The country of Don Quixote and Columbus, Spain has been one of the most popular destinations for Koreans to visit this year thanks to the popular television show Grandpas Over Flowers Season 2 which is about elderly celebrities traveling around the world. The show first aired on TvN in 2014. When it comes to Spain, there is an image of passionate people, sometimes referred to as the fever of Latin culture. However, what I experienced in Spain was more than that.
For last six months, I had a chance to be in an exchange program and learn about Spanish culture first hand. I lived in Lleida, Catalonia, a northeast region in Spain with Barcelona at the center. Apart from my clichéd goal for this exchange program -experiencing new culture, meeting new people, and learning a new language- it was actually rest that I wanted and needed most. After two years and a half of living a hectic, hard-working university life, I was exhausted and in need to refresh myself. From my experiences in Spain, I learned a lot about what real rest is and how to get it.
In Spain, from one to four p.m., everything becomes still. Almost all shops close and there are not so many people outside at that time. This period of relative quietness is known as Siesta, and is time used for taking a nap. When I was first told about this, I thought it was strange because it seemed like something only kindergarteners do. However, considering that Siesta occurs during hottest time of the day, it is actually quite effective in terms of promoting better work efficiency in the afternoon.
I think this is what a real rest is, having a perfectly timed break for the right reason. Many Koreans including me tend to feel guilty when they think about resting during the day because we view this time as inefficient. However, my previous semester in Spain taught me that a purposeful rest is a kind of investment for better performance in the future. It is like taking one step back in order to take two steps forward.
During my semester in Spain, one of the most commonly spoken words is “Salud.” In Spain, when someone sneezes, others say to that person, “Salud.” Also, when people have a party and propose a toast, they say “Salud.” The word, Salud means health in Spanish. As a wise persona once said, “Language is the mirror of the mind,” and it seems that the Spanish use of the word Salud reflects their healthy lifestyle. While there, I got the impression that they really regard health as an essential element for their happiness and well-being.
Although we Koreans also care about our health which has been labeled the so-called, “well-being culture,” I think our health is less of a concern for those in their twenties. Frankly speaking, I am also in this category because for me, health had meant more about dieting to get a slim figure. But what I have learned from the Spanish is that heath is a fundamental factor for life and joy. I have learned about how to love my body, and not just treating it for show. Therefore, to promote a sound mind and a sound body, I think Spanish view of caring for one’s health should be followed as viewed as an effective way to rest.
Spain is also known for its bullfights, Flamenco dance, and tomato festival. These are exciting events that people enjoy with enthusiasm. Looking back on my short but meaningful stay in Spain, there seemed to be a balance; there was rest during the day on one hand, parties at night crowded with people who really enjoyed themselves. on the other. It seemed that this was a way for people to refresh and recharge themselves in healthy ways. Such features of Spain have taught me the importance of having a good rest, and looking after both my mind and body.