#SwedeInMadrid: When do Spaniards sleep?


Whenever you say the word siesta people think about Spain. They think about Spain and about taking it easy. Some may even consider taking siesta a bit lazy.

Anyone who thinks taking a siesta is a sign of lazyness has not tried to do physically demanding work in glaring sun and 40 degrees celcius in the shade. Taking a siesta is not lazy, it is a way of increasing productivity by sleeping when it is not possible to work anyway.

So, what about now, when most people work in air conditioned buildings?
Where I work (in an office in Madrid) no-one goes home to take siesta. Neither do they take a nap at the desk as my colleagues in Shanghai do.
There is no siesta but people still work rather long hours. Many people show up at work around 8:30 and leave 18:30 (except Fridays when a lot of people leave around 15).

With such working hours and with the time it takes to move around in a big city like Madrid the dinner inevitably becomes late. But in Spain dinner is not just late. It is very, very late compared to most European countries, especially compared to Northern Europe. The same goes for lunch. See the table below.

When my husband and I entered a restaurant for lunch about a quarter past one they had to check in the kitchen first if the cook would be ready to serve so early.

When we as a family went out to eat around 21 all restaurants we passed looked deserted. We picked one and got lots of attention since we were the only guests. At 22 a few more had joined and when we left around 23 the restaurant was almost full.

A colleague of mine usually eats dinner at nine. Unfortunately that means that he eats alone since the rest of his family does not want to eat "that early".

So if they eat that late, including the young kids, when do they go to bed?

Well, later than most people in Northern Europe do.

Do they get up later then? Well, probably, a bit. But not much later.

Our kids' school in Sweden starts at 8:30 in the morning. Here they start at 9.

The traffic is busier after 9 than shortly after 8 in the morning, but as I mentioned above, most people where I work are in the office before 9.

All in all Spaniards sleep less hours. It's as if they have taken away the siesta without compensating for it.

What about us, a Swedish-Dutch family living in Madrid?

We eat later than we did in Sweden, but not as late as Spaniards.
We go to bed later than we did in Sweden, but probably earlier than most Spaniards do.

And in the weekends in the summer, when we can barely move due to the excessive heat, we take siesta...


#SwedeInMadrid: Rum-Coke combo in the supermarket

Coming from Sweden, where alcohol is only sold in Special stores called Systembolaget, the access to alcohol in food shops in Spain can be a bit surprising.

At the local Carrefour they even offer the possibility to taste different types of alochol in the shop on Fridays, much the same way we can taste cheese and biscuits in the Swedish supermarkets.

In Sweden you will often find candy easily accessible and in full view when you stand in line to pay. Easy to grab and go.

When I shopped in "Simply City" this is what they had available just in front of the check-out:

Why not grab a Rum-Coke combo on the way out?

It is not just that it is easy to buy or taste alcohol - sometimes it is hard not to. We have been to activities where wine or beer has been served - but no alcohol-free alternatives. And this has been activities to which most participants drove. My experience in Sweden is that there are "always" alcohol-free alternatives available when I go to different activities.

Does this easy access and frequent lack of alcohol-free alternatives mean that Spaniards drink more liters of alcohol per capita? Statistics from CE Sifo shows that this is that case, and that it has been the case at least since 1960:

What about  me? Do I drink more alcohol now that I live in Madrid?

Not really. I guess I am too old and wise to be affected by the easy access, not to mention that I care about my health. I have found what works for me and I do not let easy access or other external circumstances affect my drinking habits.

The Dutch alcohol commercials always end with a "Geniet met mate" message. I find it hard to translate well, but basically it means "Enjoy in reasonable measure."

Wherever you are, whether you have easy or difficult access to alcohol, I hope you are able to Genieten met mate.

I especially hope that all of you who are recovering / still struggling alcoholics (like Jack in my book Ursus-dit rättvisan inte når) find your way of enjoying alcohol-free alternatives. These are often easy to access all over the world!