As the famous slogan goes, ‘Spain is different’, and to foreigners, two of the most prominent peculiarities of the Spanish lifestyle are the daily timetable and summer shutdown.
First, there’s the ‘jornada partida’, a working day that’s split in two by an extended lunch break. Some say that this is a hangover from agrarian society, when farmers started their day early and took refuge from the heat at the hottest time of day. Others attribute it to the difficult post-Civil War period, when many worked two jobs to keep things afloat, with the long lunch and siesta providing an essential break between jobs. Whilst neither situation applies today, these traditions have morphed to create a unique daily timetable.
Another peculiarity is the August shutdown, when many businesses close for up to a month. August was historically a time for work rather than rest, when Spain had an agricultural economy. The commonly used phrase ‘hacer el agosto’ originally referred to this busy period, when extra people were needed to collect the harvest. Following the industrial revolution, those who would have helped out during this time were then employed in manufacturing, thus the summer shutdown of factories allowed them to return home to lend a hand. In time, the shutdown also proved to be a useful period for implementing changes and improvements in factories.
And so it emerged as the standard annual break for workers, long after their help was needed on the land. However, as more and more companies in Spain are embracing a flexible approach to holidays—one that allows employees to take their downtime at any time of year—inevitably, there are some left holding the fort. Whilst that ‘school’s-out’ feeling leaves the city in a state of blissful calm (or lonely and deserted, depending on your perspective), functioning in the heat, which averages in the high twenties throughout the month, can be trying.
So, as a little helping hand to those left behind in August, we’ve pulled together some ideas for how to keep cool (and sane) in the summer city heat.
10 Tips for beating the heat
- Refresh with a cool mist. Fill a spray bottle and put it in the refrigerator for when you come in from outdoors.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured cotton clothing. Cotton breathes much easier than most synthetics, allowing for hot and cool air to circulate. Similarly, use a feather or cotton pillow with a cotton pillowcase.
- Keep a bottle of lotion in your refrigerator. Lathering up with something cool can help regulate temperature in the arms, legs and feet. Refrigerate aloe vera moisturiser for an extra cooling effect.
- Regulate room temperature while you’re out. Close the shutters when you’re out to prevent the sun from radiating through the windows and creating a greenhouse effect.
- Eat small meals more often. Your digestive system releases significantly less metabolic heat when processing small meals. Additionally, try to limit protein intake as digesting protein generates more heat.
- Eat spicy food. This may seem counter-intuitive, but spicy food enhances circulation and causes sweating which, in turn, cools the body.
- Cool off your sheets. Stick your sheets in the fridge for 30 minutes before bedtime to make getting into bed more bearable.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Maintaining a steady water intake throughout the day helps regulate body temperature and prevents dehydration. If you’re not used to drinking regularly, download an app for your phone. Waterlogged, iDrated and Daily Water are free apps that help you track your consumption and stay on schedule.
- Wear breathable footwear. Your body releases heat through your feet, so trade in those loafers for some flip flops.
- Change your productive times. Spaniards have been doing this right for centuries—rise early to get things done and schedule resting hours in the afternoon. There’s nothing like a mid-summer siesta to cool down and recharge.