What's Happening? Kids Out Until Midnight

Dear Gail,

Photo source: Joshua Clay on Unsplash

You probably weren’t here for more than a week before you noticed that something strange happens here with families—kids aren’t bundled away with babysitters but join families as they go about their daily lives, even if that means going to a restaurant at 10:00 pm. While this may seem especially weird if you come from a culture where kids are in bed by 8:00 pm and, if parents go out they hire a babysitter, but it’s a cultural thing and it makes sense here for several reasons:


Family Dynamics:

The way families are integrated together and taken care of here in Spain is different than other cultures that I know. One of the biggest things is that relatives tend to live fairly close together and, therefore, extended family tends to spend a decent amount of time just hanging out. This means seeing families together, across generations, is common here. So, it shouldn’t be a massive surprise when kids accompany their parents out for a evening drink and tapa or meal.


The Going-Out Culture:

In addition, and in comparison to places where parents of young children might only go out for a drink or dinner every once-in-awhile, in Spain this is not always true. It is very accepted to go out a couple of times of week with friends, and just because you become a parent, that doesn’t necessarily change. And even though you can sometimes leave the kids with the grandparents, that's not something people do all the time and, to our next point, babysitting isn’t a big thing.


Babysitters aren’t a Thing:

Contrary to what I knew growing up in the U.S., where babysitting is almost a job for young adults, it is something that is slowly gaining… very little ground here. In larger cities, it is a little bit more common than in smaller ones, but still no where near what it was like back home (growing up in a small town where I still could work most weekends when I wanted to). Therefore, kids are either left with the grandparents or taken out with the parents, and most of the time both options are equally acceptable.


The Heat:

Finally, a big factor in how late kids are allowed to stay out, especially in the summer, is dealing with the weather. When you don’t want to be on the street from noon until 9 pm because it is so hot, it only makes sense that when the sun starts to disappear, people leave their houses with kids in tow (how else will they burn off all their extra energy?). Because it is only practical to leave the house after a certain time, it makes sense that kids hang out on the street longer.


Like we’ve talked about before, culture has a big impact on how a society works (for example, why there is PDA all over the place). In addition, you probably already know that by understanding cultural differences, your abroad experience will be enriched. However, it is always interesting to think about how and why cultures are different. Have you seen this phenomenon? What do you think about it?