A growing chorus of voices is asking to correct Spain’s time zone so we can stop being an anomaly in Europe. Since the sun sets an hour later than in neighboring countries (países vecinos), Spaniards go to sleep later. But they wake up at the same time. Therefore, their work days are so long and disjointed. There are those in Spain who support “correcting” the country’s time zone, which will lead to a shorter work day and a healthier more productive workforce. However, there are just as many that are opposed, citing the deep-rooted culture that is tied to Spain’s long days.
In 1940 the world was at war. Having recently gained an ally in Italy’s Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler sought Spain’s support, as well, but our country was still recovering from its own Civil War (1936-1939) and it had very little to offer. So, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco remained neutral. On October 23 (1940), Hitler met with Franco who decided to move Spain’s clocks ahead an hour so that they were aligned with Nazi Germany as a sign of solidarity.
In the early decades of his rule, Franco ordered radio stations to broadcast reports of news and propaganda twice a day to coincide with mealtimes at about 2.30 pm and 10 pm. Television arrived in the 1950s and followed the same mandate, with daily programming on the lone government channel ending at midnight (madrugada).
Over 70 years later, Spaniards are still stuck in the “wrong” time zone. Geographically, Spain is in line with Britain and Portugal, but its clocks match countries as far east as Poland and Hungary (sus relojes coinciden con países situados tan al Este como Polonia y Hungría). And this affects our life style. It’s almost as if Spaniards are living with more than 70 years of jet lag.
During the week, we (Spaniards) have breakfast at 7-8 am; we have lunch at 2-3 pm and eventually we enjoy dinner around 9-10 pm. Though most workers no longer take a nap (siesta) after lunch, it remains a ritual to gather with friends and colleagues for an extended lunch break. This provides much needed relaxation for workers, but also forces them to stay at work until 7-8 pm or even later. Take a look at the chart above (Source: Eurostat) and you’ll be amazed!
Since workers get home as late as 9 pm and because the sun sets an hour later than in neighboring countries, Spain is known for its crazy nightlife hours. But the time zone situation also affects television schedules, sporting events and sleep. In England, the largest TV audience is at 7 or 8 pm, but in Spain, it’s 10 pm because at 8 pm in Spain barely 50% of the population is at home (apenas el 50% de la población está en casa).
Spaniards sleep an hour less than the rest of Europe, which has all kinds of negative consequences, most notably lack of productivity and increased stress. Spaniards work longer hours that other Europeans, yet have worse results to show for it, chiefly in the form of lower productivity. We normally need to stop at mid-morning to grab a bite at work and that hour that we waste could be better spent going home an hour earlier at the end of the working day. If we add the fact that the Spanish workday is often cut in half by a two-hour lunch break, the number of hours spent at the workplace gets even longer. Spanish schedules also make it difficult to reconcile work and family life (los horarios españoles también dificultan la conciliación laboral-familiar).
Spain is a great country, but it’s true that our schedules are chaotic. Don’t you think so?
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Image (clock): Hermann Schmidt for Freeimages.com