When I lived in the UK and I said I was Spanish many people jokingly asked me why I was living there when I could be in a country with much better weather. Even though I was miserable in my first full winter in the UK and I longed for the few hot summer days we got each year (or mourned their absence in summers where I saw more rain than sun), I thought it was just a silly question that people asked me. Would I really choose the country I live in just because of its weather? Weren’t there a million other things that mattered? The ability to progress professionally, the appreciation for individuality, independence, privacy, the sense of humour, the sense of adventure that people here often lack… I had a very long list.
And while all those things are true and were deeply true for me while I lived there, I always missed summer. I missed eating tomato salads for lunch, watermelon, gazpacho and all the lighter meals. I missed the quiet afternoons – we are not lazy, but it is pretty much impossible to do much until the sun sets and the thermometer drops from 38 degrees with the cooler evening breeze. I started associating all those with my week long visits during my summer holidays, but I had forgotten what it felt like to have 3-4 months of them.
My Spanish landing into this new life was a lot bumpier than I expected, and my first few months here have been pretty tough. I have spent them longing for independence and the life I left there, my friends, my work, my city… it was the life I chose, and although it was easy to choose to leave, it was much harder to actually leave it all behind. However, for the past few weeks I have been feeling lighter, chirpier, happier. Sure, time always has a healing effect, mum is doing much better and I feel more useful at work. But one of the biggest factors is that summer is here.
In Spain, there is a clear difference between winter and summer life. The culture and lifestyle is in tune with the seasons. When June swings around, office hours change for many people (though not everyone) and the work day starts earlier and ends around 3pm. Shop hours change too, mostly to remain close during the time of day when the sun is at its most powerful. The pace of life slows down during the day and picks up in the evening, when people gather to sit outside and enjoy an ice cream, a beer or my beloved horchata, a drink made from tiger nut milk.
If you live close enough to the sea, going to the beach at weekends becomes your new plan, or if, like me, you are a couple of hours inland, there are many outdoor swimming pools where people go and sit in the shade of a pine tree reading and chatting to family and friends.
Food gets lighter and it has all my favourites: gorgeous tomatoes, juicy peaches, refreshing watermelon. Meals are full of salads and grilled meat and fish. Nothing fancy, just simple and light. It is not uncommon to lose weight over the summer months.
For many years, I associated all these little things with holiday, so, despite work and all the other obligations, I feel like I am on a very long holiday and my mood is beyond happy. My brother teases me that after a few weeks I will be sick of the heat and will complain about it, but what if I never tire of my favourite season? Ask me again in September.