I Respect Siesta: That Doesn’t Mean I Like It

i don't like siesta

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?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander


  1. canadiangirlmeetsworld

    As someone who has lived in Granada for about a year and a half total now, I TOTALLY feel this. In fact, I’ve gotten into a few discussions with Spanish friends here about how much more productive society could be and perhaps even how much happier people might be if the working hours were more similar to ours in the “west”. Did you know that Catalunya is considering scrapping the siesta? I’m very curious to see how it goes for them and I’d love to see the rest of Spain follow suit.

  2. amandasettle

    I’ve been living in Greece for 4 years now and completely disagree, I love siesta, it completely makes sense… though here the tourist places don’t close for siesta it’s really only the local ones. I get up really early and get everything done before the day gets too hot, we have an air conditioner unit in the bedroom but the rest of the house doesn’t have any, electricity is also expensive so we only put in on if we have to. Retreating to a cool place for a few hours just makes sense. Then we are up much later continuing with our day. You get used to the rhythm of it. I’d hate to see the Mediterranean region become like northern Europe of north America the relaxed way of life here is wonderful 🙂

  3. Liz

    Cafe culture in Croatia! I hear you. I was in Zagreb this summer and it was a struggle to find dinner. Some restaurants even had the food crossed off the menu with a big x, just doing beverages.
    Late or non-arriving buses in Italy! Was just in Rome and this is so true.
    Spain is one of my favorite countries to visit. 🙂

  4. Rebecca Hall (@BeyondBex)

    Have to say I agree with Amanda who’s commented here. I also live in Greece and being from Britain and now experiencing the scorching summers of Greece, I see that siesta’s are actually a necessity,
    No, tourist places don’t adhere to them, but everyday neighbourhoods do – and yes, electricity is incredibly expensive therefore not all places can afford A/C in every room of their building.
    And my life is adapted around this. The positives? Where else in the ‘West’ can you get a Doctor’s or Dental appointment up to 9pm at night? It means that because they’ve closed in the afternoon for a few hours, they open late afternoon when the sun is less scorching and close much later at night.
    It’s a matter of learning to adjust.

  5. In The Vintage Kitchen

    Hey there Alex! Just wanted to pop-in to say that the U.S. has its quirks in this department too. I once lived in a small town in the South where businesses would close up every Wednesday afternoon at noon because that was the day and time when the market, slave and livestock auction started each week 150 years ago. Of course, that market no longer exists but the stores still observe the early closing. I learned this first hand when I went to go and buy a hammer at the hardware store on a Wednesday at 12:30 pm only to find the doors closed. It did feel inconvenient at the time and it was a challenge to get used to but once I finally accepted that was how things operated in this town then I just adjusted my own schedule.

    I think sometimes the beauty of living in a place that has a completely different rhythm of life from what we’ve known teaches us about patience and perspective. I was curious to see if you had a chance to try a week or two of observing the siesta time in Spain yourself? Where you actually took time out of your own schedule to nap or relax just to see what it was like. It would be interesting to see how you felt after you immersed yourself in this custom. Maybe you would still find it frustrating? Or maybe you would love it?! Just a thought! Love your blog. And love reading about all your travel experiences. You are an intrepid explorer indeed!

  6. Nina

    You live in Granada? I do too! I return in September. We should meet up if you’ll still be there. I also hate the siesta for these reasons. Thank God Mercadona was always still open though.

  7. Deborah

    I must say I find the shop opening hours a little frustrating at times, but I actually found it worse in Italy (I live in the Malaga province of Andalucia now). As a semi-self employed teacher I was often running from student to student from the early hours of the morning until lunchtime, then from around 3.3 until 9pm. This meant that the only hours I had to do any shopping were when the shops were shut!

    In Spain I work in a tourist area but live the other side of Malaga in a more rural, less commercial setting – here I get the best of both worlds with a lunchtime that allows me to go shopping if I need to, yet a relaxed and easy life in the evenings and weekends.

    There will always be things that irritate, but I found that at home in the UK with its far more stressful lifestyle. Things are slowly changing here in Spain but then you are in danger of losing a way of life that has so many advantages.

  8. Vick

    I`ve been living in Spain for 9 years and… I HATE the siesta! Until today it still happens (way to often) to have to do some things in the afternoon and everything is closed. And if at least they had a fixed time for this break, but no… One place closes from 13:00 to 15:00; another one from 13:30 to 17:00, that other one, from 14: to 17:30; and that`s how it goes… I lost count of how many times I went to a place just to have to sit in a bench in the street in front of it, waiting for the damn place to open…
    Even worse when they do “summer hours” which means that, even before August (when everything just closes for the whole month), they only work mornings or half of the normal daily times…

    I will never get used to that. I`m sorry, but sometimes (haters, you can start now), Spanish are just lazy…

  9. Chantell

    I have been based in Spain for the past 9 months and have fallen in love with this country for all the reasons that you mentioned plus many more. I love siestas but admit that the closed hours don’t affect me because of my flexible schedule. I can imagine it must be annoying for those who have a schedule and for those working in these places that need to work split shifts.

  10. makenziesara

    siesta is one of those things i’m so on the fence with, when working in a job that includes a break for siesta is amazing but when things need to get done and everything is closed so they can nap, its so frustrating! After working in so many different places, countries that only operate their banks during work hours are something that drive me round the bend, how do you get anything done without taking time of work ? However saying that, normally the benefits of the country normally out weigh these irritating factors.

  11. Lindz

    Siesta drove me bonkers while I was in Spain! Although the odd day when I had an early tour, it came in handy for a nap to leave me rested for the nightlife without worrying about missing something. I’m curious to know if it’ll ever change!

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