You may have holidayed in Spain on numerous occasions but, trust me, the realities of living through an Andalucian summer are very different to having a fortnight in the sun. Now that I’ve lived through three summers here I feel that I’m pretty well equipped to write a Spanish summer survival guide. Read on for my top tips.
Dress for the occasion
When you’re on your summer holidays it’s perfectly acceptable to spend your days in shorts and vests, tiny dresses, and swimsuits. However, when you live here and have to go out and earn a living that’s where things can get sticky (in more ways than one).
Try and get clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, silk or linen (although, with the latter, be prepared to fight a losing battle keeping the creases at bay and be aware that standing over an ironing board won’t do anything to help keep your cool). Man-made materials like polyester or nylon don’t let your skin breathe so you’ll more than likely end up a hot and sweaty mess.
It’s always been generally accepted that you should wear light coloured clothes too as dark colours absorb the heat. In addition, light coloured clothes tend to keep mosquitoes at bay and, depending on where you live, these could be a problem.
Don’t forget your head too – wide brimmed hats are ideal to stop you getting sunburnt and, when I’m exercising I always wear a cap as it keeps the sun out of my eyes and stops me overheating.
Sunglasses are something that you need year-round here (even in winter when everyone is wrapped up against the colder weather you still need to wear glasses to protect your eyes from the sun).
It’s better, in my opinion, to spend a bit of money on a decent quality pair of sunglasses with UV protection than buy a few pairs of cheaper fashion accessories that may not protect your eyes fully.
Don’t skimp on sun cream
Make sure you take a tip from our Aussie neighbours and slip, slap, slop. Even if you’re going to work in the morning when the sun’s not up (here in my part of Andalucia, the sun doesn’t rise until well after 7am even during the summer months) chances are you’ll be outside for your lunchbreak which, coincidentally, is when the sun is at its peak.
If you’re going to the beach or the pool, don’t wait until you’re there to put your cream on – apply it at least 30 minutes before you leave the house. I use sun cream year-round and always SPF 50 – it’s easy to dismiss it as ‘it’s only Spain’ but, trust me, the Andalucian sun is strong!
Even if you don’t intend to be out of the house for long don’t skimp on sun protection – it can seem like a real faff to put sun cream on for a short walk to the supermarket but five or ten minutes spent doing that is definitely preferable to the pain of sunburn.
Choose your food wisely
When it’s hot you naturally won’t want to fill up with heavy, hot meals but, luckily, Spain has an abundance of tasty lighter foods.
A wander round a typical Spanish market will give you plenty of inspiration including all the delicious seasonal fruit and veg that Spain has to offer. If you’re eating out then salmorejo or gazpacho is a no brainer and there are some excellent light and tasty tapas dishes to choose from too.
While nothing says summer in Andalucia quite like a refreshing tinto de verano or an ice cold cerveza, don’t forget to drink plenty of water too, particularly if you’re exercising. One of my best presents has been a Chilly’s bottle which holds 500mls of water and keeps the water cold for 24 hours. There’s nothing worse on a hot day than taking a drink from your bottle of water only to find that it’s warm.
You should aim to drink 1 to 2 litres of water a day and, even if you don’t feel thirsty, you should keep sipping water throughout the day as it’s very easy to get dehydrated here in Spain. Of course, if you’re exercising then staying hydrated is even more important. When I go walking or running during the summer I try to go in the cooler parts of the day (early morning or late evening) and I have a hydration backpack which means that I can comfortably carry 2 litres of water.
A fan is your friend
It might seem like a typical Spanish cliché but Spanish women (and some men) really do use hand fans to keep cool during the summer. I bought my ‘abanico’ in Seville on a particularly hot day and I’ve been a convert ever since.
It’s not just outside that a fan comes in handy. Although Spanish houses are built to stay cool in the summer not all come with aircon, particularly if you’re in a rental property.
We don’t have aircon in our apartment so, throughout the summer months, we use a freestanding fan during the night. It does the trick although we are thinking of going a bit more upmarket this year and getting a fancy Dyson one.
We also abandon the duvet (usually from the end of May until some time in October) and have the bedroom windows open to try and help with the airflow. It’s worth stocking up on fly spray if you’re doing this though as, even with the fly screens shut, a pesky mosquito or two will always find a way in.
Make the most of siesta time
You don’t have to actually go home and take a nap but you should definitely take refuge indoors. The traditional siesta time is generally 2pm until 5pm which coincides with the hottest time of the day. This is the perfect time to seek out aircon whether that’s by visiting a museum, going to the cinema, or simply lying on your sofa reading a book.
Be a water baby
If you’re lucky enough to live near the sea then you’ll know that nothing beats a dip in the ocean on a hot day. If you’re even luckier you’ll have your own pool. If you have neither then most towns and cities have municipal pools where you can cool off.
The first time we went to the beach after we moved here we just turned up with a couple of beach towels. It didn’t take us long to realise that, for the Spanish, going to the beach is almost a military operation. Now when we go, we have a lot more paraphernalia – deck chairs, a parasol, and a cooler bag for starters. As yet, we haven’t started taking a gazebo and fold up picnic table like many do but, who knows, that time may come!
The Spanish have a reputation for their relaxed attitude (mañana, mañana) and, coming up to my fourth summer here, I can see why. There have been a few times when I’ve left work in Gibraltar and got caught in a border queue so have had to rush for my bus (which are only every two hours) – believe me, it’s not ideal in over 30°c heat. Thankfully, buses are air-conditioned but still, a nice easy stroll to the bus station is so much nicer.
Cold showers are king
Taking a cold shower just before bed on a hot summer night is the perfect way to cool down and can make it easier to get some sleep.
If you’re in the city during the summer you might also find yourself having an impromptu cold shower as lots of restaurants have spritzers fitted into the pavement umbrellas so you get a lovely blast of fine water vapour as you walk by.
Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear your tips for surviving summer in Spain and, if you’ve enjoyed reading this post why not share it?