OP/ED: Why I Love (And Hate) Barcelona Summers

How great is summer? It’s holiday time, the sun is shining, your shorts are on and you’re feeling spicy, you’re pouring back the Mojitos on the beach without fear of being considered a raging alcoholic, you feel unproductive at work (but that’s okay as everyone else does too), your city becomes saturated with semi-naked people (and fully naked ones at the beach – ok maybe that’s just here) and eventually you start to embody the characteristics of a wet towel rather than a fully grown primate. All good perks I’m sure you’ll agree.

Barcelona Summers - the good

You’re probably hoping that I have some tips on how to be productive during summer, but I don’t. I live in Spain. As Alice Cooper said in the summer of 1972, Spain is definitely out for the summer. Having myself spent over 10 years on and off in this weird and wonderful country, I’ve still never come to grips with peoples inability to be punctual and the “mass exodus” that occurs for 6-8 weeks every summer. “But that’s part of the Spanish culture” I hear you say. Does this “extended rest time” help motivate employees and leave them feeling invigorated for work in September? Or is it an economy killing, outdated tradition practiced by sun-worshipping countries everywhere?  Whatever it may be, it’s food for thought. Don’t expect me to start analyzing any of this right now, I’m just musing. It’s summer remember, I’m hot and not inclined to do any real research.

Without getting into any more detail about motivation, psychology or neuroscience (we can delve into that in more detail another time), here is what I think is good and bad about these sticky Barcelona summers:

Good

  1. It’s hot. And sunny. It’s fun being in the sun. Just look at all of those kids in California and Miami. How happy are they all the time? Playing Frisbee on the beach in their bikinis, drinking iced coffee and smiling all the time. Increased sunshine leads to a number of health benefits (through the release of endorphins) such as smiling, tanned bodies, increased sexual drive, work ethic and the list goes on.
  2. The grand Exodus. Resident’s leave and tourists pile in. The amount of residents that leave overshadows the amount of tourists that come at any given time which makes certain areas of the city (not where I live) much more peaceful and tranquil. In some parts of the city it’s like living in a ghost town. You start to feel like you’re living within a village within a city within a village. It’s kind of nice for a while. You start to feel like you own the place. “This is my town”.
  3. Tine to breathe. Unlike the States and other “normal” places, the Spanish people don’t work until they drop. They like to have breaks, bank holidays (which are then converted into “puentes”, i.e. very LONG weekends) and of course these few numerous weeks in the summer. It is nice though, having time to breathe. It allows you to step back and prepare for part 2 of the year, giving you time to focus and make sure you are on the right track. Even though most individuals only take off 2 weeks, the rest of the city is on shutdown so the other 3-4 weeks are kind of like holiday anyway. Of course I’m talking about everyone else and not me. I’m the exception.

BadBarcelona Summers - The Bad

  1. Forget about doing business. It’s nigh on impossible to get hold of anyone from mid-July to the first week of September. Anyone living and working here will know what I mean. Try getting a meeting for August. Difficult Ya Wohl?. Want a meeting? “I’ll be back in September”, “But it’s the 17th July!” Forget about conducting any business during this month. And don’t go expecting a response to any emails or contact until the 2nd week of September. “I can’t meet the first week as I’ll have tons of emails to respond to from August” Of course it makes complete sense.
  2. Did someone say sticky? I’ve traveled significantly and lived in some strange and distant lands (many of them much hotter and more humid than here) but nonetheless Barcelona seems to have a strange climate that makes it feel more humid than it actually is (considering it’s kinda far from the equator). I know this is a horribly boring and uninteresting point but I’m sweaty and disgusting and wishing it was less humid. Most offices and homes in the old part of town (where I’m sitting right now) don’t have air conditioning, which adds to the sometimes unbearable sweat fest going on. As they say “Once you pop you can’t stop”.
  3. Unproductive. I thought the heat was supposed to give you energy? All I want to do is sleep. Maybe I’m ill. Who knows? Being less productive in summer goes hand in hand with human nature, as apparently when the sun is shining all we want to do is be outside. So your boss can’t blame you. Just tell him its human nature, blame my ancestors. Also ‘research’ has shown that when you feel good you don’t think well. I don’t get this at all but it’s what the researchers say.
  4. It smells. Whether it’s people or the nasty scents of sewage in El Born, be sure to get a nauseating aroma or two up your nose. The heat makes this worse. If you find yourself on the metro then by golly you’re in for a treat.
  5. Ipso facto there are too many tourists next to my apartment.

What do you love and hate about summer?

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