April 18, 2024 | Allison Robertson

Perception of Time in Argentina


Calling All Night Owls 

Argentina is known as the best place for night owls—they stay up late and sleep in the next morning, eat four meals a day, they're late for everything, and they schedule their work days around their afternoon naps.

But that’s not all.

Cafe and man checking watch split image

Punctuality

Let’s start with punctuality in general. Argentines are rarely on time. In fact, being 30-45 mins late (for almost anything) is the norm in most parts of Argentina. This includes meetings, events, parties, etc.

Punctuality is not a virtue in Argentina. If you’re late, you’re early.
Hand under blanket reaching out for alarm clockAna Blazic Pavlovic, Shutterstock

Exceptions

There are few exceptions in which Argentines feel it is important to show up on time: the theater, soccer games, and lunchtime (there’s a reason for this one.)
Clock in front of lunch dishtuthelens, Shutterstock

Expectations of Others

The thing is, Argentines expect foreigners to be on time, even though they won’t be. So if you’re doing business, arrive on time—but be prepared to wait.

Man sitting on white chair and waitingG-Stock Studio, Shutterstock

Priorities

Argentines prioritize people over punctuality. They feel it is more important to build relationships than worry about the time.

Friends sitting on a table and laughingfizkes, Shutterstock

Doing Business in Argentina

If you’re doing business in Argentina, you’ll find that your host will spend a great deal of time getting to know you and engaging in conversation before getting down to business—this may include multiple separate meetings, too.

Two Business men having conversationmarvent, Shutterstock

Meal Times: Breakfast

Most people in Argentina have four meals per day.

Breakfast is any time before 10:00am—some people will have two small breakfasts in this time, the first being around 7:00am (if they’re awake at that time) and the second being closer to 10:00am.

Both of these are typically light meals consisting of toast, fruit and/or yogurt.

Sandwich with avocado with egg and fruit yougurtNisumi, Shutterstock

Meal Times: Lunch

Lunch is typically had sometime between 12:00pm and 2:00pm. More so on the earlier side if they did not have the second breakfast.

Lunch is usually their biggest meal, including meats, salads, sandwiches, quiches, empanadas, etc.

Empanadas filled with meat on a black plateAlexandr Vorobev, Shutterstock

Meal Times: Afternoon Snack

The afternoon snack is typically had around tea time, 5:00pm. This is not dinner. This afternoon snack is had to hold people over until the late dinner time.

Afternoon snacks are light meals similar to breakfast, with coffee, biscuits, bread dipped in sweet milk, or light sandwiches.

coffee and biscuits on a wooden tablekuvona, Shutterctock

Meal Times: Dinner

Dinner is usually after 10:00pm. Foreigners refer to it more as a midnight meal than dinner. At some restaurants you can get dinner as early as 8:00pm, and it will be open until after midnight.

Dinner is not the largest meal usually, but it does include typical dinner sized meals.

Meat cooked on a grillJames, Flickr

Weekend Meals

On weekends, Argentines eat their meals even later than during the week. And they are big on get-together and parties, and staying up very late.

People cheering and having dinner outdoorAskar Abayev, Pexels

Dinner Parties

If you’re invited to a dinner party in Argentina it is expected that you will arrive 30-45 mins after the specified time. If you arrive at the time you were invited, you will be early and the host may not be ready.

People cheering and having dinnerfauxels, Pexels

Nightlife

The nightclubs and bars in Argentina are empty until after 11:30pm. Even if they are open earlier, it’s not likely anyone will be there. Nightlife in Argentina starts very late.

People partying with a dicso lights in a barPatrick Black, Jr, Pexels

Starting the Day

Given that Argentines seem to be up all night, eating and socializing, you may be wondering what time they get up in the morning? And how do they manage to function all day after being up all night?

girl in white pajamas doing morning scratchfizkes, Shutterstock

Mornings

First of all, Argentines are used to this schedule, so it’s normal for them. Many people go to bed around midnight or so, and wake up around 6:00am-7:00am, having still had a 6-7 hour sleep.

Many people also sleep in much later.

Man sleeping while hugging a pillowAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Mornings: Businesses

In the smaller towns of Argentina, businesses have a later start time, opening around 9:00-10:00am—some even later, depending on the owner’s preference.

door with black poster for opening hoursErik Mclean, Pexels

Early Mornings

If you walk the streets of Argentina in the wee hours of the morning, you’ll be one of very few people, and your shop options will be limited.

Someone walking on Brown PathwayTobi, Pexels

Coffee Breaks

Coffee breaks are important in Argentina, and to-go coffee is a no-go. Argentines believe a coffee break should be exactly that—a break. You will sit down with your friends or coworkers and enjoy a well-deserved cup of coffee.

