When people are asked why they move to Spain the answer tends to be for the weather and the lifestyle. There can be little discussion that the Mediterranean climate in many ways has a lot more to offer than that of the rest of Europe, but what is the Spanish lifestyle and why does it attract so many?
One important part of Spanish lifestyle is the diet. Extra-virgin olive oil, ripe tomatoes and sweet peppers, salad greens galore, garlic and onions all form an important base for much of the Spanish cooking. Add to this plenty of fresh seafood, legumes, rice and bread it should become clear why the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is seen as a healthier alternative to the food pyramid normally used in the western diet. The traditional Spanish diet is not just healthy; it’s also very tasty and easy to cook. Add a glass of rich red wine to your meal and you have a sure winner. You haven’t been in Spain unless you tried paella, gazpacho, had breakfast at a café with tostadas and café con leche (coffee made with warm milk). You must have eaten olives, finely sliced jamón Serrano (Spanish ham), tortilla (Spanish omelette) and please don’t miss out on the vast selection of seafood.
But it’s not just what they eat it’s also when they eat. Breakfast is often light and consumed mid morning at a café. The quick 30 min lunch break many are used to would not go down well in Spain. Here everything shuts down for a couple of hours normally between 2 and 4pm to have the main meal, for many followed by a siesta, before returning to work for the afternoon. There’s little point in trying to resist this midday break. Shops and offices are closed and it’s not a good time to knock on the door of you Spanish neighbours.
This long break makes much more sense when you consider the hot Spanish summer. It’s a welcoming break to have a nice meal with family and friends and relax during the worst of the heat. The siesta is also a good opportunity to have a little rest, especially if you’re among those that get up early in the morning. The evening meal is normally light and consumed late. Most restaurants don’t open their doors for evening service till past 8pm and more often than not people will go for tapas rather than ordering a big plate. These small portions what’re served when you order a drink are normally a good representation of the Spanish diet and an excellent opportunity to different foods. Depending on the place they can include everything from sea food to bread with jamón or cheese and olives.
Whether you’re visiting Spain for shorter period of time or looking to permanently settle in the sun, the diet and the whole schedule and lifestyle that evolves around food will have a major impact on your stay. Embrace it and make your Spanish experience so much richer.