A common saying that I’ve heard in Spain is, “Spaniards work to live while Americans live to work.” At first glance that seems more than true as Spaniards take an entire month for vacation in the summer; there are numerous fiestas (holidays) and puentes (long weekends, due to mid-week fiestas) throughout the year, and work is more of a necessary evil than something to be enjoyed or pursued. One of my Spanish friends told me a few months ago that she does not understand how we have so little vacation time or holidays in the US, and at the time I thought, “Yeah, we need more time off in the US!”
Recently, however, I had a conversation and some other experiences that changed my opinion. There are different perspectives between the cultures on how we view work, but I don’t think the conclusion is that Americans necessarily work more. Time is just different.
Last week I met with a friend to try and schedule a time for her family (married couple, two young children) to have lunch with Chad and me. We had been trying already for almost a month through text messages and phone calls to put a date on the calendar and up to that point, everything had been cancelled. Thus, we were going to talk about it in person. The idea to have lunch together first started over the summer, but during this conversation, we realized that between our two schedules, the earliest possible option was going to be late November or early December!
I proceeded to suggest a coffee date in place of lunch, maybe something during the week. She told me that it is completely impossible for them to do anything ever during the week because of the long hours that her husband works. He literally works something like 8am-8pm (or later) every day that he is in town and he travels quite often as well. Whew. Now I remember, yet again, why it is practically impossible to get to know some people. Here is a family that wants to have lunch with us so that we can all get to know each other a little, and due to the husband’s work schedule and our normal commitments, it will take four months to get on the calendar and even then, there’s a high probability that it will get cancelled.
So, do Spaniards really live more than Americans? Maybe, but not in this sense. I think Americans “live” a little more day-to-day, while Spaniards “live” very little during the week and much more on the weekends, holidays and on vacation. It’s different, and at times it is quite frustrating, but we are adapting.