Fiestas are Fun, but I Need a Siesta: Finding Time to Relax While in Spain

Marissa Talcott
September 23, 2021

One of the first new Spanish words that I learned when I arrived in Granada was “sobremesa.” It doesn’t have an exact English translation, and that’s because sobremesa refers to something uniquely Spanish. Sobremesa is the time you spend relaxing and chatting around the table during meal times. Here in Spain, and especially in southern Spain, meals are meant to be enjoyed at a slow leisurely pace. They are a time to connect with friends and family and to slow down and unwind during your day. 

Now, three weeks after I got to Granada, I am realizing the many ways in which Spanish life moves at a more relaxed and laid back pace than my typical life in the US. Before arriving in Spain, I had heard of the Spanish siesta—a period in the afternoon when people nap and relax—but I wasn't prepared for how itegral it is to the way of life in Granada. In the afternoon, while locals take their daily siesta, and most restaurants, shops, and supermarkets throughout the city shut down. During my first couple of days in Granada, I was both surprised, and a little annoyed that I couldn’t find a mid-afternoon ice cream, and that all of the clothing boutiques were closed exactly at the times that I wanted to go shopping. Coming from the US, and more specifically, from a very active and busy college campus, I am not used to having a lot of downtime. On my campus there is always something to do, some event happening, or homework to catch up on. On campus, I feel guilty if I spend time during the day resting in my room, because I don’t want to miss out on anything or fall behind on any commitments. Even at the height of the pandemic, when so much was shut down and there wasn’t much to do outside of the house, I felt burdened by the pressure to keep busy in some way. 

Here in Granada, however, I have been working to achieve a balance between actively exploring the city and also finding time to relax, reflect, and make sure that I practice self care. When going abroad, especially for only one semester, I think there can be this pressure to try to fit as much as possible into your abroad experience. Already, I have taken day trips to Sevilla and to the Mediterranean Coast, visited the Alhambra twice, and explored the restaurants, bars, and tapas of Granada. My time in Spain has moved at a pretty fast pace, and during my first week or so, I felt as if I barely had time to sit down between activities. 

But, as I was starting to feel overwhelmed with everything that I wanted to do and see, I took a useful lesson from the Spanish way of life and began setting aside more time for relaxation. The siesta, which was initially an inconvenience to me, has become something that I look forward to. There are so many amazing things happening every day in Granada, and I am eager to experience as much of the city as I can. But, at the same time, I am recognizing more and more that it is important not to wear myself out. Taking time each day to relax, reflect on my experiences abroad, and take a quick nap is actually enriching my time here in Spain. 

I have an ever-growing appreciation for the daily way of life in Granada, which has helped me to enjoy my downtime and live at a more leisurely pace. I look forward to all of the activities and trips that I still plan on doing while abroad, but equally, I am thankful for the opportunities to rest and reflect when I need to.

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Marissa Talcott

<p>I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and am currently attending school at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. As someone who loves the outdoors, I am excited to explore the natural surroundings of Granada, Spain. I enjoy writing, learning about history and politics, traveling, and meeting new people. I can't wait to try the food and see the historic, cultural, and natural sites of Spain.</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Claremont McKenna College
Portland, OR
Political Science
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