Why Do Americans Eat Dinner So Early?

Dinner might not have the title of the most important meal of the day, but it’s one meal that many people look forward to. Each culture and country differ in how they take dinner and when. In America, many people eat dinner before dark. So, why do Americans eat dinner early?

The average dinner time in the US is 6:22 pm. This is early compared to other countries such as Spain. Americans eat early due to the work schedule, little effort required to make dinners, shorter days, especially in winter, health reasons, and most people choosing to eat out or order takeouts.

However, it is not only the US that has the culture of early dinners. Most countries in America also do, and Australia also has early dinners. But the earliest is still Norway, where people eat dinner as early as 4:30 pm. Here, we discuss why Americans eat dinner early and the dinner time in each continent.

What time is Dinner on Each Continent

Dinner culture varies across countries and continents. If you’re traveling across any of them, one of the things you’ll like to know is the right time to arrive for dinner. Whether it’s an invite or a restaurant. Here are the dinner times on each continent:

1.  Europe

Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, etc., have one of the earliest dinners in the world. Here, people eat dinner as early as 4:30 pm. Norway leads the pack here when it comes to early dinners. In the United Kingdom, dinner usually happens between 6:30 pm and 8 pm.

Other countries in Western Europe, such as Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, etc., also have their dinners between 7 pm and 9 pm. In addition, France has a vibrant Café culture, making it possible for most people to have big lunches.

Mediterranean Europe appears to have some of the latest dinners in the world. Countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc., usually dine much later. In Spain, dinner can be as late as 10 pm or even later. The warmer the climate gets in Europe, the later they eat dinner.

2.  North America

Americans don’t usually make meals a major affair. It’s mostly about sustenance instead of long extended affairs. The average time that people in the US have dinner is 6:22 pm. But some people have it as early as 4:30 pm or as late as 10:59 pm.

Even though many may eat dinner before 7 pm, it doesn’t mean you can’t get food anytime you want. Restaurants are open 24/7 in most major cities. Dinner is usually the biggest meal for most Americans, and there’s a preference for ordering takeouts or eating out.

Canada and Mexico also share similar cultures with food. Dinner isn’t a big affair, especially when eating at home. In Canada, most people eat between 6 pm and 7 pm. Cena in Mexico also comes early.

However, most people tend to eat slightly late when eating out. In Canada, most dinner reservations are between 7 pm and 9 pm. Mexican dinner can be between 8 pm and 11 pm. Unless earring out, dinner is usually a light affair in Mexico since lunch is the biggest meal of the day.

3.  Australia

In recent times, Australians are going for early dinner to create more time for their families. So, most people eat their dinner between 6 pm and 7 pm here. Still, you’ll find restaurants open and taking reservations as late as 9 pm.

If you’re trying to get a reservation at a great restaurant here, it’s advisable to book your reservations for around 8:30 pm to stand a better chance of getting your reservations.

4.  South America

Dinner here happens similarly to what you’ll find in Spain. Most countries start eating after 8 pm even though there are some variations in time. Brazil, Peru, and Chile have their dinner between 8 pm to 9 pm. It could be much later in Argentina, around 9 pm to 10 pm.

5.  Asia

Meal times in Asia are usually late. But it’ll depend on the country. India has one of the latest dinners in the world, with restaurants still taking reservations as late as 11:30 pm. Dinner starts around 7:30 pm.

Other countries such as Thailand have regular dinner times between 6 pm and 10 pm, and China and Japan have relatively early dinners compared to other countries. Most people finish dinners by 9 pm here. The average time for dinner, which is the largest meal of the day, is between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm.

6.  Africa

Dinner time here varies widely. But you can always expect dinner between 6:30 pm and 9:00 pm in most countries. It’ll also depend greatly on the city. Most major cities are open till very late. So, it’s easier to get a late dinner in those places. In South Africa, most people have dinner between 8 pm and 10 pm.

Why Americans Eat Dinner Early?

There are several reasons Americans eat dinner early. Here are some of them:

1.  Most People Order or Eat Out

A high percentage of Americans eat out or order takeouts.

This means they have to order early or book early reservations since most establishments offering these services will stop taking orders or reservations.

  1.     Health Reasons

Early dinners have a lot of health benefits. Americans are quite health-conscious, and eating early is part of that lifestyle. It’s best not to eat anything three hours before bed.

So, most Americans eat dinner early and can take light snacks later on. Most people spend the time between dinner and bed doing various activities, so the food would have digested before they sleep.

3.  Small Effort to Prepare Meals 

One of the things that could make dinner late is preparation. There’s not much effort to make dinners in America, even if it’s the biggest meal of the day for most people. Most people want to spend their evening doing something and not just sitting around the table eating dinner for hours.

4.  Work Schedule

The American workday usually ends between 4-5 pm in most cases. So, people return to their homes early compared to other countries. Given the large size of dinner, eating late could be uncomfortable, especially if you go to bed straight after. The fact that people have to get up early to return to work also means that the daily schedule is tilted towards the early hours.

5.  Shorter Days in Winter

It also gets dark quickly in most parts of the country, especially during the winter. So, it makes practical sense to cook earlier and eat earlier. This also conserves energy since people don’t need to turn their lights on in the kitchen when cooking in the evening. 

In Conclusion

Americans seem to prefer early dinner, a sentiment that neighboring countries like Mexico and Canada share. Early dinners are also common in Australia and China. But most countries appear to prefer dinner around 8 pm.