Two nights of festival in Getafe this past weekend. Wooh! Spain loves to have fun. Pleasure is important. You only live once. There is a lot of emphasis on joking, living in the moment, and enjoying yourself. This suits me just fine when accompanied by a hard work ethic. It is nice to create and produce, and it is equally as nice to have the opportunity to just relax and have a blast.
Is this fun factor all that different from the United States? Not necessarily. The United States definitely has plenty of opportunity to enjoy yourself. It is that the two countries practice this concept differently. As far as I know every municipality of Spain hosts annual festivals and these events bring out hundreds or thousands of friends and family to the streets for a few nights that will easily go on until 8 or 9 in the morning. Music pulses loud and clear. Bottles are passed around without a problem. The police presence is not too apparent. The closest sensation I have had with this in the USA would be some of the bigger rock concerts/festivals I have seen. You meet so so many people and it is a really great time. And this is a festival for a town of the country. You could participate in a mountain of much larger festivals that the country is known for throughout the year: La Tomatina in Valencia gives you the opportunity to assist in throwing hundreds of thousands of pounds of tomatoes, the Ferias of Sevilla is a week of dancing, flamenco, and color, the Fallas de San Jose bears witness to the burning of gigantic figures constructed out of special paper, you can run with the Bulls in Pamplona. It goes on and on…..
At work we break three times: the first is from 11 to 11:30, our lunchtime is between 12:30 and 2:00, and at 3:45 we have a final fifteen minute period of recreation…it amounts to almost 2 and a half hours of rest! Granted this is somewhat exceptional as it is a primary school schedule so part of this is designed around the children. Furthermore, many of the teachers use this time planning or monitoring the playground so it is not as though it is entirely free time either. But different, huh? There is a lower sense of pressure, urgency…something that I can not put into words. It is incredible.
What else? Most of the banks close by 2:00 pm. On Sundays almost all commercial shops are closed as well. Families are usually together for lunches that can last for hours. I like that a lot. You can build a whole social life around the football scene. You could spend most weekends at the bars watching matches and subsequently talking about the ongoings of the football world throughout the week with your friends.
It is really hard to account for all the little (and sometimes big) differences that exist between the two countries, because you are really getting at the entire mentality of a country that has been culturally constructed over the course of centuries of history. You can’t read about it, you can only experience it. Neither way is better nor worse, but just very different. It is a whole other way of experiencing life, of processing reality…it is incredible. So come to Spain and kick back here with a few beers and friends.