Antonio Sáez leaves his house at 9:00 a.m. and arrives at work at 8:40 a.m. Literal. “I’m doing a kind of time travel”, account by phone. Living and working just meters from Europe’s oldest border has its own mental issues. The imaginary line that separates Spain from Portugal, known as La Raya, has two different time zones, a unique case in Europe. Sáez is a professor of literature at the University of Évora, nearly an hour’s drive from Badajoz, where he lives. “Going there is very good because you save time, but on the way back it takes twice as long”. Extremadura Sáez, 52, has a thing. The wristwatch shows Portuguese time and Spanish time in the car: “It doesn’t break down. I’ve only been wrong twice in 27 years.”
This weekend, Spaniards and Portuguese who cross this invisible wall will again turn their hands, like the others. It will be the morning of Sunday March 27. The clocks will advance one hour. At 2 a.m. it will be 3 a.m. The canaries, yes, will do it an hour before: at one o’clock it will be two. In other words, in the radio bulletins for that night it will be pointed out that at three o’clock it will really be two o’clock and, therefore, one o’clock in the Canary Islands. In short, and to avoid the hassle of each year: that night you will sleep 60 minutes less. That from Sunday dawn and dusk will rise later. Let it be so until next fall and until further notice. What a party. And that only changes twice a year…
“Yes, it would be easier with a single schedule,” says Ernesto Copete, 26, from Badajoz, who also lives between Extremadura and Portugal. Copete lives in Badajoz, but works in the Portuguese town of Elvas, 20 kilometers away, or about 20 minutes by car. Everything would be much simpler in the life of these people from Extremadura if the Iberian Peninsula had the same time zone. Here and there. But this is not the case. Upon entering Portugal, cell phones and watches are suddenly changed. And when they leave, they turn around, like this weekend. One hour less, one hour more, continuously. “When you first come to work, you always talk about it and say, ‘The clock is ticking, don’t fuck with me,'” Copete says over the phone.
the Time change, he said, that goes without saying if you agree to work on the other side. “When it’s eight o’clock in the evening, you can’t wait to leave.” Eight o’clock, of course, is nine o’clock in Spain. Copete works as a telemarketer for a Vodafone contractor. “Telemarketers, come on.”
—Of those who call at siesta time in any time zone?
His working hours are as follows. Monday to Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Spanish time. “But, in reality, it’s from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Portuguese time,” he says. A continuous mental calculation. “You have to get used to it, but it only happens at the beginning.” Indeed, he emphasizes it takes a week to adjust to time changes from place to place. “My shift, which is in the afternoon, is not bad.” Another thing is the salary. When he worked in Spain, in addition to not changing hours, he charged 200 euros more per month. “For the same functions it was 950 euros, while in Portugal it is 642”.
The last official count of the number of Extremadurans and Portuguese in a similar situation took place in 2017. The Efe news agency published a ticker indicating that more than 1,400 Portuguese were registered with the social security of Extremadura, while 650 Extremadurians worked itinerantly in Alentejo, the Portuguese region in the south of the country which includes cities such as Portalegre, Évora and Beja. Most in universities and health centers. There is, however, a recent cross-border study by the University of Murcia and the Carlos III Institute in Madrid which shows, for the first time, what it would mean to live with the same weather on the peninsula.
294 Spaniards from Huelva, Lugo and Ponferrada and 135 Portuguese from Coimbra took part. All over the age of 65. The mean age was 71.8 years and 72.1 years, respectively. These citizens wore a device on their wristband for a week in 2021. They took their skin temperature, their natural exposure to the sun and a series of Artificial Intelligence algorithms to find out how they sleep, how many hours of sleep they have, what time they wake up, have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the unified calendar would influence much, certainly. The report ended on December 31 and will be made public in a few weeks. “The situation on the peninsula is exceptional,” says María de los Ángeles Rol, professor at the University of Murcia and co-author of the study. “Spain and Portugal are stuck and an hour separates them. Here, the problem comes from the biological clock”.
Rol points out that they found the main differences in relation to food. “We Spaniards eat later than the Portuguese and dinner, even later. We are adding time, continuously.” Portuguese time makes better use of sunlight. In hours of sleep, they barely found any differences. Antonio Sáez, the teacher from Badajoz who leaves his house in Badajoz at 9:00 a.m. and arrives for his literature classes in Évora at 8:40 a.m., has found the perfect balance: “My stomach is already bilingual. He adapted perfectly to the schedules and the food of the two countries”.