Among the many cultural differences that I have noticed during my time in Spain, the one that I find most interesting is the siesta. Each day, from 2 to 5 p.m., nearly everything in the city shuts down, similar to Orange City on a Sunday. For those three hours or so, everybody in the city returns to their homes and has a midday break.
Afternoons in Spain can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it’s rather uncomfortable to go outside during that time, let alone work. A long time ago, people decided that it wasn’t worth trying to work during this period. Thus, we have the siesta.
The word siesta in Spanish translates from the Latin phrase “hora sexta,” which means “the sixth hour.” The custom is probably best known to Americans as the time when people go home to take naps.
While it’s true that many people choose to spend part of their siesta sleeping, this period is so much more than just naptime. Most people only spend about half an hour sleeping, if at all. Other siesta activities during this time include various watching television, eating, and spending time with loved ones.
The main purpose of having a siesta is so that people can rest anyway they choose during the middle of the day. Taking a break from working or studying can really help to restore and revitalize a person to continue on afterwards. I know that whenever I’m done with siesta, I feel completely revitalized, even if my day has been incredibly stressful until that point.
Also, in the United States, lunch is the largest meal in Spain. And it is eaten much later in the day, usually during the siesta. Instead of eating at the office or at a nearby location, Spaniards are able to do so with their families.
During siesta, families and friends are able to come together and spend time with each other. It is regarded by many as a sacred time, one that should not be neglected.
Spain is just one of many countries to have a tradition similar to the siesta. Several others around the Mediterranean, as well as nearly all of Latin America also practice it.
Being able to sit back and rest for a few hours every day is an incredibly relaxing experience, and I’m pretty sure that most of the other American students studying here with me would agree. Sometimes I sit in my room during siesta and think that siesta is probably one of the greatest pieces of Spanish culture that I’ve encountered. Why don’t we have it in the U.S.?