OK, picture this.  You get up at oh-dark-thirty, jump in the shower, get dressed, get in the car, and stop by your favorite coffee shop on the way to work.  You work hard all day, and a good friend texts you:  “Happy Hour?  Same time, same place?”  Yes!  Now you have something to look forward to.  A little break in the routine.  A quick drink with a friend before going home to dinner.

Now let’s put a Spanish twist on that.  You get up at 7:30 or 8:00, turn on the music, and make yourself a cappuccino with your own espresso machine. You take a leisurely shower, and choose your wardrobe for the day.  Carefully (but that’s another discussion).  Then you gather your things, and walk to work.  You work a couple of hours, then take a break and go to the coffee shop right around the corner.  You bump into friends and you visit for a few minutes while you drink your “cortado”  (short strong coffee with a touch of milk).  You return to work, and notice you have a text:  “Drinks?  Same time, same place?”  Great!  Sounds like fun.

TapeoHere’s where things really get different.  You started work at about 10:00 a.m., took your coffee break at about noon, and then went home for lunch and siesta at about 1:30 or 2:00 p.m.  Returned to work at 4:00 p.m. and worked until about 8:00 p.m.  Now it’s time to play.  You gather up your things from work, walk about 2 blocks, and the street is full of people of all ages. If the weather is warm, all the restaurants have tables out on the sidewalk (or street, if it’s blocked off) and people are talking, laughing, and greeting friends.  You stop to talk to several people on the way and you arrive a bit late, to find that your friend isn’t there yet either.  No problem. You scout out a table and sit down to relax.  It’s about 8:30 p.m. now and you order a beer or a glass of wine and a tapa — a small appetizer — and sit back to watch what’s going on.  Your friend arrives and you exchange 2 kisses on the cheek and immediately dive into conversation.

There are lots of variations of what happens next, so we’ll just pick one.  After doing the initial catch-up, you decide to take a walk.  So you head out and wander slowly down the street, greeting friends and stopping to talk with people that you know. You may join some friends at another neighborhood bar, or just stop for another drink and/or tapa when the mood strikes you. You repeat this for as long as you feel like it.  Nobody looks at their watch.  Nobody is in a rush.  Maybe the tapas turn into dinner.  Or maybe you’ve decided to continue the evening and go to a restaurant for dinner.  Since  it’s a “school night,” you head home at around midnight (more or less).

In other words, there is no such thing as “Happy Hour” in Spain.  There is no implied time limit on how long you can enjoy the company of your friends.  The concept of one hour lunches, or Happy Hour seems very stingy to Spaniards.  We need a new name for Happy Hour; something a little more user-friendly.  I can think of a few.  How about you?