La Siesta – Case Study

Lady enjoying Siesta
‘The Siesta (Afternoon in Dreams’ by Frederick Athur Bridgman

The Spanish Siesta – it is something we have probably all heard of. We know that they like to nap during the middle of the day, but what is the actual reason they do it? And what are the consequences of this gap during the day?

There are several theories about how this phenomenon has gotten into the Spanish culture. One of them states that the Siesta goes back to the Spanish Civil War . The story goes that the war brought extreme poverty, and many Spaniards were forced to have multiple jobs. The siesta would be the time in between, in which they had to have their late lunch and could switch between the jobs.

According to another theory, the roots of the Siesta can be found in the WWII time frame. Ex-dictator Franco changed the clocks to match the schedule of Nazi Germany. Although the Spanish society has changed a lot since then, this schedule was maintained.

The last theory is farmworkers needed a rest after their huge lunch before they went to work in the fields again

Enough different ideas about the origin of the Siesta, but the way it’s used right now mostly resembles the farmworkers theory. Spanish people have a different schedule from most other European countries. Their workweek starts around 10am, they have lunch between 2 and 4pm and dinner after 9pm, and don’t go to bed before 1am. The lunch is the most important meal of the day, and it’s huge. It usually consists of three courses; a starter consisting of soup or salad, the main consisting of meat or fish and usually a dessert, which can be anything from fruit to flan or cake.

The danger of this huge lunch is, of course, that you tend to get really sleepy [google books]. Whereas this Siesta used to be a necessity, it turned into a luxury, and a habit. Between 2pm and 5pm, the Spanish world rests. The have lunch first and rest afterwards. For those hours, everything in Spain stops working. There is nobody on the streets, all shops are closed and should not even have the idea of disturbing somebody in that time.

One of the most important consequences of this gap in your afternoon is that you have to make that time up at some other point. This is the reason most Spanish people work until 8pm. Although napping can improve productivity and can decrease the risk of a heart attack, government officials want to adapt to the Greenwich Mean Time. Spain’s economy is contracting and the unemployment rate is amongst the highest in Europe. They believe more ‘European’ times would help the economy grow and actually would increase productivity.

The Siesta however is deeply embedded in the Spanish culture. Although some government officials want to drop this phenomenon, the people will probably heavily protest against it. For the coming years, I am pretty sure the Siesta will stand tall and that Spanish people will enjoy every minute of it.

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