As July and August descend in Spain, the Spanish people come into their own. The streets will be deserted at 2.00 as they retreat inside, only to emerge again as the sun starts to set and temperatures are returned to a sensible level.
Contrast this with the habits of the typical northern European. At 2.00 we can be found in the sun, on the beach, turning gently pink and sweating profusely. It’s understandable. For 50 weeks of the year sightings of the sun are rare in the home country and nothing to take your shirt off for.
We sometimes underestimate how much difference the weather makes and, how much it should. Even in these days of air conditioning and central heating we cannot avoid the fact that hot, humid afternoons during August in Spain are not conducive to a high workload or anything energetic. The tradition of early mornings, late evenings and afternoon siestas is not without reason.
Surviving a heatwave
It’s not surprising that many visitors to Spain in August fail to manage the heat, they simply have not needed to. This fact was perhaps brought home recently with an article in The Telegraph advising British people of a pending heatwave.
Keep in mind that this ‘heatwave’ was projected to last all of two days and to reach the dizzy heights of 32 degrees. A temperature with which Spaniards successfully juggle for two months of the year at least. They understand how to stay cool and sane, without the government having to issue warnings.
Top ten tips for keeping cool
For those about to experience more than a two-day heatwave, here are our top ten tips for keeping cool:
- avoid the hottest parts of the day – rise early, take advantage of the fresh mornings and stay inside during the afternoon. Once the sun is setting you can safely emerge and catch up with some of the activities you’ve missed
- seek out shade – there will be plenty of times when you have no option but to be in the sun, go easy on yourself and balance this with finding the coolest parts of the terrace and perhaps avoiding the beach at all
- loose clothing is best – white, loose fitting garments can help you feel fresh – no lycra during July and August please
- drink plenty – and it must be water! Alcohol may be cheap but it’s also de-hydrating and having too much at lunchtime can leave you snoozing in the sun in the afternoon – not a good idea. Keep a water bottle with you and get into the habit of using it
- Sit outside in the evening – you will often see the older generation in Spain, taking their chairs outside and even sitting on the pavements. This can be a very pleasant time of the day and a good opportunity to air your house and chat to your neighbours instead
- Watch your head! You might or might not have a protective layer of hair but even if you do, you can soon collect a nasty burn along your parting or on your forehead. Wearing a hat, particularly one that protects the back of your neck, is a good idea.
- Switch off any non-essential lights and electrical gadgets. They all generate some heat and contribute, albeit slightly, to the cumulative temperature in your house. And, of course, it makes economic sense too.
- Be careful where you park your car. Left in the sun without covering the screen and you’re going to be entering an oven on your return. Steering wheels and even seats can be red hot.
- Copy the Spanish – buy a fan. Even wafting a piece of paper can bring some very pleasant relief from the heat. If you find yourself caught somewhere sweltering don’t be afraid to flap away
- Take a cold shower. It will bring down your body temperature and make you feel a great deal fresher
It’s all common sense really, but worth a reminder. July and August in Spain needn’t be feared – just do as the Spanish do.