Is it goodnight to the siesta in Spain?

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BIG changes could be on the horizon with the proposal of a new timetable in Spain which would exclude the siesta. 

Controversial plans to axe the famous three-hour break in Spain have been proposed by interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who wants the working day to end at 6pm and believes Spain should come in line with its European counterparts. Not only would the Spanish be denied part of their cultural identity, but in order to make the new timetable function Spain would have to realign with GMT and British Summer time.   

Currently many workers start their day at 9am and stay in the office until about 8pm – with a three hour siesta at lunchtime. However, many large shopping malls and organisations stay open throughout the siesta so for many expats it isn’t always a huge disruption. 

Mariano Rajoy wants the working day to end at 6pm and believes Spain should come in line with its European counterparts

‘La siesta’ translates as a short nap and is usually between 20-45 minutes, and originally arose as workers waited for the blistering midday heat to pass before returning to outdoor labour. 

This definition is far from the three-hour break taken in the middle of the working day. Many people believe that in this day and age where wielding a scythe or casting a fishing net is no longer the norm and air conditioned offices are commonplace, a siesta is an indulgent habit that is not relevant any more. 

A recent Spanish study reported that: “We need more flexible working hours, to cut our lunch breaks, to streamline business meetings by setting time limits for them, and to practise and demand punctuality.”

The article also suggested that reducing the length of time of the siesta would boost the quality of life in Spain and even reduce marriage breakdowns. 

There have also been many studies suggesting that a midday nap is beneficial to health. 

Politically the country remains in turmoil with a new government far from being formed. Some believe that the move may be a bid to attract support ahead of the country’s June elections as the change would be popular among numerous Spaniards who would like to see an end to the long working day, but for many these changes would be unthinkable and a change to Spanish culture. 

Rajoy said: “I will find a consensus to make sure the working day ends at 6pm.”

He argues that in order for the new system to work and increase productivity the clocks also need to change to GMT. Spain lies far to the west of the standard Central European Time Zone and has been running on this time since 1942, when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco turned the clocks forward in solidarity with his allies, Nazi Germany.  

A change to GMT would be a momentary disturbance, but whether the Spanish are ready for such a drastic rearrangement of the working day and the impact this would have on Spanish values is another matter. 

How it would affect Spanish life such as shop opening hours, TV scheduling, long lunch breaks and restaurant opening times is not clear but more significantly life without the siesta may be hard to comprehend for a country steeped in tradition. 

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