I've been reading about it and many sites explain (unconvincingly, for me) that the reason why Spaniards currently have lunch around 2 and dinner around 9:30 is because during the 40s (after the civil war), people had to get a couple of jobs to make ends meet and could not keep normal meal times, like in other countries. Spain seem to be the only country in the world with those meal times and the explanation given does not clarify things in the lest. Other countries suffered equally the effects of wars and nothing changed.

Are there any other reasons?

  • I'm wondering what you consider "normal meal times". Although there are some customary meal times around the world, you know most people have their own schedule, right?
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 10:01
  • Well, I am Spanish myself and "normal meal times" for lunch in the rest of countries are around noon.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 18:56
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    You should probably clarify that you mean historical reasons. Otherwise it might be closed as off-topic.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 20:04
  • Luke, many sites I've read (all in Spanish) say that during the post-war men had to start moonlighting and then meal times had to be changed. Life standards improved in time, but that custom did not change and it's become the norm until today. The question is then relevant to this forum.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 21:55
  • For correction Not only Spanish eat late, moors and arabs too they have three meals 9:00am,1:00pm and 9:oo pm ,but i dont know the reason, maybe both stem from one origin,if they have the same food time table "N Africa and spain" , so the reason is cultural not mathematical .
    – md nth
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 17:13

5 Answers 5


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Spain is in the western end of the Central European Time. This means despite the same clock, they have later actual sun cycle (e.g. later actual sunrise, noon, sunset, etc.) than other countries. Human activities are partly influenced by the sun cycle, so it is logical that their meal schedule is later than the rest of Europe as well.

For example, for 21 October, the solar noon in Madrid is calculated to be at 13:59, compared to 12:51 in Berlin or 12:21 in Warsaw. Sunset is 17:28 in Warsaw and 19:26 in Madrid. Based on these alone, we can predict that Spaniards would have lunch around 1 hours later than the Germans or 2 hours later than the Poles. And Madrid is still not at the westernmost region of Spain. I believe in Seville it must be even later.

  • But then it would be later in Portugal and this is not the case. As I noted above to Yannis Rizos, most people seem to have lunch around noon in every country I know.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 19:05
  • 7
    Portugal isn't in CET.. At the same moment while it's 2pm in Spain, it's only 1pm in Portugal
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 21:37
  • 3
    True, but the meal times have nothing to do with that. Otherwise people in La Coruña o Huelva would eat even later. Besides, when we change the time in spring or autumn, people would also change their meal times.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 21:58
  • 1
    @fledermaus I'm not saying it will determine the meal time to the second, but the position of the sun does influence human's natural scheduling, including meal times
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 8:06
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    Spaniards also tend to go up very early. Explain that with timezones, if you can. ;-) Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 17:17

I'm kind of surprised nobody has brought up the Siesta.

In Spain and many other subtropical and tropical climes they have a tendency to nap during the hottest parts of the day. You'd logically have to then work that much later to put in the same amount of work. That would shift your entire calendar back likewise, including the evening meal.

It's is actually Northern Europeans who are weird in working the whole day through and taking dinner so early. Noel Coward even wrote a rather famous song about it, Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, The Japanese don´t care to, the Chinese wouldn´t dare to, Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one. But Englishmen detest-a siesta.

In the Philippines they have lovely screens to protect you from the glare. In the Malay States, there are hats like plates which the Britishers won't wear. At twelve noon the natives swoon and no further work is done, but mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

  • Siesta is a very common custom in the Indian state of Orissa --where it gets incredibly hot (even by the subcontinent's standards) during the day. They also have some fermented rice dishes on their lunch menu and during my trip there I felt a need to take a nap in the afternoon. My guide explained to it was the rice but it could very well have been the temperature outside.
    – Apoorv
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 14:24
  • 5
    I'm not sure "siesta" applies in this case. Mostly because having a nap is not so common as travel guides may lead you to think. It may be during summer holidays when people have free time and yes, August, can be quite unbearable in some areas. My question is still related to meal times throughout the year. Italy and Portugal would have similar temperatures and a incredibly similar culture, but the meal times are earlier.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 12:00
  • 1
    This is the correct answer. Source: theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/26/… (there are many other sources if you search for "spain working hours" or similar). But yes, fledermaus has a point in that it's not the nap that is the issue, but the long break in working hours associated with the siesta. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 8:29
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    While it is not my intent to disagree with the claim made, it is incorrect to refer to Spain as in a "subtropical" or "tropical clime". Madrid and New York City are at about the same latitude.
    – Dan Fox
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 15:53
  • Although I see the point in this answer, I believe it relies on a false assumption. I am with @fledermaus here, siesta is not as common as people think it is. I can't talk about southern Spain, but where I come from (Basque Country, northern Spain), siesta is uncommon throughout the entire year, maybe with the exception of summer holidays. Commented May 31, 2016 at 9:36

Most think of the later dinner time as stemming from the need to ensure that all family members are home to eat together - which is an important tradition of cohesiveness and family-focus.

This article cites the later dinner-time in Italy as stemming from the long days that people spend out of the home - by implication, earning wage via the livelihood.

  • Thanks. Yes, Latin and Mediterranean countries have that tradition but all of them (except Spain) still have lunch and dinner earlier.
    – fledermaus
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 19:14
  • 2
    It could also be due to the heat. Spain is more arid, esp. toward the south. Indians and arabs tend toward a later dinner because the heat accumulated during the day pacifies the appetite. This is why Indian restaurants will tend to have hours until 1-2am. Spain, as well, is a country with an extensive Moorish/muslim history, and so may have reconciled toward a later time for these reasons. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 19:22
  • @fledermaus Shops and some offices in southern Italy frequently close from 12 till 4 (the heat really is debilitating) and then open again till 8. Allowing for travel time & preparation they aren't likely to eat before 9, so your assertion that it's only Spain is wrong. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 19:10

Countries that produced olive oil in classical times stayed up late because this fuel for oil lamps was cheap ( North Africa & Spain ). In Rome and many other places it was expensive and so people got up with the light and tended to go to bed when it gets dark. This is the norm in many counties around the world.

  • 4
    I'm skeptical of the assertion that Rome didn't have olive oil.
    – MCW
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 18:58
  • Of course they did but it was all imported and therefore more expensive. However the Roman Empire was fuelled by it and a huge hill in Rome is completely made up of broken amphora of olive oil which came from Spain and as they were not glazed could not be used twice.
    – Rob Hughes
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 20:58

In 1942, General Franco changed Spain's time zone to align with Germany's time zone (because Spain and Germany were allied. It is still functioning today with the same timezone, hence, it gets darker later than it should. Perhaps this can be ONE of many reasons why they have lunch and dinner a little later. It'd be interesting to know if they had the same customs before the time zone change was made...

Here's an article (in Spanish) that could explain a few things about the time change. http://sociedad.elpais.com/sociedad/2013/09/25/actualidad/1380137001_972870.html

  • 3
    With DST people change clocks one hour back and fourth, and mealtimes change with the DST, so this doesn't explain anything. Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 20:06

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