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Will Covid-19 restrictions change Catalan’s eating schedule forever?

Experts hope new measures will be a push in the right direction toward a healthier schedule for Catalonia


12 December 2020 06:33 PM


Natacha Maurin|Barcelona

Although restaurants have opened once more in Catalonia, the 10 pm curfew and other measures remain. With this comes an unexpected side-effect of Covid-19, an earlier dinner time, which experts hope will push people towards a healthier form of day.

This convention is a far cry from the pattern in other parts of Europe, where generally people eat around 7 pm, or, even as early as 5 pm in places such as the United Kingdom. 

The Barcelona Time Use Initiative, a citizen-based project, convinced the Catalan government in 2014 to create a new department focused on changing this unique timetable, in order to reach healthier lifestyle habits.

In 2017, the government and 110 different entities signed the ‘Pact for Timetable Change’, therefore agreeing to try and change the Catalan schedule by 2025 to reach a healthier type of day. 

Marta Junqué, the Barcelona Time Use initiative coordinator spoke to Catalan News regarding why they believe it is necessary that Catalonia uses the pandemic to "rethink what are the time schedules that individuals and society in general are following." 

"We believe that of course, we need to evolve to a more healthy schedule," she added. 

The history behind Catalonia's schedule 

So why do Catalans have such different schedules to most countries? Partially it is due to how the working day is set out here, which starts from anywhere between nine and 11 am, and finishes around 8 pm, with a two to three-hour lunch break in between.

However, this day has not always been the norm. It was established during Fransico Franco’s dictatorship, in which many people were forced by the hardship people were suffering following the civil war, to work two jobs. 

"Pluriempleo [moonlighting] they called it, and to have that they changed the schedules a bit and started eating later and changed the routine," commented Junqué.

Mixed with this are factors such as Catalonia’s time zone. Despite being more to the west, the area remains at the same time as Berlin, thus causing it to get less sunlight. 

Working legislation and cultural habits, such as the time for the usual evening news program, starting at 9 pm. All of this contributes to creating a sleep late wake up late mentality.

Impact of Covid-19 restrictions

However, as the Covid-19 crisis has forced working from home and curfews calling people inside much before their usual times, Time Use are hopeful that this may be a reset button for the Catalan schedule.

"We can reach a more healthy, more equal, and also a more productive society after the crisis of covid," mentioned Junqué. 

Time Use argues that moving the schedule up a few hours would allow Catalans to better follow their natural circadian rhythm. This rhythm is a natural and internal process, synced with the rising and setting of the sun in order to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

Better aligning with these biological rhythms would diminish risks of stress, obesity, and diabetes, which Junqué describes as "global problems". 

This debate over Catalonia’s unique time schedule has flared up because of the current pandemic, however, only time will tell if Catalans will be able to change their habits once and for all.