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Dead hours

Dead hours

Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Fleur Damen

“Where are you going?”

“Meeting a friend.”

My housemate cannot believe it – why on earth would anyone decide to hang out with a friend at 7 PM? Shocked, she tells me that those “are not times, they are not times (to meet)”: 7 PM is, apparently, a ‘dead hour’: at 7, you’re not supposed to leave the house. It’s the time to study, or sleep, at least according to my housemate.

Spanish people and the organization of their time: considering Spanish weather is rather predictable, instead this is the one classic topic that returns in every conversation between Erasmus-students. In fact, it has even turned into a heated political debate, with Spanish president Rajoy promising that if he is re-elected, he will officially end the workday at 6PM by introducing new labor laws. This way, Spanish workdays will be synchronized with the rest of Europe, something that is supposed to positively influence the fragile economy. 
The current (Southern) Spanish timetable, made (in)famous by the siesta, looks more or less as follows: people work from 9 until 14, with a break in between for a second, or in many cases first breakfast around 11 AM. Between 14 and 16 is lunchtime, and, in some cases (like mine) the moment to take a nap. This custom influences daily life to a large degree, because it automatically postpones all other activities: faculties, shops and offices are closed in the afternoon. If lucky, people end their workday around 19.30, but often they come home later and eat around 10PM. 
After over four months here, I’ve gotten used to this, and dinner at 7 indeed seems like a ridiculous plan. What’s more, a Spanish student’s timetable, in many cases (like mine) shows an even larger discrepancy with an average day of a Spanish employee, let alone a Dutch one: lunches at 5 and dinners at 23.30 are no exceptions. After all, people only go clubbing around 3AM! Nevertheless, this last week I’ve dedicated to studying more than to attending the club until closing (8AM), because the exams are coming up. Today, I found a spot at the library, which, in contrast with Maastricht, does not entail a heroic three-hour tour through the nooks and crannies of the building, and plugged in my headphones. After a couple of hours, I look up from my book, and notice I’m the only person left in the huge hall. First, I consider the possibility that I might have missed a fire alarm or a request to leave, but then I realize the explanation is a very simple one. It’s 3PM: the Spanish are having lunch.

Fleur Damen




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