Why do Spaniards eat so late?

Espagnols mangent tard, Pintxos

Why do Spaniards eat their meals so late? A time zone difference could explain the late mealtimes in Spain.

Those lucky enough to have spent a few days in Spain will have noticed that restaurants close much later than in France, and that you can find people sitting around until very late in the evening.

While it’s tempting to associate this behavior with the reputedly more relaxed Spanish lifestyle and the mild climate enjoyed in many regions, there’s more to this habit than meets the eye.

Time zone differences

It would appear that Spain has been living in the wrong time zone for a great many years! If you look at a world map, it’s easy to see that Spain should be in the same UTC time zone asEngland or Portugal, the countries with which it is aligned.

It was leader Franco who decided in 1940 to move the clock forward by one hour (UTC+1) to align himself with Nazi Germany. The Spaniards did not change their habits, however, and found themselves having lunch from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. or dinner from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., with no choice in the matter.

Fuseaux horaires Europe

Extended evenings

The long Spanish evenings and the feeling of extended time can be explained by this time difference. In this country, the sun rises later and sets later. Inhabitants enjoy longer evenings, which may also lead them to dine out later, allowing themselves an aperitif on the terrace at the end of the day to catch the last rays of sunshine before heading home for dinner.

Back to UTC?

Evenings are longer, but nights are shorter. Spaniards are often sleep-deprived due to this permanent time difference. With the sun rising later, it’s sometimes harder for them to wake up naturally.

Government President Mariano Rajoy declared in 2016 that he was working on a new time regime for businesses that could involve a return to the UTC time zone. This idea is likely to be the subject of long-running debate, particularly among those involved in tourism, who highlight the late sunshine as a major advantage for visitors. What do you think?