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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Monday, October 4, 2021 @ 8:36 AM

A report in today’s El Mundo recommends having a good kip after lunch – known to residents and visitors alike as ‘la siesta nacional’ – or, in modern parlance, the ‘yoga ibérico’. Doctors recommend it for obscure medical reasons, common sense supports it as it keeps you off the street during the worst hours of a hot day and it’s even an institution that is gathering adepts in other countries. Indeed, one can now read about having ‘a power nap’ in American literature. Just the ticket after a hard morning’s gardening, a bottle of wine and a heavy lunch.

Meanwhile, the European Union is committed to stopping the siesta and many multinational companies are now operating in Spain with a ‘nine to five’ philosophy.

They probably make their staff sit on hard wooden chairs as well.

The bottom line is always the cash. Spain considers that ‘you work to live’ and the Anglos, stiff with their protestant guilt ethic, say that ‘you live to work’. Silly really, but that's just one of the many civilized reasons why we chose to come and live here, gracias.

I suppose that the Spanish nine-to-fivers experience rather mixed results from insisting on this calendar as, while they may receive business from abroad after the two o’clock watershed, they won’t get many ‘walk-ins’ during those last hours of their working day. They also will, without any doubt, be off their top form following an unsatisfactory sandwich and a soft drink. For the rest of us, I can say that it can be quite a nuisance when you wake up after a hearty siesta, shower and then take a taxi to some office clean across town to discover that it shuts at five for the day.

Five is hardly a late hour in a country which rarely goes to bed before midnight.

Indeed, much of Spain’s business is carried out over a beer or a glass of wine, either during the leisurely lunch which helps make living in this country such a pleasure, or during the evening, when the office-workers slip next door to the local cafeteria for a beer and chat, perhaps with a client. This explains why my subscription news-letter about Spain (a modest income, but one needs something to do) is called 'Business over Tapas'.

The Spanish say that most deals are made outside the office.

Between this agreeable state of affairs and the burgeoning Anglo presence in the business world, the battle lines are drawn.

Movistar, the phone company, appears to have embraced the European working clock – at least, it has taken to sending me irritating commercial messages round about three in the afternoon on my cellphone when I am usually fast asleep. I can't imagine 'Management' being at their desks, but maybe those poor employees with broad South American accents aren't so favourably treated.

A rare intrusive call around four o’clock the other day came from some gruesome English local newspaper that clearly prefers the British work-schedule, wanting to talk to me about a classified advert selling home-made sweet chutney that I had placed in the parrish rag. Not to buy a jam-jar mind, but to ask me if I wouldn't like to advertise with them.

It ruined that day’s nap entirely; as I was left wondering why the Lista Robinson hadn't kicked in. That's a service here in Spain which stops all unsolicited phone-calls. It operates pretty well as a rule.

The Spanish siesta is an institution that has worked for hundreds of years and is based on the soundest of experience and principals. Many of Spain's victories and defeats over the centuries have been down to a refreshed army captain making a late-night raid against the French or (in the case of the Invincible Armada) a look-out's inopportune kip. Oddly, I recently read somewhere that the siesta was introduced by Franco - a claim probably written by some stringer for the telephone company during his lunch hour. After all, goes the logic, if the Generalísimo invented it then it’s OK to give it the bum’s rush and adopt instead those miserable Anglo hours.

So take no notice, and close the shutters after the lunch is over, allowing both the cocido madrileño and your body to settle confortably. You will then be better able to face the long evening ahead.

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johnmcmahon said:
Sunday, October 10, 2021 @ 2:24 PM

in some jobs work and leisure are the same thing

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