Bored In Spain? Not The Spanish

Published on 5/31/2010 in Buying Process

Before I begin, I often get some grief by referring to “Spanish” people whereas in actual fact our experience is only of Andalucia and so these comments are a reflection only of the people in the South of Spain. I really don’t know what the rest of the country is like!

I was chatting to a Spanish friend at the school gates the other day. He’s been unemployed for nearly two years now and he was there to pick up his son from school.

BoredWhilst we were chatting I asked him what he was up to now. “Nada” was his response, which translated means “nothing”. He said he just sort of hangs around the house and does the school run. Him and his wife are soon to relocate back to their own “tierra” as they are not from this area so they are just sort of biding their time.
So my response to him was “you must be getting a bit bored now hanging around here with nothing to do”. He looked shocked. “Aburrido? No, nunca estoy aburrido” (Bored? No, I’m never bored).

We chatted a bit more before the kids came through the gates and it seems that being bored is not something that crosses his mind, even if he’s not doing anything. It’s as if I had introduced a new concept to him. I just hope he didn’t go home and started feeling bored after our conversation.

At the beach.

On another occasion we were talking to some other Spanish friends of ours about beach life.

When we go down to the beach, the kids go off and play and Susan and I take a book or a newspaper to read. You can spend a good few hours at the beach and I can’t imagine just sitting there for so long without reading something. The beach can get a bit boring sometimes.

Our Spanish friends were shocked again. The thought of taking books to the beach seemed inconceivable and it would be rude ignoring the other people there. They said they never get bored at the beach.

I think on this occasion a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Spanish tend to go as a big family to the beach and some even take a TV and a generator. Yes, I see this every summer. They just don’t allow themselves to get bored. They make sure they bring plenty of food and sometimes board games and they make a good day out of it.

Boredom just isn’t a factor.

Some of our expat friends, for example, can’t seem to do more than an hour at the beach. They start getting hot and bothered and bored and soon head off to find some other entertainment.

In the morning.

In the morning sometimes I like to go for a coffee at the bar around the corner from us. They do a splendid “café con leche”. It’s usually the same faces in there every morning and I love going there.

I always take a book with me to read whilst I sip my coffee but no-one else in there is doing anything apart from just sitting around the bar or at the tables, many on their own.

They think I’m the odd one sat there reading a book!

I have got to know most of the regulars in there quite well now and for the purposes of this article I was talking to them about being bored.

Again I got that shocked look! Bored? Never. They just don’t get bored. They are happy to sit there sipping a coffee, doing nothing, and they don’t find that boring.

I just can’t do it myself. If I have nothing to read I don’t go.

Let’s relax a bit

I think there is an important lesson we can learn from the Spanish here.

All day long I don’t really stop. I’m always doing something. As soon as I stop I start feeling bored. We’ve dragged our kids around half of Europe already as we just can’t stop doing things. We always need to be entertained and doing something.

I really like the fact that the Spanish (Andaluzes) don’t need to be constantly stimulated for them to be happy. They seem to just enjoy that moment in their lives, particularly the quiet relaxing ones.

So now I’m off for a coffee and I’m not going to take a book. I’m just going to enjoy the moment.

Written by: Justin Aldridge (EOS)

About the author:

Justin has been running Eye on Spain for over 5 years and recently with his partner Susan launched their popular moving to Spain video guide, Spain Uncut.

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robert brooks said:
Wednesday, June 1, 2011 @ 1:09 PM

This is probably the reason they are so in in-efficient and unproductive. in general they are not used to doing things. and when the moment comes and they have to do something they dont know what to do

Jacqui said:
Sunday, June 13, 2010 @ 12:09 AM

I really enjoyed reading this Justin and I am gradually trying not to read my book - I think it is a very English thing to do - I also am trying to get the same enjoyment out of people watching. You really have to learn to slow down and don't worry if you have not got anything to do. Hopefully in the next 12 months or so my hubbie and I will have moved over to the Spanish way of life since we are both retired and have been looking for the right place to live for the last couple of years. Anyway I think i'm learning so i'll say bye bye and keep up the good work and let me finish my cup of coffee and people watching.

