It’s hard to think of Spanish culture without quickly associating it with a general sleepiness. According to a report out of the country, the reasons for that might be historical — and not completely tied to the glorious ideal of the siesta (don’t ever change, siesta). The report suggests that if only Spain hadn’t messed around with time zones in World War II, or taken the time to clean them up afterwards, the country’s people and its economy alike might not be so sleepy.
Spain is famous for late dinners, long siestas, and low productivity. And Spaniards, who can often be caught catnapping in their cars after lunch, are famous for being, well, tired. It’s just part of the Spanish condition.
Or is it?
A recent report commissioned by a Spanish congressional subcommittee tasked with tackling the negative effects of Spain’s screwy work schedule ties the problems to the country’s membership in the Central European time zone (CET). And it blames the Germans.
Spain’s late eating hours and the like can be traced back to WWII, the report says, not to some primordial Spanishness. During the war, England moved its time zone up one hour to be on German time to avoid confusion in waging war. After France was invaded in 1940, it joined as well. And in 1942, Spain and Portugal followed for good measure.
After the war, England and Portugal returned to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), while France stayed put as its longitude is aligned with other countries in the CET zone. But Spain, which sits squarely below England (Greenwich and Valencia are almost in a direct vertical line), decided to stick with Germany and never bothered to reset its clocks to GMT.
Of course, one could argue that the Spanish indifference to switching back to GMT might suggest an underlying sluggishness that was there all along. Plus, it’s hard to feel bad for a culture that is accepting of a big mid-day nap, even if we’re talking about a country that can call an unemployment rate of 26 percent progress.
And anyway, what the hell? Good, honest, sleepy Spanish folk are supposed to believe that, after like seven decades, their culture hasn’t been able to adjust to being an hour off from the rest of their time zone sliver? More from Fortune:
A typical Spanish office worker’s day starts in the dark — in Barcelona, it’s almost dark at 7:30 a.m. this time of year — to get to work at 9 a.m. (which is 8 a.m., according to the sun and that worker’s body). Because there are five hours of work before his 2 p.m. lunch (a normal lunch time of 1 p.m., as far as his body is concerned), he takes a long mid-morning sandwich break. Add to that a two-and-a-half-hour lunch and siesta break imported from Spain’s rural past, and he doesn’t complete his workday until 8 p.m.
Emphasis added. Yeah, um, it’s probably the siesta (don’t ever change, siesta).
But there’s a push in Spain to switch back to GMT next year, though proponents might fight an uphill battle in getting a generally sleepy populace to do anything.
photo credit: Terry Wha, Creative Commons/flickr