Well, it’s September and this hasn’t been updated for a whole month. I’ve obviously been affected by my years in Spain: Spaniards of all ages take their summer holidays seriously.
Most Spanish workers get twenty days vacaciones, and they usually take the whole period in July or August as four consecutive weeks at the beach or in the mountains, often with several generations of the family holidaying together.
For a Brit, used to the idea of a fortnight here, a week there and a few long weekends spread out around the year, this is almost unthinkable.
The long summer holiday may be a good thing for families with children at school, but it becomes frustrating when you’re trying to run a business. At any time from the middle of June until the middle of September you may find your client has left town for a month. And between mid May and mid September he’s likely to be working the horario de verano – an intensive summer schedule of 8am till 3pm. Which means that a deal which isn’t signed by mid-June may take three months longer than necessary to process.
Of course the fact that the full holiday allowance tends to get used up over the summer means that throughout the rest of the year bank holidays are very important. Unlike the UK, where almost all bank holidays are celebrated on a Monday, in Spain they can fall on any day of the week. A Monday holiday clearly means a long weekend. But a Tuesday or Thursday fiesta can be even better: Spaniards use the word puente – a bridge – to describe the taking of an extra day to span the gap between a weekend and an official holiday. Sometimes this occurs at a national level, sometimes a company will agree it privately with their workers.
And Spain doesn’t only have national bank holidays: each town and province celebrates the fiestas of their patron saint. In May, for example, the 1st is a national holiday, the 2nd is a holiday in the autonomous community of Madrid, and the 15th is only a holiday in the city. So if you’re dealing with a client who’s based elsewhere, things can get complicated.
In early December two bank holidays fall very close together – the 6th and the 8th. When these happen to be a Tuesday and Thursday I’ve known it turn into an “acueducto” with the Monday, Wednesday and Friday all being taken as holidays.
By that stage of the year, everyone’s psyching up towards Christmas – which doesn’t end until the 6th of January when the Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) have delivered their presents – which means another six week period when you may feel you achieve little: Christmas parties, meals and drinks sessions are good for networking but not so good for finalising contracts.
If you run a business in a foreign country there will always be differences you need to adapt to. In Spain the attitude to holidays is just one of them.