Time zones and confusion


Map of Europe with time zones and the Greenwich meridian drawn in
This is at the hart of my time confusion

Look at this map – this map, or not the map in it self, but the reality it visualizes has been the source of much confusion – for me, and I think in also for many others.

See – most of Spain is west of the GMT line, actually Cadiz and Gallicia is more like GMT + half an hour – Portugal is closer to GMT -1 than GMT (but only by a little). I live down here in Malaga – pretty close to Gibraltar. So why the confusion?

The confusion is because – my internal clock, does not correspond to the clock I see on the wall. And even though I’ve known that Spain for some odd reason has decided to be CET rather than GMT, I haven’t really understood it in my head. Ad to this confusion that day-light savings scheme brings you – and we are not just one hour off, but two (two and a half in Cadiz).

Like I said I knew, and yet I did really understand the implications. I discovered it the other day – I was walking down town at 11 o’clock (CET) – it wasn’t too hot – you know a nice sunny day, with a slight breeze coming in from the ocean. So I told my friend – and she said “Off course not, the sun reaches it’s max around two o’clock”. Hmmm… of course it does – I mean who would think that the sun reaches it’s max at noon, that would be silly right? Yea – but that is why the Spanish think that 2 o’clock is noon (and they are right).

This really turns everything around. See – when the Spanish start work at 9 o’clock (CET) – their biological clocks are really at 7 o’clock in the summer and 8 o’clock in the winter. And the workers who turn up at 8 o’clock next door are actually starting their work at 6 o’clock “biotime”. And they have lunch a 2 pm CET – or 12 pm “biotime” – like most other people in Europe. And when they call the period of time after siesta afternoon when they speak English – it is not because they don’t know what afternoon really is – it is because it is really afternoon – around 3 o’clock “biotime”. And when their kids go to bed a 9.30-10 pm -then that is approximately the same time as Danish kids go to bed.

I’ve thought that my inner watch was broken somehow since we moved to Spain. All my life I have been an early bird: I got up at 6 am and went to bed around 10 pm. Moved to Spain and I cannot get up before 7, and I wake up by my self without a clock at around 8 – maybe 9 if I really sleep in. I am not tired before 10.30 at night, go to bed maybe 10.30 or 11.30 . If I try to calculate that in “biotime” – this corresponds to waking up at 6-7 o’clock every morning and going to bed at 8.30 – 9.30 – i.e. earlier than I used to in Denmark! My kids go to bed around the same time as me – which really isn’t that late at all.

And how about the tourists? I mean people come down here and are utterly confused – seriously! But if they go to Greece or Turkey, they just set their clocks and adjust. But here people cannot understand why the lunch restaurants don’t open until 2 o’clock or the dinner restaurants at 8-9 pm.  When we have guests, some of them are constantly off by 1-2 hours. And I realize that jet-lag will do that to you too – but then you would at least have an understanding or a visual guide of why the locals act on a different time scheme.

Now I understand that I makes absolutely perfect sense to start you work at 7 o’clock in the morning in a country where the temperatures reach 40 C at midday (2 o’clock) – but why not just start at 7 o’clock instead of pretending that it is 9 o’clock? I do not get it! It is one of these “Solo en España” moments.

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