Spaniards Considering Switching to the 9-to-5

In Spain, siestas are a way of life—lunch is followed by a nap before returning to the workday. But since there isn’t a set 9-to-5 schedule, this also means that workdays often extend into the night. Now, as the Times reports, Spain is still recovering from an economic crisis, and the Spanish government is campaigning to get the country on a schedule more closely aligned with the rest of Europe, arguing that it’ll make the country more productive.

Yet what might sound logical to many non-Spaniards would represent a fundamental change to Spanish life. For decades, many Spaniards have taken a long midday siesta break for lunch and a nap. Under a new schedule, that would be truncated to an hour or less. Television programs would be scheduled an hour earlier. And the elastic Spanish working day would be replaced by something closer to a 9-to-5 timetable.

Underpinning the proposed changes is a recommendation to change time itself by turning back the clocks an hour, which would move Spain out of the time zone that includes France, Germany and Italy. Instead, Spain would join its natural geographical slot with Portugal and Britain in Coordinated Universal Time, the modern successor to Greenwich Mean Time.

“We want to see a more efficient culture,” said Ignacio Buqueras, the most outspoken advocate of changing the Spanish schedule. “Spain has to break the bad habits it has accumulated over the past 40 or 50 years.”

For many Spaniards, getting the country on a more common schedule will be like messing with the fabric of their culture—the land of the 10 p.m. dinner; the land where the bars are dead until the early hours of the morning. Says one citizen:

“Reduce lunchtime?” he said. “No, I’m completely against that. It is one thing to eat. It is another thing to nourish oneself. Our culture and customs are our way of living.”

Photo: Laspernas Despuntu

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