Why do Spaniards eat dinner so late?

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Why do Spaniards eat dinner so late?

If you have travelled to Europe, you have noticed that the Spaniards do dine rather late. You probably asked yourself – why do Spaniards eat dinner so late?

There are many possible answers, one of which includes, they are idiocentric people who enjoy life to the fullest. Enjoying siestas, a customary afternoon nap, where shops and restaurants close for a couple of hours every day.

Restaurants in  Spain are bustling at an hour when most other countries restaurants would be closing their kitchens and locking doors for the night.

People eating late at night in Spain

photo credit: Food & Wine Magazine

While these might give Spain the appearance to be the most relaxed and laid back country in the world. The truth or the real reason why Spaniards eat dinner at 10 pm is due to history and politics.

According to BBC, the Spaniards are living in the wrong time zone, and have been for more than 70 years. A glance at the world map would tell you that Spain is in the same longitude as the UK, Portugal and Morocco.  Which means Spain should be in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and not go by Central European Time (CET) as it does.

How did this come to be?

In 1940, General Francisco Franco changed Spain’s time zone, moving the clocks one hour forward in solidarity with Nazi Germany. Interestingly, the clocks were never changed back ever since.

There are some advantages in keeping the time as is. The sun rises later and sets later, making for long summer days which the tourist industry believes is the reason why tourists visit Spain and keep returning. However,  it can also mean darker winter mornings, with the sun not rising until after 9 a.m.

Carnivals parade with women in pink outfits

photo credit: xavierarnau via iStock

Although siesta seems to be a tradition any country would enjoy, the reality is that switching to GMT is paramount to Spaniard’s health and well being.

“The fact that the time in Spain doesn’t correspond to the sun affects health, especially sleep,”José Luis Casero, president of the National Commission for the Rationalization of Spanish Schedules, told the BBC. “If we changed time zones, the sun would rise one hour earlier and we’d wake up more naturally, meal times would be one hour earlier and we’d get an extra hour’s sleep.”

Lack of sleep has many health related risks and there is well-documented evidence of the danger of sleep deprivation.

Spain is a country with a diverse landscape, a wealth of history, culinary delights and with a population with a flare for celebrating all the good things in life.  Spain will remain a top destination for many tourists.

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