This encourages people to slow down and rest often.

Thoughtful woman drinking coffee during brainstormSora Shimazaki, Pexels

Afternoon Naps

On that note, another very common part of the day includes the siesta. Nearly all Argentines will stop what they’re doing and have an afternoon nap. It happens between lunch and afternoon snack, and can be anywhere from 1-2 hours long.

Woman sleeping in cozy hammock in flatKATRIN BOLOVTSOVA, Pexels

Siestas: Businesses

Siestas are so important that many businesses, especially in the smaller towns, will close up shop for a few hours so they can go home for their nap.

Women sleeping on the bed with her dogMeruyert Gonullu, Pexels

Siestas: A Generational Thing

It is said that the siesta tradition is slowly retiring, and most of the people who take part in afternoon naps are retired folk, elderly, or those whose employment schedules work around it.

Not everyone takes a siesta during the week anymore—but it is still often enough that it is worth mentioning.

Elderly Woman Sleeping on the ArmchairKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Back to Punctuality

As mentioned previously, Argentines make an exception in regards to punctuality when it comes to lunchtime, and this is because of the siesta. If you’re late for lunch, it cuts into your siesta time.

So, although it is common to be late for almost everything else, lunchtime is not one of them.

Clock in front of men eating lunchpvproductions, Freepik

Businesses Opening Hours

Because they start later and close for their siesta, many of these shops will be open much later at night to accommodate. Most shops are open until 8:00pm or later.

Opening Hours Sign Hanging behind a Store WindowErik Mclean, Pexels

Working Hours

Typical working hours for most employees are in two main shifts: 8:30am-12:00pm and 4:00-8:00pm. This accommodates the afternoon naps they take. Employees will either work both shifts, or only one.
Shallow Focus Photo of White Open SigangeTim Mossholder, Pexels

Working Hours Allotment

Another important thing to note is that it is apparently unlawful to work more than 48 hours per week in Argentina. Overtime is a rarity.
sleepy man working overtime at officekrakenimages.com, Freepik

School Schedules

The school week runs from Monday to Friday. Most schools divide their day into two sessions and the children attend one session per day.
School books and pencils near black clockededchechine, Freepik

School Hours

The first session runs from around 8:15am to 12:15pm, and the second session runs from 1:00pm to 5:15pm.

This may vary depending on school and location.
Kids with backpacks going to schoolYan Krukau, Pexels

School Lunches

Since school is generally taught in four-hour shifts, most schools do not include lunch breaks. Though, this can vary. Some schools may start at 8:00am and end later, around 1:00pm, and may include a lunch break.

Otherwise, kids eat when they get home.
Boy Sitting on Chair in Front of Table With Lunch BoxYan Krukau, Pexels

Why is everything so much later in Argentina?

Argentina gets a lot of their customs from the Spanish, who after the war in 1940 changed to Central European Time (CET), which set their schedules (specifically meal times) later.

So basically, time change is to blame.

Man Setting Time on a Wall ClockTima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

Late Working Hours

Since adapting to the time change, (and having numerous breaks during the day) many people work later into the evening—around 8:00-9:00pm. This naturally pushes dinner later into the night.

man doing paperwork in late hoursDziana Hasanbekava, Pexels

How do children manage the late schedule?

Children in Argentina are either used to it, or their parents make them dinners earlier. For the children who attend the later school day, they will eat before and after school, and go to bed not long after that.
Young girl sleeping with teddy bearKetut Subiyanto, Pexels

Young Families

Children still get adequate sleep, even if that means alternating their meal schedules different from that of their parents—though it should also be noted that families with small children may change their schedule as a whole to accommodate their young family.
Father and Daughter sleeping together in red pajamasRDNE Stock project, Pexels

Tourism

Tourist areas in Argentina are more accommodating to foreigners than the small towns. Business are open earlier, and most don’t close for siestas.

image of colorful buildings and kiosk in ArgentinaTed McGrath, Flickr

Night Owls Unite

Argentina is known as being a whole country for night owls, given their late meals and elaborate night-life. You won’t miss much when you sleep in after a night of social dining, and your employer won’t expect you too early.

Best of all, you can recuperate during your afternoon siesta!
Group of Friends Sitting on Beach Sand in front of tentKindel Media, Pexels

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to experience traditional Argentine culture, check out the smaller towns where you can indulge in relaxing coffee breaks, big lunches, afternoon naps, and late-night socializing.

Person Holding World GlobePorapak Apichodilok, Pexels


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