Why do Spaniards eat so late?


Good luck getting a table at 11 pm anywhere in Spain without a dinner reservation. That’s when restaurants are at their busiest.

So why do Spaniards dine so much later than everybody else?

The answer will surprise you. It’s more political than cultural.

The Spanish used to eat dinner at the same time as other Europeans. Spaniards ate dinner in Barcelona at the same Londoners ate theirs. Spain and Britain are geographically in the same time zone.

But In 1942 the country moved its clocks ahead one hour, as if Spain were located next to Germany in the next time zone. And that was precisely the point.

A few years earlier, Adolf Hitler had helped the conservative right wing prevail over the leftist Republicans in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Spain’s fascist dictator, Generalissimo Franco, showed his gratitude by aligning the country with Nazi Germany and making the time in Madrid the same as in Berlin.

That change threw Spain into a time warp. The country is out of sync with the sun, and that adversely affects their productivity. They start work at 9, but live out the rest of the day on solar time. Consequently, many are sleep-deprived, and workers are not as productive as they could be. They have lunch at what feels like 1:00, like most of Europe, but their watches tell them it is 2:00. So they have to take morning breaks in the morning to get them through the five hours until lunch. The midday meal is substantial and includes a few glasses of wine. Nobody feels much like working after that, especially in the summer heat. (That part is cultural.) Businesses remain closed for two to three hours in the afternoon and stay open until nine to make up the time.

And there you are: dinner doesn’t start until 10 or 11.

One man is trying to return to Greenwich Mean Time for the good of the country. Read about Ignacio Buqueras in the Wall Street Journal.

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