thebadPoll: The Barcelona Siesta – A Myth?

The latest issue of Monocle magazine includes a report on work hours around the world. It starts off by interviewing one Nuria Chinchilla of IESE Barcelona (where I get sent for re-education from time to time). The segment includes this line (written by the author, Sophie Grove, not la Chinchilla):

It’s 15.00 in Barcelona, the time when every shady bench is taken up by snoozing Catalans.

Upon reading this, my immediate response was: “Well this is utter bollocks, no one in Barcelona still works those hours. So how can I believe Grove when she writes about South Korea?”.

But then I thought to myself: before I write a letter to the editor of Monocle stating the above, maybe I should check with the half-dozen miscreants who prowl these pages looking for a fight. Maybe I’m lucky: I work for a fairly forward-thinking Catalan company which has never had a policy supporting 2 or 3 hour lunchbreaks. But perhaps I’m in the minority. So the question is:

In your Barcelona-based job, are you expected to take a lunch break of more than 1 hour a day?

Additional points awarded to anyone who agrees with me that rather than the hackneyed siesta/lazy Spaniard theme, Grove might have done better to cover the jornada intensiva, which lets me work an extra 45 mins Monday through Thursday so that I can leave at 15.00 on Friday. Comments in general about work hours here, in Catalonia and Spain are always welcome.

As usual, you can vote over there to the right of this post >>>>>

16 thoughts on “thebadPoll: The Barcelona Siesta – A Myth?

  1. There must be a lot of parents on a two hour break because they’re taking their children home between 1 and 3 pm, visibly so because they’re regularly clogging the streets with their cars at those times.

    So, yes, Spain’s still fairly inefficient, and in that triple sense: adult lunchtime, children lunchtime and two more rush hours.

  2. I know here in Madrid a lot of people are changing to the more European workday. Those with kids may take a longer lunch if their child care plans demand it. But nobody I know snoozes after lunch, much less on a park bench, except for professional winos. I think The New York Times has published one of those tired “Spanish Siesta Tradition Endangered” stories every time they have a new stringer. I guess they can’t run articles on “Spanish Bulfight Tradition Endangered” all the time….

  3. There are still a lot of 2/3 lunchbreaks out there, though I wouldn’t be sure it was the norm any more. A lot of people think a 2 hour break is necessary to eat “like a normal person”.

    The two hours of closed businesses in the middle of the day (I know you lot don’t notice it coz you live there), making it impossible to use the two hours break for anything useful, is something that I have never made my peace with.

    1. I so totally agree. The business shutdown can even extend from 13:00 to 17:00. After all these years here I can still get mad when I want to get some things done but have to break my day in two and run out again in the late afternoon.

  4. where is it still done though? I worked for a firm in Barcelona, and it was 1 hour, more or less. It was pretty strictly enforced as well – which I liked as it stopped people (mostly guiri’s) taking the piss.

    I now work in madrid where lunch is anything from 20 mins to an hour and a bit depending on the day.

    None of my circle of friends here in Madrid (office/software types) has this “siesta” except on a saturday or sunday afternoon.

  5. Today I finished work at 14:30. I went home, had lunch and siesta. At 18:30 I got out again, because the shops were open again, to do the daily errants.

    At one point I thought: good that shops are open for so long, so I can still do stuff. Then I replied to myself: I would really have liked to do the stuff at 14:30 and call it a day!

    I don’t know if the shopkeepers had their siesta, but they sure had time for it.

  6. Well, if you have a full-time job it’s somewhat difficult to have a nap. Unless, of course, you have a bed under your desk. Where I work, they have a flexible attitude to working hours, which is something I appreciate. In other words, it’s up to you, if you want to spend 3 hours and a half having lunch and smoking cigars, it’s alright. Personally, I only work part-time, so in the afternoon I do usually have a wee snooze while I listen to the early afternoon radio show. I like to live well.

