Time for Family and Food

Midday Meal During the Fiestas

Living closely with a family in Spain has given me the chance to truly experience the culture their daily schedule. When I studied in Madrid two years ago, I stayed with a host family and was with several fellow American students. Therefore, my experience there was very different. I was not forced to dive into the culture, but rather I was able to maintain a familiar rhythm: speaking English, eating when I wanted, etc. Being in Menorca is much more isolating, so it has pushed me to follow the rules of their culture. Here is a short reflection on a cultural difference I find interesting.


You may already know that the Spanish hours of eating are drastically different from those in the United States. Eating every meal with the family here, this was one of the first things in which I had to adjust. Lunch tends to begin around 2-3pm, and dinner is often at 10 or 11pm. For me, there are deeper implications in these meal differences that go beyond the time of day. In general, Spaniards are family-oriented. The meal is seen as a precious time to come together as a family, take a rest, and enjoy company. For this reason, all businesses close between the hours of 1:30pm and 4:00pm. The work day here is split into two, as everyone is expected to drive home, cook a meal, and eat together. For many families, this is the biggest meal of the day. Typical dishes may include pasta with homemade sauce, cooked chicken and vegetables, or seafood paella. The time and importance placed in this meal continues to surprise me. No matter what is going on in the morning, everything will be over by 2pm in order that people make it home for lunch. What is valuable in this tradition is the attitude that Spaniards have toward their schedule. It is possible that with a long rest built into their day, they are able to work in the evening without feeling overwhelmed. The truth is that meals should be treated with more care, and we could learn from this part of their culture. People here would be mortified to hear about the fast food salads I ate alone at my desk at school in a matter of minutes. In fact, it even embarrasses me a bit!

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