They say there is no smoke without fire but with stereotypes, this is not always the case. I am not saying that stereotypes do not sometimes have a grain of truth in them. As a Scot I know this very well, there is nothing I like doing more than painting my face blue before heading to the mountains to shout FREEDOM at the top of my lungs, whisky in one hand and a deep fried mars bar in the other. In fact, I’d call that a standard Monday morning.
However, not all stereotypes are 100% accurate. I found this out specifically when living in Spain, what I was told to believe and what I actually experienced were not always the same thing.
1. Fiesta Siesta mentality
I am not going to lie, the Spanish nightlife is absolutely ridiculous, you start partying whenever you please and you do not stop until the sun is rising again! That is obviously absolutely wonderful, especially when you have the day off the proceeding day, to laze around and nurse your broken body and soul. However, the nightlife is not just exclusive to the weekends, oh no, in Spain, you head home at 2 am if you are having a quiet night in despite the fact you will have to wake up a mere 5 hours later to start your work day. The Spanish work day starts at 8 am like everywhere else in the world, only the day ends much, much later, with people heading to bed at these ridiculously late times.
Now, this is where the Spanish siesta should come in. You miss so many hours sleep so you catch up with a little nap in the middle of the day and then you have the energy to continue on into the late hours once more. This is a lovely myth but it is really not very true for most Spanish people nowadays. Children have siestas, bars in small towns close for siesta, but the average José Bloggs, who is working his 8 hour day, does not have a siesta. This whole legend about the Spanish getting a two-hour lunch break may apply for some people in the public sector but it certainly doesn’t apply to most people.
So, how do they do it? How can they possibly wake up so early in the morning after having had what everyone else would consider a very late night, and still function as human beings in their place of work? How do they not keel over from tiredness and depression, destroying their nearest and dearest as they suffer through sheer fatigue? I have searched for this answer for a while now but my only response is that the Spanish are simply stronger beings. They trudge onwards through the tiredness, seemingly used to the lack of sleep. It is very impressive but it has nothing to do with siestas.
This fella is having a nice little siesta, but he will be the only one!
2. The Healthy Mediterranean Diet
It is undeniable that Spain is ranked highly in countries with great cuisine; there are a huge amount of Michelin star restaurant scattered everywhere and tapas-style eating is renowned all over the world. The fresh produce in Spain is absolutely exceptional and a huge chunk of Spain’s economy is based on the exportation of their fresh goods due to its richness in quality and taste. Even something as simple as a fresh Spanish tomato served with good olive oil and salt can blow your taste buds away.
This is probably what makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy and so renowned worldwide. These details are absolutely true, the food in Spain can be delicious and the restaurants outstanding but this fine dining is not typical all the time. On a day to day basis, most people will not be dining out in Michelin star restaurants but in more basic, everyday Spanish tapas bars. The food in these places can be very tasty but unfortunately, it is not always very healthy and rather lacks in variety.
Whilst fried fish, cured jamón and croquetas can be very delicious, there will come a point where you will crave something greener and leafier. Even when trying out a delicious and cheap menu del día as a lunchtime option, very frequently these meals are centred around meat rather than vegetables. So it seems that this famously healthy Mediterranean diet is mainly consumed at homes after being freshly bought from the marketplace rather than in your local restaurant.
Yummy and scrummy maybe, but all fried or fatty meats!
3. It’s Always Tanning Weather in Spain
Tourists were in for a mild dose of hyperthermia...
It is not always warm in Spain. I know this is such a blatantly obvious statement but apparently, we guiris (non-Spanish folks) don’t seem to be getting the message. I am not just talking about the North of Spain or even the Sierra Nevada where there are ski slopes so of course weather gets cold, I am talking about everywhere. Working as a tour guide in Madrid, every winter I would watch the hordes of tourists (ok, mainly the Brits) arrive in mid-winter dressed in no more than a t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops. Of course, these tourists were in for a mild dose of hyperthermia as average temperatures in Madrid in wintertime can go down to 2°C or 3°C.
Don't be that typical tourist in Spain, swap your flipflops for shoes in wintertime
It is not to say Spanish winters aren't pleasant - if you are seeking respite from the harsh and grey winters of other more Northern European countries, then yes, Spain will offer at least blue skies and sunshine if not slightly warmer weather. This is especially the case the more south you go. In Seville, winter days can be pleasantly warm at 15°C, however, that is only when the sun is shining. When the sun goes down, the streets can be very cold and as the buildings are built to keep the rooms cool in summer rather than warm in winter, it can get much chillier than expected.
So to conclude, come to Spain to enjoy the warmer climate but make sure to bring your extra layers with you as well- shorts and t-shirts should be left at home over the winter months….unless you are going to the Canaries, where everything I have just said about the weather is completely null and void.
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