BOYD: Waking up Spain to Greenwich Mean Time

A student who visited Spain contracted coronavirus shortly after returning to the United States. Photo courtesy of Sophia Boyd.

A student who visited Spain contracted coronavirus shortly after returning to the United States. Photo courtesy of Sophia Boyd.

Spaniards are waking up, figuratively and literally, to a drastic change in their daily routine. Thanks to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Spain will become a more productive country once he outlaws the siesta and switches to Greenwich Mean Time.

The culture of siestas – mid-afternoon two-hour naps typically after lunch – were one of my favorite parts of my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. I’ll admit I wasn’t an avid napper prior to studying abroad, but Spain converted me. So hearing that Rajoy wanted to outlaw siestas irked me a little.

Although reports from the Harvard Business Review and The Guardian report that this change will have little effect on Spain’s city folk who are too far away to return home and sleep, they don’t deny that it will affect social and family life. This is what worries me.

Studying abroad in Spain taught me how to treat myself, whether it was through a siesta or long meal with company. That is one of the most valuable lessons I learned abroad and I applied it to my senior year. I put myself first, instead of focusing on the stress of classes and whatever else life brought me, and this made me happier. I learned to take advantage of the time I set aside for productivity and assorted priorities. I can attest as a soon-to-be college graduate, this mentality has benefited my mental health and vibrant social life.

Right now, Spain’s work schedule is split into two parts. There is still a two-hour break in the middle of the day for coworkers to grab lunch or shop. Some children even go home to have lunch. This means that parents don’t get home until later, which is why the culture puts aside dinner until 8 p.m. or later. But they know how to take advantage of the time they have with their loved ones.

Some people work to live and others live to work. In the United States, we practically define the latter. Growing up in Washington, D.C., the first question a stranger asks is, “What do you do?” Your job is your identity. In Spain, your identity is determined through relationships, interests, et cetera. The two- to three-hour break allows Spaniards to spend quality time with their community.

I understand the Spanish economy is struggling. Their unemployment rate was at its lowest last year since 2011 at 22.4 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. But instead of forcing the working population to sit in the same office for eight hours a day, maybe the Spanish people just need a lesson in prioritizing their time dedicated to work.

The hustle and bustle of an eight-hour work day doesn’t allow for the development of personal relationships that exist in Spain. I can say from personal experience the friends I made in Spain are some of the most genuine and caring people I know. Coming back, my closest friends at Marquette are the ones I studied abroad with because they share the same values that we adopted from the Spanish culture. You might think you’re friends with your co-workers, but when do you have time outside of work when you’re expected to stay in the same office all day? How much do you really know about who they are outside of their role in the office?

I’m not saying change is bad, but Rajoy needs to take a moment to consider the social effect on families and friends that GMT will bring. Putting Spain on GMT is meant to make the country more productive and save the economy, but it shouldn’t put the country’s happiness at risk.