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Time Changes

Aug
2
2006

How can you not love a country where people apologize for calling you before noon?
That was just on the weekends, but still. When I lived in Madrid in the nineties, and compared those calls with the perky voice I might get from a friend in the States at 10 a.m. on a Saturday saying, “You mean you’re still not up yet?”, I knew I had found a place that matched my personal time clock. Or more importantly, respected personal differences.
Spain is a country for night owls. Madrid has traffic jams at 2 a.m. But it’s not just urban life that is set later. You might have heard a traveler complaining about Spain’s famously late meals: lunch at 2 p.m., dinner out hard to find before 10 p.m. (I know, it makes your tummy rumble just to read it, but it’s not that bad. You’ve got morning snackies and afternoon snackies, and tapas are from Spain of course, so there’s really no need to go hungry.)
There’s a geographical factor contributing to the late hours: Spain is misplaced in its time zone. Poor thing. Look at a map of Europe. See how Spain falls under the U.K.? And some of Spain’s on the same longitude as Portugal. But both the U.K. and Portugal are an hour earlier. While Spain’s on the same time zone as Poland, for example, all the way over there to the East. Which means the sun comes up late and sets late here. (I know, these things confuse me too, but think about it.)
The newspapers here occasionally run stories with statistics on how much Europeans sleep; Spaniards are always among those who get the least amount of shut-eye.
And then there are articles about how Americans need to get more sleep, and especially how kids do. Which is probably true, even though it’s another guilt-inducing campaign.
So what about the kids here? Well, they seem to sleep less too.
Dinner at home doesn’t necessarily wait until 10 p.m., and kids can be fed even earlier, but a 9 p.m. bedtime for the littlest ones sounds very responsible here, the way 8 p.m. sounded reasonable back in California. And the reality is naturally often later. You certainly wouldn’t get the “what a bad parent” stares you might get in the U.S. if you had a kid in a (child-friendly) restaurant at 11 p.m. here.
And in summer, forget it. Kids are running around playing outside near my home these days easily until 9 or 10 or even later, and you can certainly catch them later at outdoor cafes with their parents. And no one thinks twice about it.
The English-speaking moms I know are mostly trying to stick to their guns on bedtimes. It complicates dinner somewhat – school and work hours are later; and if you want to eat out, finding restaurants open is tougher. My household leans toward Spanish hours, so there’s even a twist to after-school play dates with English speakers: are we having a snack or supper?
The flip side to early bedtimes and evening peace is…early wakeups. Keep your kids up, you do get to sleep in a bit more. I don’t think anyone believes I’m sleeping until noon these days though.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:05 AM | Permalink

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