Working Long Hours
"I guess there is like an element of truth in all of this. Yes, there is flamenco in Spain. Yes, we used to have siestas, maybe more in rural areas to escape the heat," says Yolanda Martín, a Spanish dance expert who gives flamenco-themed tours of Madrid, and runs a website dedicated to the art form. "But no longer, really. Most people I know never take siestas — or maybe only on a Saturday."
At 32, Martín is part of a Spanish generation that's survived economic crisis, and is now working long hours — if its members have jobs at all — for less pay than in most other western European countries. But she says the stereotype of Spain — laid-back, or concerned more with fiestas than work — is something Spaniards themselves created, once upon a time.
"In the 1950s and 60s, when the Franco regime was trying to attract tourists to Spain, they kind of sold this idea. 'You want sun, you want beach? Come to Spain, you're going to get all of that.' We did kind of exploit that, and maybe it's brought money, and it's been good," Martín says. "But at the same time, it can harm us. We're not portrayed as a serious country. You know, we're like lazy."
Polls show most Spaniards would prefer to work a nine-to-five schedule. But Rajoy, the acting prime minister, might not be the one to make the change.
His conservatives lost their majority in elections late last year, and rival parties are in the process of negotiating a possible coalition government, to oust him. Rajoy could leave office this summer. And then he'd have plenty of time for siestas, even if he doesn't seem to like them.