Monday, November 1, 2010

Psychology of the “puente” in Spain

In North America, holidays are general shifted to the nearest Monday or Friday to ensure optimal long weekends for the public. In Spain, this is not the case, leading to cases of holiday Tuesdays, Wednesday or Thursdays. If the holiday falls on the weekend, tough luck, try again next year.

As we say at work, the Spanish have turned this bug into a feature. Especially for Tuesdays or Thursdays. These are called “puente” (bridge), and are designed for combining one vacation day in the middle with three holiday days on either side for a four day weekend. The observable output is traffic chaos as everyone tries to leave at the same time. These events are called “Operación salida” (there’s major one that happens at the beginning of August). The rather macabre and graphic traffic reports in the news usually feature a scorecard of how many people got killed or severely injured. Perhaps it is good training if Barcelona ever needs to be rapidly evacuated due to some disease outbreak or pending terrorist attack.

I did point out to a Spaniard that you could take a vacation day if there was a holiday Monday and also turn it into a four day weekend. She looked at me as if I was smoking crack.

This year, there’s a “mega-puente” coming up for December 6 (Constitution day) and December 8 (Immaculate Conception), so be prepared for traffic chaos.

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