Leaving a culture where you have grown accustomed to a certain kind of lifestyle can be hard. After all my travels and after living abroad in two countries now, there are always some aspects you love about the culture and wish to adopt, and others that you are happy to leave behind. I hated the rush and bustle of New York, but I loved the culture and the open-mindedness there. Montana felt so empty to me in many ways, but I love the harmony you experience with nature and the people.
After living in Spain for six months, there are definitely some things I’m going to keep in my current life and others that inherently frustrated me. Tapas? The laid-back attitude? A constant stream of music coming out of a neighbor’s window? This I all loved about living in Granada.
But, to be frank, I hated siesta.
I’ve blogged a lot about how North Americans can be more open to other ways of living, and why that is important. However, coming from the United States definitely contributes to my way of looking at things—sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively. Siesta was a part of living in Spain that annoyed me. In between working, fitting in the gym, grocery shopping, and daily living, it was frustrating to have to base my schedule around this system where everything was closed in the afternoon.
It wasn’t just Spain, either. I can’t remember how many times when I lived in Italy that I had to base my life around siesta hours. Forget picking up items on my way back from my daily run or trying to call the computer repair shop during dead hours. It was something I would constantly forget about until I had to deal with it.
The thing is, especially after living through the hot Andalusian summers, I totally understand the concept of siesta and why it was so needed in the past. With things so hot, it would have been impossible to get anything done in the afternoon. (And, let’s face it, we all love afternoon naps.) Siesta makes sense in the framework of the culture and why it was needed in the past. With air conditioning and most of work done indoors in our modern society, it doesn’t anymore.
I had been thinking about this when I walked to the gym in Granada the other day and it was closed. Usually, it had been open during afternoon hours, but had closed for siesta in July because if the brutally hot weather without warning. I was frustrated since it was quite the walk to get there. As much as I understood why this was the case, there was part of me that was still angry that this was a part of the culture.
It’s a good reminder that although you can respect a certain aspect of a culture and you can understand why it exists, that doesn’t mean you have to like it. You have to prescribe to those rules because you have no choice—you are a foreigner within that environment, but that doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy them.
Siesta was something about Spain that wasn’t my favorite. Late (or non-arriving) buses in Italy drove me up the wall. I hated being harassed as a woman in Egypt and how café culture had taken over Croatia and I couldn’t find food.
But the thing I’ve learned from this is that it doesn’t have to be the defining characteristic of the country you visited or lived. Siesta was such a small part of living in Spain for me. And who knows? I might learn to miss it over the next few months of being back in the United States.
What aspects of a culture have annoyed you when you’ve traveled or lived abroad?