Well in my book, a siesta can be just as good a fiesta! A siesta is basically like this afternoon nap during the hottest parts of the day, and they are a big deal in Barcelona!

I’m originally from California, so the time change was something that took a while to get used to being 9 hours ahead of my normal schedule, but I promise these siestas saved my life because I was able to sleep during the day and it was perfectly normal!

Our professor told us right when we got there that usually, anywhere from 4-8PM, shops and restaurants would close for “siesta” so that the workers could go home and see their family, rest or even nap. Since we were near a tourist area, most stores now stay open but it wouldn’t be uncommon to find yourself locked outside of a store.

To a Californian girl like myself, it seemed odd at first to take break right in the MIDDLE of the day. [I mean I love sleeping in but 4PM!?] This is normal in Barcelona because they follow a different daily timeline that can look something like this (I modified it for the way I adapted as a student but it follows the same structure):

8AM – 10AM →  Go into work/school

2 PM →  Lunchtime!

4-7 PM →  Siesta ?

9-11 PM →  Start Dinner

After midnight — Enjoy your night!

Eating lunch at 2PM or eating dinner at 10PM definitely took some getting used to, since back home my lunch and dinner times are usually 12PM and 6PM, but there’s a reason for this!! I discovered it my first evening in Barcelona actually. After the orientation we had that first day, a group of us decided to go eat and watch the World Cup match that was going on that night. As we sat there eating our first taste of tapas and enjoying the fútbol game, we noticed that it was 9:30PM and it was STILL light out. I mean it, like the sun was barely setting and the air was cool so people were walking their dogs, going out for a jog or grabbing dinner outside.

After the next couple of days, I realized in Barcelona, the sun is only gone from 10PM to about 6AM, which was different from back home — but this culture shock and adjustment was just the thing I was looking forward to going abroad.

I’m not sure if any of you had a similar experience, but I had to practically beg and convince my parents to let me go abroad with every good possible reason: the classes count towards my minor, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s free (thanks to this scholarship!!). I even added the Spanish minor to make the classes count!

But why did I go great lengths to go abroad?

My mom told asked me why I wouldn’t just go backpacking Europe after I graduated from UCLA. My answer was the fact that I wanted to learn what siestas were. I wanted to discover for myself how to adapt to them, and how to live the lifestyle of a local even if it was for a short time. I am so blessed I got this opportunity because I’m not sure when I’ll ever get the chance to temporarily live in another country again and learn to adapt to a culture I am not familiar with. With that, I not only figured out how to keep my sleeping schedule on track, but gained world-experience and became conscious of real-world issues that other countries were facing outside of my home country. It opened my eyes that there is so much more out there than what’s happening in my backyard, and it matters just as much.

Paulina Hernandez studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2018: