Una Revista de las Horas: Mis Experiencias Trabajando en España


courtesy of wikipedia.com

Una Revista de las Horas: Mis Experiencias Trabajando en España

By: Mark Brady

After spending a little more than a month in sunny Seville, I thought I share my thoughts on the Spanish workweek, and how it sheds light on both of our respective cultures. 

The Spanish workday begins around the same time as ours, although punctuality is not as strictly enforced. Around the late morning, Spanish employees enjoy having a “desayuno,” a quaint social ritual in the workplace. Many in the office leave together to grab a late morning breakfast or snack. 

During my “práctica” (internship) in Seville, the desayuno has been my favorite part. It is a rather unique experience to grab café con leche (coffee with milk) with a small jamón y tomate montadito (ham and tomato sandwich) and spend time with your compañeros without the stress of work. This is a relaxed period to catch up with your fellow employees and bond away from the office. I think it’s a good way to build trust and community.

After this, the afternoon begins, and everyone returns to their desks. People work for a few hours until the romanticized “siesta” period begins at around two in the afternoon. This time gap, contrary to popular belief, is rarely used for actual napping. Nonetheless, many businesses and shops will remain closed for a few hours. 

After the mid-afternoon siesta period, shops and businesses will resume their activities until later in the evening. It is quite common for Andalusians to work until past nine every night. As a result of this, both the “almuerzo” (lunch) and “cena” (dinner) periods are much done much later in the day. Lunch will take place around two or three, while dinner will take place around nine or later. 

I should stress that this scheduling style is far more prevalent in the south of Spain than the north. Financial powerhouses such as Barcelona, Bilbao, and Madrid more likely than not, cannot afford to have such a different work schedule than their international counterparts. 

As I’ve been living through this Sevillano business-style, one reccurring thought has arisen: this would simply never be tolerated in the United States. A work schedule this mixed and divided would conflict on every level with the working culture here. The nine to five, “rise and grind” mantra would collapse under the pressure of so many gaps and extensions. 

Southern Spain has managed to keep its own tradition of work-life afloat. Is there a superior system of work-life balance between our two respective countries? Inherently no, but one could equivocally add the economic standing and performance of those economies with a similar schedule to the Sevillano one. And simply put, the numbers are not the best. Having such different schedules and business norms produces a barrier for Spain in the international arena. There have even been government attempts to change these hours to make the country more “competitive.” And from a simple number standpoint, I would have to agree. Nonetheless, Seville has held on to its old ways.  

In a world where I feel we are being pushed to globally adopt the same customs, hours and way of life, I find it a little refreshing to observe something so different. While these hours may be frustrating at times, part of me wants to see Spain hold on to its traditional working culture. You’ll never see anything like this in the cosmopolitan cities of the East Coast.