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Why Is Dinnertime in Spain So Late in the Evening?

Updated May 17, 2024
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What time do you eat dinner? It's likely that your dinnertime falls between 5:30 and 8:30 pm. In many countries, restaurants close by 10 pm. So it may surprise you to learn that this is not the case in Spain. Spaniards not only eat late, but also have later working hours, later social hours, and later entertainment. Prime-time TV, for example, doesn’t begin until after 10:30 pm.

While tourists often assume that the reason for these later times is that Spain is more laid-back than other countries, the real reason has to do with time zones and 20th-century history. In 1940, Francisco Franco moved Spain from Greenwich Mean Time to Central European Time to align more closely with Nazi Germany, thus pushing mealtimes (and other daily events) back an hour.

Dinnertime isn’t the only thing affected by Spain's out-of-sync time zone. The sun rises and sets later, creating issues with sleep deprivation and decreased productivity.

Schedules in Spain are further complicated by long lunch breaks, so a typical working day begins at 9 am and ends around 8 pm. Traditionally, due to the strong midday heat and the practice of eating a large midday meal, many Spaniards would take a siesta, or afternoon nap, though this custom seems to be rapidly disappearing. A 2009 study found that only 16% of Spaniards take a daily afternoon nap.

Time for a rest:

  • Despite the fact that some Spaniards may rest in the afternoon, studies reveal that many businesses and resorts don’t adhere to the 2-5 pm "siesta" period, as they don't want to miss out on tourist spending. In fact, around 60% of Spain’s residents say they never nap during siesta time.

  • Many experts believe that there is a definite problem with work-life balance in Spain. Nuria Chinchilla, an economist at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa business school in Barcelona, believes that Spaniards experience “continuous jetlag” and are in need of a change.

  • Plans to revert the clocks back to GMT have been suggested over the years. Mealtimes would be an hour earlier, people would get an extra hour of sleep and the workday would end earlier. While there is public support for such change, nothing has been done to actually make it a reality.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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