Jacqui from the UK

Janet S said:
Thursday, June 3, 2010 @ 4:24 PM

Wow - what an interesting debate. We came to tenerife hust about a year ago to retire, I was working right up until then.
It is taking quite a while to settle(family and friends at home etc.,) but I have worked out eventually that is the retirement that I cannot come to terms with. I am always wanting to do something worthwhile - I am at the moment learning a graphics course on ther internet in order that I can then set up a web site to sell my designs. Will I never relax my friends say to me - you know I don't think I can, I feel that as long as I am here on this earth I have to be doing sdomething useful - is that sad?

Dani said:
Thursday, June 3, 2010 @ 1:08 PM

Hi all,
Having lived in Spain several years ago I found my heart rate was alot lower from pacing my life & work. At the time I was still working 8-10 hrs / day & loving it ! back in the Uk I still work the same hrs, stress more due to the rat race & my heart rate is alot !
I think here in the UK the cost of living is high/er & not enough space to really spread our arms, were all fighting for that bit of space, be it in the car park or hearts & mind ! We have stopped talking to each other in the streets or supermarkets as a lack of trust in our society.
Can't wait for the day to head off back to Spain....soon !

Maria-Jose Garcia said:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @ 11:43 AM

I found this article very interesting, thanks. It is the first time I am writing so I hope this gets through ok. I am native Spanish, from Cartagena, and I really agree with the ideas in your article, Justin. I personally find fascinating the differences in both cultures, the British and the Spanish, and how these differences are expressed and reflected in the translation of the two languages. I am a professional translator and love the two languages with the different cultures around them.

Saludos a todos


Doedoe said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 10:30 PM

I understand that many Spanish people take more time relaxing becase rushing around in the heat would make them tired. So relaxing is much healthier.
Sadly in the UK if you relax instead of doing your daily tasks you would have to keep running to catch up the following day.

Doedoe said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 10:30 PM

I understand that many Spanish people take more time relaxing becase rushing around in the heat would make them tired. So relaxing is much healthier.
Sadly in the UK if you relax instead of doing your daily tasks you would have to keep running to catch up the following day.

Neil M said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 10:44 AM

I used to be like you Justin I just had to be doing somthing 24/7. I felt that the day was wasted if nothing was done or some improvment achieved.
October 2008 I had a stroke and later was diagnosed with heart failure. Gladly I have overcome 90% of the stroke but still due to my heart have been forced to take early retirement and become much less active.
Being near to death is a great leveller and my outlook on life changed overnight. No longer do I get bored or feel the need to be doing somthing. If a job is not done today It will probably get done tomorrow or later. I find that now I enjoy life much more with hardly any stress.
I am just happy to be alive. I enjoy sipping coffee just watching the world go by. People watching and chatting with friends and neighbours. Material things now seem less important to me. My family and their well being are my priority.
We are only here once and life should be cherished, every second of every day. We all need to live today as though it may be our last.
I know that now.
Maybe the Spanish already understand this and we Brits have become too materialistic and selfish. Prehaps we have lost the good life along the way.
As they say you can't take it with you. So chill out and enjoy life.

Neil M

Praguepix said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 10:33 AM

Of course we are ignoring the important fact that what bores one person may stimulate another.
And of course it is quite possible to take a book to the cafe or beach AND to put it down for an hour or so to chat or just people-watch.
Few people confine their activities to one rigid pattern.
It's going to be extremely hot here today so after the usual household chores I shall take my book to the lounger by the pool.
But I shall intersperse my reading with long breaks where I do nothing other than to contemplate the beautiful jacaranda in my neighbour's garden.
'Sobre los gustos non hay disputos' is a grand old Spanish saying.

Webster said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 9:46 AM

Isn't that why we all yearn for the Andalucian way of life? The just 'being' . . . no rushing, no (serious) deadlines, no pressure. Just the opportunity to take time out without it being a guilty pleasure. It's the same attitude to taking a nap in the afternoon . . .

