Valencia #2. The Spanish way of life
Que tal? Todos es bien aqui. I swear, I’ve never been this tanned in October. Every morning I wake up and it is sunny, and every day it is about 26 degrees. If you ever think about going to Spain, do it in September or October, and I recommend everybody to skip autumn and just go to Spain for a bit more of summer.
I’ve been here for 4 weeks now, and I’m beginning to understand the Spanish way of life. It is a different culture than the one that I’m used to. It is an old culture with a lot of history and I get where it all comes from now. It just feels like it hasn’t kept up with the changes in the world though and sometimes it feels like time just stood still here.
First of all there is this really strange habit all the Spanish people have, the Siesta. I used to think they only did it in summer, but they do it all year. So every day in between 13:00 and 16:30 everything just shuts down. Banks close, shops close, some museums close and all the people have a huge lunch (most of them at home) with Paella and salads and wine. This also means that every day on the middle of the day the economy of Spain just stops. A lot of people stop working at this time. Stijn and I still can’t believe that it is normal here. In a structural and functional culture like we have in the Netherlands this would be laughed at.
I get where it comes from: if you look at the history of Spain it was a archicultural land, some parts still are. It was very logical that you would get up early and work the fields, and in the middle of the day you would go home, eat a good meal and sleep for some time (especially in the summer when it is just too hot to move). But with the modern society and the globalisation it seems a bit old fashioned to take a break like this in the middle of your working day.
What I really do appreciate here is the respect people show to their elders. They have some special role as wise people who know more of life. The way we sometimes treat our elders is so different. We just don’t really know what to do with them, so we put them together is some houses and visit once or twice a month. Here they are more part of society, although they don’t always understand the new developments.
A lot of tourists say they really like the Spanish people. They are friendly and easy to approach. I don’t agree with them. My experience these 4 weeks has been that they are not as open and friendly as everybody says. When you are in a restaurant they seem to be annoyed that you are there, instead of being friendly and wanting to make you feel at home.
If you want to learn their language though, they are really helpful. They are patient and help me with my pronunciation. I’ve had several of these encounters. A lot of them also ask you a lot of questions about English in return. They really want to learn, especially the young people. A lot of people still don’t speak English (very well) here, even in a city like Valencia.
I really think that Spain has this beautiful authentic culture, and I really like getting a closer look at it and experiencing it from up close these last few weeks. But it seems conservative. They seem to live in the past sometimes. Like it was good in the old days, so let’s keep it that way and ignore all the change that is happening in the world around us. I understand why tourists like the Spanish culture so much, it is laid back and calm. But this isn’t very good for the country as a whole. For example, a lot of Spanish children have sleep deprivation because of the time they eat at night (around 22 pm). And so the children are in bed late and sleep too little, what effects their schoolwork.
I understand that people say that Spain is a beautiful country for a holiday, but not to live in. I love it here, but I wouldn’t want to live here for a longer time. They are proud and nationalistic people, passionate by heart and as a sober Dutch person, I think I just can’t understand that.