, you'll have to wait until the supermarket reopens on Monday. If you spur of the moment decide you want to get your hair cut but it's three o'clock, you'll have to wait a few hours because the salons are all closed. Sometimes when we walk around our neighborhood on Sunday afternoons, with all the shops closed and their aluminum shutters pulled down, we feel a bit like we're in one of those movies where aliens have eaten all the humans or something and we are the only survivors.

We used to wonder what the Spanish do when there's nothing to do. And then we realized how American we were by posing that question. The whole point was NOT to do anything. Siesta time is for eating, resting, and recharging. Sundays are for rest and family and maybe God if you believe in that. The shutting down of the city is not only so that the employees who work in those cafes, stores, libraries, pharmacies, and bakeries can have some time to spend with their families, it is also so that everyone else has no choice BUT to spend time with their families. The shutdown forces people together in a very positive way. So you go to a restaurant to have a big lunch with your family, you invite friends over to your place or you go to theirs, you lounge around in your pajamas all day with your spouse watching a futbol game that neither of you cares about, or if you have little ones, you spend your afternoons in the park pushing your kid in the swings, watching the old men play bocce ball (bochas in Spanish), or laying out on the grass, nibbling on some fruit and soaking up the sun.

Don't get me wrong--we still grumble about the mandatory pause occasionally but after having lived here for over a year now, we've come to appreciate this time to practice the fine art of being unproductive.

The photos above are of Parque Industrial where we spend many a Sunday afternoon.


  1. It was so hard when I moved to Catalunya but after about a month I realized I had to adjust.. so I went grocery shopping right before, got everything fresh and made lunch calmly, ate slowly and then slept for a bit before class or the inevitable night out when you are an exchange student :) I actually miss that...

  2. @mimia It's weird how it slowly becomes a part of your life without you really thinking about it, huh?

  3. I wonder if divorce rates are lower and heart disease rates are lower in Spain because of this.