The daily routines of Spanish people differ greatly from those of Northern European people. This contrast is due in part to the nature of our local customs themselves, but it also comes down to timing. If you want to learn some more about these cultural differences, continue reading.
It is well known that Spanish people do everything very late, but how much do you know about the way this actually works?
PARTS OF THE DAY
The morning (la mañana) lasts from midnight until noon. However, when referring to the time period between midnight and 5am, you can also say “la madrugada”.
Midday (medio día) is between noon and 3pm
The afternoon and evening (la tarde) is from 4pm to 8pm
The night (la noche) lasts from midnight to 6am
It is also important to point out that the Spanish week starts on Monday and not on Sunday
Sleeping hours: During the week, Spanish people may get up at 6am, 7am or 8am depending on what time they start working and how far their workplace is from their home. If people live in Madrid or Barcelona, it may take them an hour to arrive at their office). After lunch, if people live close to work they may take a “siesta” between 3pm and 4pm, and at night they may go to bed at midnight. During the weekend, they tend to get up really late (around noon or even 1pm) depending on what time they went to bed the night before. Spanish people also return home from parties very late.
Coffee break: This is a good time to meet with your best friend and catch up with life, usually at around 4pm or 5pm.
TV time: The most interesting TV programs usually start at 9pm as everybody will have finally arrived home. At the weekends, Spaniards meet their friends at that time (as a general rule), so on those days the TV programs shown tend to be of the worst quality.
Partying: People who want to go partying will usually not leave home earlier than 11pm (after dinner), although at that time bars are mostly empty. They start to get busy at around 1am or 2am. Before going to bars, many people take to drinking alcohol on the street (known as “hacer botellón”) or meet their friends at one of their houses, where they eat dinner together.
- Arriving late: This is the most famous Spanish cliché, and it is actually true. Spanish people in general are always late. If you organize a dinner at 9pm, people won't start coming until 10pm. If you arrange a special meet-up with a fantastic Spanish girl or boy, you will probably find yourself waiting for her/him for at least 15 minutes (known as minutos de cortesía or "courtesy minutes"). However, this only works for meetings, because if you are due to catch a bus or a train, these are highly punctual.
Spanish people tend to eat at regular intervals (as many as 5 or 6 times per day)! The main meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner, but they also might have other two or three: almuerzo, merienda and aperitivo.
- Desayuno: Depending on the time at which they leave the house to go to work, breakfast may be eaten any time from 6-9am. It usually consists of coffee with milk, a few slices of toast with chopped tomato and olive oil, butter or jam. As an alternative, they may eat pastry and drink an orange juice.
- Almuerzo: There are people who may feel hungry at 11am or 12pm. They may eat a sandwich or a piece of fruit.
- Aperitivo- Vermut: During the weekends it is common to have “el aperitivo” (some finger food) and “vermut” (wine with some herbs) at noon or 1pm with your friends before you have lunch with your family.
- Comida: In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal, and people usually have it between 1pm and 3pm. It consists of a starter (salad, soup or some vegetables), a main dish (meat or fish with some trimmings), a dessert and a coffee.
- Merienda: Although this snacking habit is more common among children, adults also engage in it sometimes. It usually consists of a coffee or hot chocolate with some pastries (between 6-7pm).
Cena: It is similar to comida, but usually lighter. People usually only eat the main dish or the starter. (between 9-10pm). However, if you go out to dinner with your family, friends or your workmates, you will normally eat as much food as you would at lunch time.
Although Spanish people love getting up very late, this is not always possible due to the demands of working life. However, the business hours may vary depending on where they work.
- Shops: From Monday to Friday, shops usually open at 10am and remain open until 1:30- 2pm. Then they generally close until 5pm/5:30pm, after which they reopen until 8pm/8:30pm. On Saturdays, shops usually open between 10am and 1:30-2pm. Some shops in the city center may not close at midday, and they close on Sundays.
- Supermarkets: Supermarkets open at 10am and close at 9:30pm from Monday to Saturday. There are some shops that also open on Sunday.
- Shopping centers: Shopping centers usually open every day from 10am to 10pm.
- Offices: People who work in offices usually work from Monday to Friday, and start the working day between 8-9am, stopping for lunch between 2-3pm and finishing at 6pm.
- Public administration jobs: People who work for the public sector only work from Monday to Friday and usually work shorter hours that start at 8-9am and finish at 2-3pm. In this way, if you need to have any burocratic procedure dealt with in Spain, keep in mind that you only will be able to do so in the morning and early afternoon.
- Banks: Banks usually open between 8am and 2pm from Monday to Friday, although recently some bank branches have started to remain open on some evenings and Saturday mornings.
- Bars, restaurants, cafes: The opening hours of these places vary depending on the sector, the season, the neighbourhood...etc. In other words, you can find a typical Spanish bar where you can have your breakfast and all your meals which opens early in the morning (from 6-8am) and remains open til really late (often midnight), and other bars where you can order your tapas for dinner while you drink something which may only open in the evenings from 7-8pm til midnight. There are also bars where only drink is served that open late (11pm-3am), with some even remaining open until 6am. These bars are normally closed on Mondays.
- Post offices: Depending on the office and on occasional shifts in opening hours, some post offices open only in the mornings, while others are open for the whole day. Some of them also open on Saturday mornings.
- Museums: Museums normally open at 9am and close at 8-9pm. They open every day except on Mondays.
- Schools: Children go to School from Monday to Friday and they usually start between 8:30/9am and finish at 2-3pm. There are some schools that close between 1pm and 3pm and reopen at 3pm, closing again at 5pm.
- University: Student attend university from Monday to Friday, although their timetables vary depending on the university and the degree. However, there are usually two shifts:
- The morning shift (turno de mañana): This may last from 8am-2pm
- The evening shift (turno de tarde): This may last from 3pm-8pm