Spanish sobremesa – how they make a long lunch in Spain

La sobremesa – which literally translates to “above the table” – is the Spanish custom of lingering long after the midday meal, surrounded by a detritus of coffee cups and bread crusts. Diners can grab a coffee, liquor, or puff on a cigar, but otherwise it’s all about conversation, at least on the go. At home, the sobremesa is prime time television for the news.

Spaniards traditionally had their main meal in the middle of the day, so you can see how they got into a fit of sobremesa, especially on hot summer afternoons. Nowadays, the sobremesa, like the siesta, is eroded by the dictates of modern life and is especially enjoyed on weekends or during holidays.

La sobremesa is about easy conversation and the laughter that follows more easily after good food and good wine. It’s about keeping up to date with family gossip or what’s going on with friends. As a tourist, you will be an outsider, but you can clandestinely soak up the sobremesa atmosphere in a tavern or on the terrace of a restaurant.

Look for a good sobremesa spot by watching where family groups crumble on tables, or where pensioners are still bickering about politics at 3 p.m. It doesn’t matter the servers; only in tourist traps will they try to get you ahead. Avoid famous squares for this reason. A local square is the perfect place to linger, as the sun moves over beautiful architecture, fountains splash and children run around.

If you are lucky enough to join a gathering of Spaniards, expect the conversation to have the volume of a herd of excitable galahs. Don’t be afraid to interrupt, talk over others, or let the conversation get rowdy. Spaniards love friendly disputes, whether it’s the independence of Catalonia or the preparation of the best gazpacho. If a Spaniard does not speak, check their vital signs.

As a tourist, it’s hard to let go of the feeling that you should do or see something. Still, sitting in a square is as much a travel opportunity as visiting a museum and tells you more about the local culture. Why not spend the afternoon chatting, people watching, soaking up the sun and clinking ice cubes in a slow drink? A wonderful weariness can come over you, similar to enchantment.

What to take care of when you have a sobremesa to spend your time in Spain?

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