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Protect Your Lunchtime: Why I Avoid Working Lunches After Studying Abroad in Barcelona

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Picture yourself on a Spanish street corner: it’s 1:00 p.m., and you’re on your lunch break. The cobblestone patio you’re on is making your chair a little wobbly, but your focus is on the patatas bravas that just arrived at your table. You remember you have to go back to class in an hour, but there’s no reason to perseverate on that thought right now. Instead, you relax and just take in the sound of the guitarist sitting on the steps of the church across the street and the conversations of everyone around you — also on their lunch break.

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Cameron Smith / Her Campus

One of the first things I noticed when I was studying abroad in Barcelona was how much the city’s citizens value quality time with friends. On Sundays, when all the businesses were closed, the parks were packed with families and groups of friends having picnics, playing soccer, or just sitting and talking. This wasn’t only apparent to me on Sundays, though. Throughout the workday, you could find people sitting outside and sharing a meal before returning to work — no computer multitasking in sight. This is ingrained in Spain’s culture; businesses close for “siesta” mid-day so people can take their lunch breaks outside of work. In cafés in Barcelona, you rarely see people on their computers. It couldn’t differ more from the fast-paced city life of the US, where it’s common to see people taking “working lunches” and using cafés as designated workspaces.

I had an internship in Chicago this summer, where it was easy to get wrapped up and in the zone at work. Occasionally, it would be more convenient to have a working lunch rather than to take a break and step away from my computer. Like in Barcelona, the parks and outdoor spaces on summer weekends in Chicago were always full of families and friends spending time together — but it was rare to see that during the week in the middle of the day. This can probably be accredited to cultural differences surrounding working culture, as more people in the US live to work, whereas more people in Barcelona work to live. It was rare to see people discussing work at social events, restaurants, or bars in Barcelona, whereas in Chicago it was common to see people discussing work at meals or parties.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in a busy schedule, especially when we live in a culture that values work so highly; some people even like to work straight through the day and relax after work. I never liked doing homework during lunchtime and I always felt like it would be more productive to eat and then work instead of trying to multitask. My energy levels always improve after a break from work. When I was in Barcelona — where it was weird to take a working lunch — I realized how beneficial it is to protect and value my lunchtime. Being immersed in Barcelona’s culture highlighted the importance of taking a break — leaving my desk for a lunch break to chat with friends and coworkers or taking a walk outside can make all the difference in my day.

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Lily Krivopal

U Mass Amherst '24

Lily is a senior management and Spanish double major who is passionate about community service. You can always find her in the pool or outside running, hiking, or reading in a hammock.