Story telling 10: What time do you have dinner?

What's your story

I’m Mark, and my hometown is Toronto, Canada. I was born in 1995.

My mother is French, and my Dad is Canadian. I had holidays in Lyon, France, when I was 12 years old, and it was great meeting my European family, and to see the place where my mother was born. I fondly remember the old buildings and the French meals – some were too rich for me. I was 12 or 13 on one of those holidays and I was at that time feasting on Big Macs! I’m better now, I don’t eat junk food anymore.

I´ve found a lot of similarities between France and Spain. the same things here in Spain. I’m an English teacher in Madrid after I did my Trinity College CertTESOL course, some 4 months ago. It only seems like yesterday when I was panicking about my teaching practice classes. My pad classes now are not bad at all. I find them easy. I guess I was well trained so these classes I do are great and I breeze through them, the preparation of my lesson plans and the teaching.

I use a lot of the material I made on my training course, so I don’t have to work a lot with my lesson plans. It sounds cheesy but I was well prepared on the course so now I am having an easy time.

Some weekends I take the train – the high-speed trains are great – to see other parts of Spain. In two weeks, there are some local holidays so I´ll go visit my grandparents in Lyon.

One of my first surprises about living and working here, is how late everything is. I can notice this in many ways. For example, one of my first days here, I woke up at 08:00, and wanted some milk and jam for my breakfast. “No problem”, I thought, “there is a supermarket down the road”, so I put on some clothes and ran down there, only to find out that it was closed. “Closed!? Something must have happened.” I remembered having seen a smaller grocery store somewhere near here, but when I got there, it was also closed.


I was a bit confused so on my way back I went into the local bar to get a coffee with milk and a croissant for breakfast. The waiter told me that the shops here open at 10:00 in the morning and are open until 22:00 at night

My second surprise came at lunchtime. I was teaching from 10:00 in the morning to 14:00 in the afternoon so I would eat my lunch at 12. I couldn’t see many people in the park having lunch but at this time I was so hungry I didn’t care if I was alone.

In one of my classes we talked about meals and meal times, and my students couldn´t understand what lunch was….a meal at 12:00 o´clock, and only a sandwich or a salad, and then nothing more before going home at 19:00 or 19:30 in the evening!? That didn´t make sense to them. In addition when I told them that we would eat dinner at 17:00 or at the latest at 18:00 in the afternoon, they actually had problems understanding. The students claimed that nobody could eat lunch, the most important meal as early as 12 o´clock! And even more absurd; dinner at 18:00!? What if you got hungry at night, like at 22:00? One more dinner, maybe?


So, I got two new experiences:

-Everything is much later than in Canada, and secondly the meals are different.

Let´s have a look at this.

People in general start working much later than in Canada, and they also finish later. At the weekends you will find people of all ages being out at night. I was quite shocked the first time I saw two parents on their way home with their small kids at 23:30 at night. I have even seen adults having dinner with their children at a restaurant at midnight! What would people say and think if this happened in Toronto?

Breakfast is normally at around 08:00 in the morning, and consists of a coffee with milk, a glass of juice and a croissant. Then some people have a sandwich and maybe a small glass of beer or wine at around 11:00.

Lunchtime is mainly at 14:30 or 15:00, and that is the main meal of the day. Quite like our dinner. You normally have 3 dishes – a starter, a main dish and a dessert. It´s quite normal that the lunch break is one to two hours, and you would end it with an espresso.

Some people have a coffee with milk and some biscuits at around 18:00 in the afternoon, and then the last meal is at around 22:00 at night, which is like our dinner. Some people have the second hot meal of the day, while others have a salad or a big, Spanish sandwich called “bocadillo”.

I don´t know if I will be able to adjust to these things. I need a bigger breakfast in the morning, like some cheese and maybe scrambled eggs. I also find it strange to have dinner so late, and then go to bed directly afterwards.

Because dinner and most other things are so late here, you´ll find a lot of people going for a walk late at night, dropping by their local bar for a drink (or two) or just sitting on a bench watching people walk by.

The thing is that once you start working, you will slowly adapt to these meal times, and instead of the stomach warning you at 12:00 or at 17:00, it will start the growling at 13:00 or 21:00. Strange things happen when you are abroad.

Meal time

Some questions that I haven´t found the answers to yet, are:

  • -When do Spanish people go to bed?
  • -Do they need less sleep than others?
  • -Will I become like them after some time?

The food they eat here is somewhat different from the food back home, but that will be a different story. I´m full and drowsy, and my aim is to be in bed by 00:30 tonight.

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