Mealtimes In Spanish-speaking Countries


Main meal of the day

The main mealtime in Spain is lunch (la comida, el almuerzo), which usually takes place between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., has at least two courses and may involve a short half-hour 'siesta' afterwards.

Breakfast (el desayuno) is light and nowaways often takes place midmorning at 10 or 11 a.m. rather than first thing. At about 6 p.m. people usually have a snack (la merienda) to tide them over until the evening meal at about 9 or 10 p.m., which is lighter than lunch. At conferences etc, the main meal is usually in the evening, after 10 p.m. (la cena).

Table manners

Hands should always be kept on top of the table, never under it, whether you are using both hands or not, though elbows should not be kept off it. Knives are not used so much in Spain - it is perfectly correct to use your fork with your right hand when eating an omelette, for example, which does not need a knife to cut it, and any extra help can be procided by a small piece of bread in your left hand. Before starting to eat in company, ?Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal) is often said

The traditional Christmas

Although it is not a holiday, families get together on Christmas Eve for a traditional evening meal, which can included anything from lamb to red bream to turkey. Christmas Day is a holiday and usually spent with the family, although the meal is not as important as in the USA or UK.

The traditional New Year

On New Year's Eve people usually have a formal evening meal with their relations and at midnight eat twelve grapes to the chimes of the clock in the La Puerta del Sol in Madrid. This is supposed to bring good luck. Afterwards the younger generations go out to party the night away and stop in a café for breakfast before going home. New Year's Day is a holiday.


People smoke a lot in Spain. Anti-smoking regulations have been introduced and smoking is now officially banned in many places where it was once customary. In Latin America you should expect to find smoking is still widely tolerated. Restaurants and cafés may have a separate area for smokers.

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