  7. I don’t know what one can like or dislike about any of the comments above. They’re simple exchanges of views and experiences. But there always has to be the odd guy out, like primo, happy to shed a negative vote not because of the comment’s content, but because he hates. He just hates the author’s guts.

    I committed the error of stooping down to the same level, giving primo one thumbs down just for the fun of it, and may he see how childish he is.

    Wow! Now we have the whole Cataloonie horde shedding out thumbs ups and downs. Haters, them too, reacting to a kind of Pawlowian impulse determined by their ideological bias, or rather the bias they perceive in others, for in their world one is either friend or foe. One brief moment I dreamt up the scenario of sending a chain letter to friends, and take it from that angle… it would have added a lot of clicks from all over the world to this blog, and a helluva lot of thumbies here and there in this thread. And it would have only been childish. That’s not my world.

    Back to the issue: like many here, I don’t work 9-13/16-18. Like them, I don’t do siesta. Yet I thought it to be adequate that I abstract from my own working hours and have a look at society at large. I observe that siesta time is still there. Snoozing Catalans all over the benches is bullocks, but to me it’s just an image some reporter thought fit to use. I wouldn’t have taken it literally even if I didn’t live in Catalonia. We all work a lot, and siesta time, for those who do do it, is taken up by taking care of the kids.

    I find there to be a certain circularity: those who would like to work “horas intensivas” find it hard to organise their day accordingly because schools do siesta, schools do siesta because there are many other people who cut their day in two. The outcome on the general level still is loss in productivity, plus a nuisance for those who have already shifted to “European standards”. While we’re right in the middle of that shift and the two worlds keep colliding life doesn’t get any easier.

    (I expect lotsa thumbs down for saying “siesta” instead of “migdiada”. Knock yourselves out.)

    1. In other words: when you give a negative vote it’s because you want to have fun, when others give you a negative vote it’s because they hate you. Ha ha ha, what a schmuck! Here’s a little piece of information, my friend: I am responsible for the negative votes that you got, all of them. There is no horde of Cataloonies. There is no chain letters. There is no conspiracy. Sorry to disappoint you.

  8. [Monocle seems to be a lifestyle magazine, and if this is so, allow me this gut reaction: yuck!

    (Sorry for not having followed that up earlier, Tom. I shoulda.)]

    1. Candide, your prejudices are more numerous than anyone I know. Actually, Monocle, for what it is, isn’t that bad. It has lots of interesting features about innovative businesses and so on around the world, a pretty good analysis of modern urban planning and what makes a good city, and usually has an interesting interview by a decent journalist.

      It does have Rolex ads all the way through it, but that’s better than Axe deodorant, surely?

      By the way, I like paper publishing formats. I think the book, the newspaper and the magazine/periodical have certain intrinsic qualities which never quite translate into digital media (I say this as someone who works in, and has much respect for, online content). I’ve just started a subscription to The Believer, a sort of literary review from San Francisco. Pleasantly designed and attractively bound, I don’t think I’ll be swapping it for an iPad anytime soon.

      1. Gosh, man! I really have to watch my words with you.

        I’d write for a lifestyle mag any time they’d take my articles. Even worse, I’ve been writing for newspapers I wouldn’t buy because of their political bias (figure of speech, I anyway do, because it’s my duty). A decent article is always a decent article, no matter where it is published.

        That said, I totally agree with your last paragraph, and I will have a look at The Believer. Totally unknown to me, and sounds interesting.

        Now stop making my life miserable and leave me to my beloved yucks and yummies!

  9. Hi Tom,

    I did a short piece for this recent Monocle guide on Barcelona [see:

    and the editor they sent here to work with a few of us freelancers was a complete tosser who had no real idea of what he was doing. For this reason I wouldn’t be at all suprised if they messed with that author [Sophie Grove’s] words.

    Fortunately for me they left my piece fairly close to how I wrote it. It was a paying gig but they got more than their pound of flesh, believe me.

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