At the end of a long day, people from all cultures look forward to sitting down and enjoying a satisfying meal. However, different countries set their normal dinner hours at varying times, depending on the nation’s culture. If you’re planning some international travel, it helps to know when to expect crowded restaurants in popular destinations, so we’ve pinpointed the usual dinner times in 12 frequently-visited countries around the world.
Of course, it’s worth noting that people have their own eating and work schedules, so not everyone will fall into these patterns. These are just averages.
If you’re having dinner in Norway, you’ll probably be eating much earlier than you’d expect.
In the northern nation of Norway, residents prefer to get their eating done relatively early in the evening. In fact, the normal time for middag, a Norwegian supper of hearty dishes like stews and mutton casseroles, falls in the early-bird-special time frame of 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In recent years, Australians have adopted earlier eating habits in order to extend their recreational time in the evenings.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “dinner at dusk” is becoming an increasingly popular trend among Australians, particularly those with kids. Reservation website Dimmi reported a 35% uptick in Australian dinner reservations between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. in 2016, and many Aussies who choose to eat early said that their desire for family time after dinner prompted these choices.
Chinese dinners typically fall between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
In China, most workers return home at around 6 p.m., which marks the beginning of the dinnertime hour. On average, the Chinese eat their largest meal of the day between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
While late-night dining options exist in major Japanese cities, they’re still not the norm.
In a recent piece about the ever-evolving culinary scene in Tokyo, Eater made the following observation: “Tokyo is not Barcelona.” Specifically, they meant that dinners in Japanese cities tend to happen earlier than they would in cities with more nocturnal dining cultures, with most restaurants serving dinner between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
While the UK is consistently adopting later dinner practices, the overlap between “dinner” and “tea” can encourage earlier timing for evening meals.
For many generations, UK residents have quibbled over whether their major evening meal should be referred to as “tea” or “dinner”.It’s been a debate from both a regional and a class-based perspective, but because “tea” also refers to an afternoon repast, the lines get a bit blurry. UK evening meals are still served a bit earlier than they are elsewhere in Europe, with the dinner hour ranging from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Lunch, also known as “la comida,” is the major meal in Mexican culture, with “la cena” (dinner) consisting of a light snack in the late evening.
The biggest meal of the day in Mexico usually comes in the mid-afternoon in the form of la comida, a multi-course spread including sopa (soup) or ensalada (salad), guisado (an entree), and postre (dessert). Because the major dining period happens during midday, the traditional “dinner” isn’t really a thing in Mexico. Instead, Mexicans opt for a small bite between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., known as “la cena.” This can consist of a hot drink and bread, a street taco, or any other snack item meant to stave off nighttime munchies.
Americans typically have dinner between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
While the average time people ate dinner was exactly 6:22 p.m., it varies an can be anywhere from 4:30 p.m. to 10:59 p.m.
Unlike other countries, the US typically has a very short lunch – making dinner the biggest and longest meal.
Americans also are ordering more take out and eating out more, making dinner easier than it once was.
The French typically eat dinner between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., but later evening meals aren’t uncommon in major metropolitan areas like Paris.
Thanks to its vibrant cafe culture, long lunch breaks are a popular concept in France, and the French tend to enjoy a substantial meal in the middle of the day. When it comes to dinner, French restaurants experience particularly busy rushes during the 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. time stretch.
However, major cities like Paris extend their dining periods into the later hours, so if you’re looking to settle in for a coq au vin dinner at 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m., you won’t raise any Parisian eyebrows.
South Africans, whether in cities or in rural areas, sit down for dinner between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
No matter where you are in South Africa, you probably tend to follow a three-meal-a-day pattern, with dinner being served between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Mediterranean nations like Italy appreciate later dinner times, complete with pre-meal drinks and bites.
The mild temperatures and vibrant food and beverage culture of Italy absolutely inform the country’s tradition of leisurely dinners that start late in the evening, allowing diners to fully enjoy the long, sunny summer days before sitting down for a large meal with several courses. Italian dinners usually start between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., and they typically begin with an antipasti course of snack-sized bites paired with aperitivo cocktails before proceeding to primi(pasta), secondi (meat or fish), and dolci (dessert).
In Brazil, dinnertime is an important after-work tradition.
Dinner in Brazil is usually between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. when people are getting off of work.
In Brazil, dinner at home with the family is very important, and it is generally considered rude to be eating on-the-go.
The nation with the latest dinner time? Spain takes the top spot.
A fact so well-known that it’s become a bit of a cliche, the Spanish like to take their dinners later than the rest of the world. Spaniards eat dinner at 9 p.m. at the earliest, but it’s very common to start the evening meal as late as 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. According to the BBC, this cultural hallmark may be due to confusion around Spain’s time zone, dating back to World War II.
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