The ‘National Commission for the Rationalisation of Working Hours’ is expected to win the backing of a panel of Spanish MPs in Madrid today … although don’t ask me what time of the day they’ll be discussing it, or for how long – but I imagine it will be for a very, very, very l-o-n-g time. There’s bound to be a couple of coffee and tobacco breaks, too – and then they’ll continue to discuss it after a 3-hour lunch, or after the siesta, or after the rest of Europe has finished its working day, or maybe even mañana. I’d like to think that the ‘Time’s Up for Siesta’ as I also hinted at in my last blog about Boris Johnson’s recent comments. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lunch. But in the 10 years I worked in Madrid, I probably spent 15 hours midweek having lunch and getting bloated, all graphically detailed in A Load of Bull (there’s a nice plug and a link for you) – of which only 5 or 10 minutes of each lunch was probably relevant to any business discussion. There are 4 rush hours in Madrid – one in the morning (getting to work), one at 2pm (going to lunch), one at 4.30pm (coming back from lunch – although it is never really a ‘rush’), and one at 8pm (going home, 2 hours after the rest of Europe). Why? Why not spend more time with the family, friends or loved ones? In Barcelona, they eat less, true (Catalan cuisine is more ‘nouveau’, too) – but they can still string it out over a good couple of hours. As for the length of their meetings … don’t ask. In the 6 years I’ve been here, I’ve lost count of the number of 55 minute lectures I’ve had to endure about Messi, the Diada or Sant Jordi, before the 5 minute meeting actually takes place. I used to ask if we could hold meetings ‘standing up’. They’d look at me as if I was nuts. I probably am (all to be revealed one day in the sequel A Load of Barça).
But seriously … there are 2.2m unsold homes in Spain which will take at least 6 years to clear … and I know why. It is simple. Phone any estate agent to try and make an appointment to view a property between 2pm – 4.30pm and they’ll say ‘imposible’. Why? ‘Because that’s when I’m having lunch.’ Why do you think Pret-a-Manger has never launched in Spain? Because a ‘sandwich at the desk’ (or in the car whilst driving to meet someone to view a property) is unheard of as a substitute for the ‘menu del dia’.
I will now stop ranting. It is 1pm. I have work to do. In another couple of hours, I will be off to lunch. And then it will be the end of the day.