Custom – Madrid, Spain

The “Siesta” in Madrid, Spain

My informant visited Madrid, Spain in 2003.  He knew that the lifestyle in Madrid is focused primarily on the nightlife, but was shocked to see how well the citizens and government of Spain had catered toward this night-owl lifestyle.  Gareth never understood how families would eat dinner at midnight and still be able to show up for work in the morning.  He assumed they had adapted to some sort of sleepless life.  When Gareth arrived, he very quickly found out about the “Siesta.”  All of Madrid, the restaurants, shops, offices, etc., close at around 1:30 in the afternoon.  All of the workers go home for their lunch break, which to my informants surprise lasted usually until 5.  The workers take this three-hour lunch break and sleep so they are rejuvenated for the next couple hours of work and the full night that lay before them.  The Spanish people take the siesta very seriously as well.  They advise you to disconnect all telephones, find a comfortable bed or couch, and not let anything disturb you.

Gareth quickly adapted to this lifestyle, and informed me that the nightlife in Madrid completely surpasses its reputation.  Families are seen out eating dinner past midnight, all of the teenagers go to bars and clubs, and everyone is friendly and fun to be around.  Gareth said, “I went out every single night I was in Madrid.  Usually I got home around 3 or 4 in the morning.  On an early night, you might make it home by 2.  Let me just say, you are so relieved to sleep when siesta rolls around the next day.”

This custom is a remarkable item of folklore because the people of Spain have successfully molded their lifestyles, sleeping patterns, eating habits, and careers to adapt to the lifestyle they prefer.  Their entire culture has adapted to the crazy nightlife, which I find unbelievable.  This also emphasizes how much one can learn from traveling.  Tourism today is easy and prevalent because it is cheaper and more convenient than ever.  Many cultures have begun catering to tourism, but I am glad that Madrid does not change its culture to adapt to those visiting.  In fact, it is the tourist that must adapt to Madrid and encompass the siesta custom.