Barcelona has so much beauty: the arts, beaches to the tapas. But the most raw form of beauty is in it’s laid back lifestyle starting with the Barcelona Siesta. You can feel the chill attitude of people, their laxed ways not found in the other half of the world. The Spaniards know how to live. They enjoy the best food, they have deep family values and they know how to have fun. And part of balancing this fun is also in their afternoon naps.
After my 4th day in Barcelona, I finally assimilated into to their lifestyle. In my first two days, I did what many other American tourists do. I was eagerly, anxiously trying my hardest to find what all the hype of Barcelona was about. From talking to a dozen of my friends, it seemed like this was many people’s favorite city in the world. We roamed aimlessly around the city, took the city bus tour, stopped by some of Gaudi’s amazing creations and then it finally hit me by day 3. I realized what was stopping me from truly seeing the beauty of Barcelona was because I was trying too hard to see it on the exterior level. I was trying too hard to discover the beauty instead of letting it happen naturally.
Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne recounts the emperor’s summertime siesta: “In summer, after his midday meal, he would eat some fruit and take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely, just as he did at night, and rest for two or three hours.”
With all the sights Barcelona offers, the true beauty is the serenity of the atmosphere. Most people don’t seem anywhere near stressed as in most Western countries. People moving about the city aren’t on a tight agenda outside of going to work for a few hours, enjoying their meals, sharing dinner with family/friends. They’re just going with the flow with time as a friend, not the enemy.
Isn’t the Point of Life to Enjoy our Days?
Barcelonians and Spaniards lightly float through their towns with seemingly not a tight nerve in their body. This is polar opposite from the culture I come from, whether that be the US or China. I come from an overambitious, over-agenda’d, over-prescribed, over-expectation culture where nothing is ever good enough, as there is no limit. People are addicted to coffee, but not in the way of actually enjoying a cup of coffee. They utilize it as a pick me up, on the go and only have time to meet with people when there’s an agenda.
The individualistic-capitalistic culture tells you that can always “do better”. You should always reach higher hence the popularity of self-help books and expensive conventions. These ideologies earn you a lot of money but doesn’t leave us much time to relax. We go to extremes at the end of our day into a quiet room with a large Buddha or Ganesh statue in the $20 Yoga rooms. Om’ing it out, meditating, downloading the latest meditation apps, posting about meditation, and… well you get the point. It is common to hit happy hour for a rushed 1.5-2 hours or a late night binge. Many Amerians have ruined relationships, lost jobs or even overdosed through anti-depressent drugs. And surprise surprise, pharmaceutical companies are among the richest industries in the US.
So there’s certainly something to learn from the Spanish Lifestyle, the way they seem to have living and balance down. There is certainly beauty in the American culture too, but as far as a balanced life is concerned, I would certainly learn elsewhere. From the Barcelonians, we learn that the stress, the depression, the anxiety that we hold on so tight to in America is all relative. It’s our culture that pushes us in that direction, but we can resist. We can live like Europians and live a more relaxed life. We can enjoy any kind of food whether it’s pork, cheese, bread or pasta, in smaller portions, nor have to go from one extreme to the other, binge eating one day, to eating only raw vegetables the next while starving ourselves to lose that last 5 pounds.
So How Does Siesta Work Exactly?
Here in Barcelona, locals start work around 9 or 10. They then take a relaxed 90 min-2 hour lunch which is not timed nor with a strict time-card. Then go home for “Siesta” from around 2-5pm. You don’t literally have to sleep for 3 hours but it’s a time to avoid the highest peak of the sun while enjoying time with family.
Imagine that! During this time, most shops are closed and the town becomes quiet. You want to go to the market? Sorry, you’ll have to wait. After some rest time, it’s time to go back to work for a few hours before a scrumptious dinner around 8:30-9pm. The real partying doesn’t start until 3am.
Reasons to Adopt the Barcelona Siesta in your Life:
- Avoid the afternoon heat (especially in the summer time)
- Level out the stress of the day
- Enjoy a long lunch
- Most of all, enjoy the late night lifestyle of partying and dancing!