Eating Habits in Spain

San Sebastian

Food is central to the Basque life, this can be seen in the people’s eating habits and eating hours. The eating habits in the Basque Region, as well as the rest of Spain, take some getting used to. They eat much later than other countries in Europe and so you have to know when to stock up. At around seven or eight o’clock in the evening, while the rest of Europe is eating their dinner, you can see the people of Spain ambling leisurely about the avenues, only to eat much later at around nine or ten o’clock in the evening.

Here is a rundown of Spain’s eating habits and schedule:

Breakfast (Desayuno)
- This is typically light, just bread or toast and coffee.
- Usually a hurried affair, Spaniards eat this meal before leaving for work.
- This is so light a meal that Spaniards sometimes skip it entirely!
- Breakfast is eaten at around 8:00 a.m.

Coffee Break (El Café)

San Sebastian

- This is the “second” breakfast, to make up for the previous light meal.
- At around 10:00 a.m., Spaniards take a coffee break – something more substantial, such as a sweet roll (galleta) or a grilled roll rubbed with tomato and garlic (tostada). This is washed down with coffee.
- Coffee is integral to Spanish culture and the Spaniards like it black and strong. If you prefer your coffee to be a bit lighter, then order the Café Americano, which is coffee watered down to the American’s preference.
- Some prefer to eat pintxos, which is more substantial and can tide one over until the late lunch at 2:00 p.m.

Lunch (La Comida)

San Sebastian

- While others hurry with their lunch, Spaniards take their time eating what they consider as the principal meal of the day.
- This is eaten between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. and is a three-course meal with wine and bread. The first course may be a salad or a bowl of soup, the second, an entrée with meat, poultry or fish. Dessert is usually made up of a pudding or some fruit. Wine is often included in the cost of the meal.
- Spaniards often close shop and go home to eat this meal, then take a brief nap (siesta) before returning to work.
- Most restaurants offer a menu del dia, which is a complete lunch for the price of one.

Afternoon snack (La merienda)
- Since dinner is a late affair, a snack is eaten at around 6:00 p.m. to tide one over until dinner.
- This light snack may include a hot drink, a pastry or a sandwich.

Dinner (La Cena)
- Dinner is eaten anywhere from 9:00 and can last until midnight.
- This meal is often eaten at a bar or a restaurant, while enjoying the company and chatter of friends.
- This may compose of a full meal or tapas eaten while hopping from one tapas bar to another.

Some things to remember when eating a meal in Spain:
- Keep your hands visible on the table throughout the course of a meal.
- Use your flatware to eat everything, eating with your fingers is considered a no-no!
- When invited to dine in someone’s house, wait to be invited before sitting and wait for the hostess to start before you do.
- Indicate that you are finished with your meal by placing your knife and fork parallel on the plate, with the handles facing right and the tines up.