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US reheats debate over Spain's '10pm dinners'

Alex Dunham · 19 Feb 2014, 13:17

Published: 19 Feb 2014 13:17 GMT+01:00

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The piece, titled "Spain, land of 10pm dinners, asks if it’s time to reset the clock", has been the New York Times' most emailed story in recent days.

The news that Spanish lawmakers had proposed putting the clocks back an hour to increase productivity is hardly breaking, The Local and other European media having covered it last September when it happened.

But Jim Yardley's piece has drawn so much interest across the States that numerous other media outlets have decided to give coverage to the Spanish time zone conundrum.

Online culture magazine Slate has offered the most thought-provoking spin-off piece, titled "Spain Shouldn't Change Its Mealtimes. We Should Change Ours".

"Keep in mind that, because of Spain's high latitude and its idiosyncratic time zone, the sun usually doesn't set there until 9 or 10pm In other words, the land of 10 pm dinners actually knows what it’s doing," wrote Slate journalist LV Anderson.

The comments sections for both articles show how divided opinions within Spain are regarding the country's unusual timetable.

Some agree that Spain needs a change whereas others say the New York Times offers a simplistic view of Spanish working habits, arguing most employees don't take siestas and often work very long hours.

Centre-right daily ABC has criticized the American broadsheet for taking the same tack as the UK’s Telegraph in a September article "Time's up for siestas, delayed meetings and late nights, Spaniards told in effort to make them work better".

Both newspapers used images of Spaniards taking a siesta to run with the idea that long, lazy lunch breaks and late prime-time TV hours are ingrained in Spanish society and are hindering the country’s productivity.

This is a view of ARHOE, a Spanish organization that fights for a charge to Spain's unique lifestyle.

"The real problem in Spain is this culture of 'presentismo', or just being in the office, even if you are not doing anything," ARHOE president Ignacio Buqueras told The Local in July.

Story continues below…

"We want a culture where time is used well and where people also have time for their private life," the head of the non-profit organization said.

"This will improve productivity in Spain, and it will make us more effective. It will also improve quality of life so that people can be with their family and friends."

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Alex Dunham (alex.dunham@thelocal.com)

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