comotuqieres said:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 1:18 AM

Good for you Justin another way to learn to relax and enjoy your own company without fidgeting or irritating anyone.
Here in Orihuela Costa it is the same The Spanish chat away happily even in super mercados they are chatting to customers, and at the checkouts they even keep talking to one one other whilst shifting and packing items for the customers. I chat to them of and on and they always respond with passion. some Ex-pats make an effort while majority insist on dealing in English when I see there is a break down of communication due to the Language barrier,I act as a go between as I can't bear the helplessness of the Spanish,especially with the regional accents of the Ex-pats e.g Geordie,Irish,Scottish,Birmingham and of course the the East Enders etc,etc,etc.
Ocassonally I pop in the local fontanero and have a chat with Gloria and Paco who always help me with my Spanish conversation and I once again translate for the visiting Ex -pats.
There is no time to get bored or keep finding ways to occupy oneself with renovating jobs,painting balustrades every year like most of my neighbours do. Every year many come over to escape the life style and climate and carry on painting,
decorating, and at siesta time they go shopping or congregate by the pools with screaming kids and at 7pm go for their drinking and eating. Some across the other side of Zona Verde every year they come and at 7am find themselves sitting in their little terraces reading from morning till evening and they have been doing this for the last 5 years!
just like the British Politics the British Lifestyle needs a seriously strong mouthwash.
I could write a book about "The rude boredom of the ex-pats."
Their are many activities organised by the local authorities, Vecinos, schools and Centro Civico including cultural weeks, free Spanish Lessions, and much more which are mostly enjoyed by the all other Europeans with the exception of the British who have set up their own groups that are mostly in the name of "charity." The Spanish culture and way of life is warm and friendly and welcomes those who appreciates and join in but rejects those who think they know better and also boring and lacks the touch of human beings engaging with each other and themselves as this not only eliminates boredom but also stimulates the lifestyle and the surrounding environment of contentment.

como tu quieres

Paul said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 5:14 PM

We sailed away in 1988 on a 34ft sail boat. My business friends and close friends all asked ' Don't you think you'll get bored?' Well you don't know until you try it!!
Six or eight day passages from Ibiza to Tenerife, one Spanish island to another. Island hopping and coast hopping for four years.
The people we met along the way enjoyed life for what it is and not what one could do with it.
That goes for most of the Mediterranean east to Turkey, out to the Caribbean and beyond. But lets not start a north south debate :)

Save the planet?? Look inside yourself and find a little peace, it saves producing a lot of 'boredom toys' .... and then ditching them.

Madaline Wright said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 4:40 PM

Hi Justin. Well I must have become very Spanish because I always take my reader with me, but never seem to get it out of my bag, I'm so busy people-watching and looking at the fantastic views that I never tire of. Just sitting around thinking how lucky I am to be here is enough for me - mind you, this is usually in the afternoon or evenings - because I usually spend the morning doing some housework!!

mo anthony said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 3:34 PM

I too take a book to the beach, BUT have yet to read a page, there is so much going on, I can spend hours just people watching, best of all is going for a glass of wine and tapas, for a very few dinero, I get a good couple of hours entertainment. OOOOh I do like this life of retirement.

praguepix said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 3:16 PM

I'm like you, Justin, I feel I must always be doing something, usually something 'improving'. I can't lie by my pool without a 'good' book in my hand - literature or non-fiction, usually historical in the latter case.
When I walk the dog in the campo I always take my IPod with my and listen to a mixture of CadenaDial and classical music, usually opera. I even feel a tad peeved when I encounter some chatty Spaniard who wants to share doggy chat and I have to pull out my 'phones....but then I reflect that I'm Doing Something Worthwhile because I'm speaking and hopefully improving my Spanish.
I think it's the old Protestant Work Ethic thingy...
It's a fact too that we Brits work long hours, have high incomes compared to most of Europe, enjoy a high standard of living yet have a very low quality of life.
These habits are not easy to break...

Wayne Young said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 2:51 PM

I read the first half of this and got bored I'm afraid - sorry!

Elle said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 2:35 PM

Really enjoyed reading this article Justin - thank you!
Elle xx

Rondeau said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 2:31 PM

Nice article Justin.

I am of similar ilk to you in that I have a very low boredom threshold. If I am occupied 24/7 for 365 days a year (366 in a leap year) I am happy.
Work, travelling and socialising give me a great deal of pleasure, however, if I have an hour to waste I start to get bored and fidgety.
I know that we are not all the same, what a sad and predictable world that would be, but I believe that life is to be lived to the full and hence time on my hands is wasted time.
At times I truly wish that I could just spend time doing nothing but I guess my character does not allow me to.
All power to the Spanish (or Andalucians), they have been brought up differently to the English and hence their different lifestyle and priorities.


Maria said:
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 2:24 PM

Very interesting article Justin!
I think it is part of our moorish roots. I have a friend who wrote about this as he married a spanish-moroccan woman and had the oportunity of analysing sense of time by this culture.
I am not meaning anything peyorative. It is interesting how cultures differ on aspects which may sometime even seem essential or unamovable.
It is very interesting!

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