It seems that the only way to really survive the hot summer in Spain is to bite the bullet and go Spanish. We have done this, although it wasn’t a conscious decision it just gradually happened over time. We were never the type to sit in the midday sun but I have to say that in the beginning (four years ago) we were happy to go down to the beach or pool at about four and remain there for at least two or three hours. Nowadays, we don’t make our way down to the beach until the time that we used to make our return. In fact, you won’t catch me anywhere outdoors between midday and six if I can help it.
I have to admit that this summer has been my most bearable so far and the sun doesn’t bother or inhibit me anywhere near the level that it did in the beginning or rather I no longer allow it to catch me during the hottest part of the day. I have learnt to reorganise my timetable for the summer, doing the food shopping first thing so that I don’t have to be heaving bottles of water during the blazing heat. The really savvy sun avoiders make sure that they do their shopping online and order hundreds of 8litre bottles of water and anything else that is heavy and can be ordered in bulk.
Many people survive the summer with air conditioning. I find it makes going out all the more unbearable and can make me very sneezy so we have opted for ceiling and free standing fans in every room. Also, what you do with your window is key to heat survival. It is natural for the average Brit to feel compelled to draw back the curtains and open all windows on a hot day. However, be careful because leaving windows open can actually lead to your house being much hotter. The winds play a vital role with the viento de “levante” being the easterly wind which provides a welcome breeze through an open window and the “poniente” is a warm and dry westerly wind that can get very suffocating during the summer.
With regards to our eating schedule, we have adapted dramatically. The only meal that has remained consistently at about seven thirty/quarter to eight is breakfast. However, all other meal times have changed and it is not unusual for us to be enjoying a second breakfast in line with the Spanish at eleven even midday. I really notice it when I go back to the UK and it feels strange to be eating lunch at breakfast time.
We don’t eat lunch until at least two o’clock and I can’t believe it when I see fellow British expats tucking into their evening meal at five when we are having our merienda (tea time snack which could be a cake or a sandwich). During the summer months we eat much later at night. I never used to believe that the Spanish could eat as late as midnight and although we aren’t eating that late yet, normal time is around nine o’clock with ten o’clock barbeques being the norm in our house. Who wants to slave over hot coals in the midday sun?
We all (including our six year olds) enjoy at least a refreshing cat nap in the afternoon. Although the children stay up much later in the summer, they are fine if they have slept during the afternoon and are quite happy to play until 10pm. Incidentally, compared to their Spanish counterparts this is early during the summer as they generally aren’t in bed until at least midnight. Our children only stay up until midnight on special occasions such as ferias or barbeques and only if they have had at least an hour siesta in the afternoon. My friends in the UK can’t believe it when they call me to chat at 8 or 9pm and they can hear my children running around in the background! By this time their children have been in the land of nod for hours.
My friend is coming out with her two children for a month’s holiday this summer and she realises that unless she adapts to the Spanish heat avoidance timetable, she probably won’t see me as there’s no way I am going to be sitting around the pool during the early or mid afternoon. They may seem like strange times for the average person living in Britain but I would definitely recommend adapting to the Spanish timetable to get the most out of your life or holiday in Spain.