Hard-working Spaniards turning their backs on the Siesta

2005

Spanish men spend more time working or studying than their compatriots in Britain, Germany, Sweden and seven other northern European countries, a survey has suggested.

The study by Spain's BBVA Foundation contradicts the traditional cultural stereotype of dour, hard-working northern Europeans versus laid-back Siesta-loving southerners.

Spanish women are no shirkers either, working or studying more than women in Germany and Belgium, it reported.

Spaniards have less free time than in any of the 11 countries polled, and the number of hours they devote to sleeping – including a Siesta – is just slightly higher than average.

The foundation's Professor Maria Angeles Duran said: "There are a lot of stereotypes that come from the impressions of tourists, but in reality, Spain works a great deal."

Reasons for the long-hours culture included the country's investment in education, a long working day and "trabajillos", or unofficial second jobs, she concluded.

The Siesta survives in agricultural areas, where it is impossible to work the fields in the midday heat, but is now less common in air-conditioned cities.

Despite many companies giving two-hour lunch breaks, this is not long enough for workers to drive home for a nap.

The latest findings echo a study published in April that found Spaniards got an average of 40 minutes less sleep than the European average.

And a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in January found Spaniards worked more hours per week than the average European, but accomplished less.

Many in Spain want to do away with the traditional marathon lunches and the languid, unproductive afternoons so beloved of Spaniards in the past and replace it with the 9-to-5 routine common in the rest of Europe.

But Catalans, for one, are not giving up the lunchtime snooze that easily.

The Catalan-based MRW courier service, for instance, recently installed reclining chairs in its offices, both in Barcelona and Madrid, into which employees could slump, with the additional offer of a soothing massage.

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