Gran Canaria runs on its own time
The Canary Islands are an hour behind the rest of Spain and on the same time as London. This gives the islands up to a billion euros per year of brand exposure on Spanish radio and TV. It’s so important that the Canary Islands have said that they will jump by an hour if Spain changes timezone to better suit its location.
It’s not just the “una hora antes en Canarias” that keeps the islands in a different timestream. Many of the words that the rest of the world use to describe time just don’t work here.
For example, the Spanish word AHORA means now. However, when someone in Gran Canaria says that they will do something ahora (like email a vital document or check a contract) they mean “as soon as I can”. This could be in five minutes, two hours, or last thing tonight once they get home, feed the cat and crack open a beer.
The phrase POR LA MAÑANA means in the morning. Except that a person’s morning in Gran Canaria doesn’t end until they have lunch. This can be at any time from one to three in the afternoon. So, don’t be surprised if you are expecting a delivery por la mañana and it hasn’t turned up by 14.30.
POR LA TARDE is similar. It doesn’t mean in the afternoon but instead applies to the long period of time between lunch and darkness.
POR LA NOCHE means at night except that the night in Gran Canaria starts much later than just after sunset. If you plan to meet someone por la noche, it means after they have been home, had a snack, shower, shave and probably a short siesta. So, por la noche starts from 10pm onwards for eating out but only really gets going after midnight for drinks.
Foreign residents can hack the time system and avoid queues by eating at 20.00 and heading to the bars at 22.00. Then you head to a club and dance for a few hours at midnight. By 02.00 when most locals are just arriving you can be in bed (although this never seems to happen).
Coffee breaks are not about the coffee
You might think that the late Gran Canaria nights are what make the locals drink about six cups of coffee per day. However, coffee breaks here are not about the coffee. Instead, they are more like the punctuation that breaks up a work day; a micro-break and a chance to refocus with a few minutes of quiet reflection or banter.
This is why you rarely see people in Gran Canaria walking around carrying a takeaway coffee.
The same applies to food. Nobody in Gran Canaria eats alone at their desk or in their workplace. Instead, they head out in groups to a bench or to a local bar that does a cheap menú del día. Like most things here, the best bit of eating and drinking is the people you share it and the time you spend with them.
Understanding this has made me a much better estate agent because so much here in Gran Canaria can be sorted out if you already have a good relationship with the people involved.
The paper trail always leads somewhere
Most business transactions in Spain involve a fair amount of paperwork and Gran Canaria is no exception. Things are slowly moving over to digital but most things are still done with triple copies or paper documents. Even if you do get a digital copy of a vital document you’ll be expected to print it out!
The key to success when you have a bureaucratic problem is patience and calm. The paper trail in Gran Canaria can be long but it is almost always logical from somebody’s point of view. You just have to find them!
You need patience because almost everyone in Gran Canaria wants to help even if they can’t. The calmer you are the more likely they are to go out of their way to find a solution to any problem.
It’s also important to remember that nobody does anything involving paperwork in Gran Canaria until they have to. It’s just how things work here and you can’t change it.
Gran Canaria works if you work with it
Every now and then you meet a Gran Canaria resident who just can’t handle the fact that things here don’t work the same way as at home. They complain about the bureaucracy, the vague appointment times, etc. But they miss the fact that most Canarians are happy with the way we do things in Gran Canaria.
Its is a beautiful laid-back island and people come to live here because of the atmosphere and the quality of life. The odd day of queuing and waiting for a delivery is a small price to pay for the relaxed lifestyle.
Just don’t forget to photocopy your passport and NIE on the same piece of paper, get a cita previa and put sunscreen on the back of your calves.
I’m Laura and I’m a British estate agent working in Gran Canaria with foreign buyers and sellers. If you have any questions about Gran Canaria property or life on the island, please feel free to contact me…
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