Is it goodnight to the siesta?

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© Lakov Filimonov – Shutterstock

NEW plans to axe the famous three-hour siesta in Spain have been proposed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who suggests the working day should end at 6pm and Spain should come in line with its European counterparts.

Although plans of this nature have been discussed before, this topic is highly controversial in Spain where the siesta is a way of life to many.

At present, workers currently start at about 9am and stay in the office until about 8pm – with a three hour siesta breaking up the day at lunchtime.

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The country’s Prime Minister says he wants the working day to end at 6pm, bringing an end to the traditional three-hour midday break.

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

Many 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 many Spaniards who would like to see an end to the long working day, but for some this would be unthinkable and a change to Spanish culture. 

The siesta is a cultural frame for the Spanish day and a way of life. Between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, many shops and businesses close down because around 2pm, the heat temperature reaches its peak and it is simply too hot to be outside during the summer months. Therefore people take a siesta to wait indoors until the heat subsides.

La siesta literally translates as a short nap and is usually between 20-45 minutes. However, this definition is far from the three-hour break taken in the middle of the working day. Siesta has spread all over Spain, South America, the Middle East, the Philippines, and North Africa.

Because the working day is broken up, the modern siesta is the time working people go home and spend time with their family or friends, and not necessarily to just take a nap. Often, families will use it as a time to have a long lunch and this is now integral to Spanish values.

There are supposed health benefits too. Studies have shown that a siesta has been associated with a 37 per cent reduction in coronary mortality, possibly due to cardiovascular stress being reduced by a daytime sleep. Apart from the benefits, the siesta is firmly established in the Spanish psyche and is a habit that may be difficult to break. The siesta is one of the strongest Spanish traditions and an easy one for most expats to embrace.

Three years ago a Spanish parliamentary commission issued a report examining the issue.

The commission said: “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 commission’s report suggested that reducing the length of time of the siesta would boost the quality of life in Spain and even reduce marriage breakdowns.

9 COMMENTS

  1. In all these air conditioned offices and shops they staff are not outside in the heat of the summer. The only people who need a siesta are people who work outside in the summer. Stopping the siesta would also give people who commute to work an immediate pay rise as they would only have to travel each way once instead of twice

  2. None of these policeticians have any balls do they? As soon as the IMF comes in the place is starting to turn into the UK more and more. If people cannot see this they are seriously blind. Surely it is the choice of the individual business as to the hours they work not big brother telling us (yet again..!!) wot to do!!!!! who the hell do these bureaucrats think they are??????????? These changes serve big business only and they ruin the small guy. who votes for this sh*t?? cos i f didnt….get rid of the idiot…

  3. I can understand why the siesta is necessary the heat in Spain can be draining whether you work inside or not and sometimes air con breaks down due to heat I think Rajoy should rethink I cannot see that there will be anymore productivity by working 9am to 6pm.

  4. Rajoy is a twat who shouldnt be in office along with his desperately corrupt government, oh I forgot, he didnt get a majority anway did he? The whole of the mediterranean does siesta because of the climate. Time these interfering politicians did something useful like prosecute the swindling cheating people in power and leave us alone to work how we want. He is just brown nosing to try to get a cheap result. He really needs to go, but then do the rest of the politicians, the royals and a lot of corrupt, inefficient and egotistical maniacs who walk around in uniform

  5. Personally I’d like to see it and no reason for most businesses don’t change but Almeria is the garden of Spain and farming and outside jobs do need a break in the summer temps.
    BUT Spain being Spain it ain’t going to happen and it’s their business.

  6. If the air conditioning breaks down that’s an entirely different matter but normal working in and air conditioned office or shop does not require a siesta and buisnesses would be more in tune with the rest of Europe who are working during the hours that Spanish workers are having their siesta and can’t contact a Spanish buisness to purchase anything or give and order for anything and when the Spanish go back to work the other European buisnesses are going home

  7. 9am – 8 pm . . . ? You forgot the break for breakfast ! Just as the queues are building up in the bank, the staff put on hats and coats and b**** off for three quarters of an hour, one by one. Then they get back and start to clear their desks ready to close at 1. Some days there is no chance at all of doing anything. And answering the phone whilst they are dealing with a customer . . . !

  8. Considering that most shops and offices have air-conditioning I find it strange that the Spanish people still hold on to the siesta break each afternoon.
    I know it is tradition, but this should have been revised years ago. There is no excuse for such a thing these days, but the Spanish being what they are I doubt that anything will change.

  9. I was the one who laid in the sun in the heat of the day and never thought it would be too much for me.
    How times have changed!!!!
    Originally we found it a bind trying to get things done before siesta but then we found we would sit down and fall asleep in the heat of the day and ALL our friends were the same.
    My son got heat stroke twice working on the building and now does not go out in the heat of the day
    kay

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