I'm preparing a trip to British Columbia (Kootenays area) in early August, and since I like to organise my days in detail (all the way from getting up to going to bed) in order to get the most out of my time, I'd like to have a heads-up on general routines so as not to go against the grain (I had a bad experience with this in Spain and the UK when I first started travelling).

It gets pointless when you plan a slightly late dinner-time in order to enjoy daylight hours and then discover restaurants are getting ready to close down in half an hour.

I'm from Portugal and I already know meals are fairly different.

Heavy lunch at about 12-1 pm and relatively heavy dinner at about 8 pm.

Light lunch at about 12 and relatively heavy dinner at about 6-7 pm.

But since sunrise and sunset times are way different, I'd like to have a general feeling about the usual times people get up and call it a day.

Sunrise at 6.30 am, most people get up at about 7 am (8-9 am weekends) (1)
sunset at 9 pm, most people go to bed at about 11-12 pm (about 10 pm for children).

Sunrise at 5.30am. Does that mean folks get up at about 6 am? Sunset at 8 pm, similar to the UK. Does the evening tend to end early?

(1) Daylight hours change throughout the year, but most people get up about half an hour before or after sunrise (depending if it's winter or summer); going to bed seems to be little affected by sunset times, unlike getting up.

  • 3
    Can't you avoid the restaurant problem just by looking at Google maps to get an impression of when restaurants tend to close? – David Richerby Jul 21 '18 at 14:46
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    And hours of light change a lot. Even in southern Canda, daylight varies from about 8hrs in the winter to 16hrs in the summer. But, then again, almost the same is true for Portugal: Lisbon has about 9hrs in the winter and 15hrs in the summer. So I'm not sure why you think that there's a single time you can quote as "sunrise" or "sunset" or why you think that people's daily routine really depends much on when the sun rises and sets. – David Richerby Jul 21 '18 at 14:50
  • Sara, the short answer to your question is just that in Canada, people eat dinner "early" compared to in Portugal (Europe generally - especially Portugal!) – Fattie Jul 22 '18 at 15:06
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    As others have said, your comments about the Sun are "totally wrong". Only in Europe do people have any connection to sunrise/sunset. In North America there is no concern at all for the natural sunrise/sunset day. The rhythms of nature are completely ignored (rhythms of the sports seasons are important). – Fattie Jul 22 '18 at 15:08
  • Sorry. Had an internet connection meltdown through the weekend and couldn't stop by. – SC for reinstatement of Monica Jul 23 '18 at 9:01

No, the sunrise time does not have a big effect on the Canadian day. Most people go to work/school about 8 or 9, and get up accordingly. This depends on where you are of course. A farming community will be earlier, and also if you are camping or similar. Sunrise varies through the year. That 5:30 can be 8:30 in the winter - and the variation can be more extreme if you go to the far north.

You are right about mealtimes. Canadians eat around 6-7, and you may find some restaurants starting to shut up shop around 8, just when an urban European is starting to think about eating. This is likely to be true in the Kootenays. Plan to eat around six, and be finished before 8.

Nightlife depends on the place. A major city will be thriving through the night. Somewhere like the Kootenays. You should not assume there will be anything open after 9 or 10, and a lot of things will close before that.

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    OP is going to the Kootenays. There are no major cities, and, indeed, the whole area will be shockingly sparsely populated for someone from Europe. – Alexander Woo Jul 22 '18 at 1:42
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    "around 8, just when an urban European is starting to think about eating. " - although this is likely true for OP being from Portugal, note that in most North-European countries dinner times are earlier and tend to be 5 - 7 pm as well. – CompuChip Jul 22 '18 at 5:29
  • In the other extreme, in Spain, 10pm is an appropriate dinner time. – SC for reinstatement of Monica Jul 23 '18 at 8:54
  • @CompuChip Belgian here, not sure if that qualifies for your North-Europe. We generally eat around 6-7 pm, just like Canadians, but almost all restaurants I know are open well past 9. When I go to a restaurant, I expect to be there for at least a few hours. When I visited Canada earlier this year, the (relatively) early closing really caught me off guard one of the first days. – DonFusili Jul 23 '18 at 13:09

I live in Canada.

The daylight hours vary significantly here. I live in southern Canada, on the prairies, and the daylight variation is not as severe here as it is in the north. Still, in late June we get about 17 hours of daylight, and in late December, only about seven. It's just not practical to change one's waking hours. :)

I personally get up around 7 am and go to bed around 10-11 pm, but some get up earlier than I do, and some sleep in later than I do.

As for meals, lunch usually starts between 11 am and 1 pm (noon is the most common time, but people who are traveling often have a more relaxed meal schedule, which also works well in restaurants because it can avoid the busiest times). Supper is usually at 6-7 pm but some eat earlier (particularly older people without rigid work schedules), and some eat later. In particular, high-end dining is often done at a later time than normal-quality dining. It would not be unusual to get a reservation at a really high-end restaurant for 8 or 9 pm. (Personally, I avoid late meals because it causes acid reflux for me; I try to eat no later than 8:00. But that's a personal consideration.)

Nightlife varies wildly by city. City centres may be booming in the late evening in larger cities, or be very quiet in smaller cities. (My city of 250,000 is pretty quiet downtown after about 7 pm.)

As always, if you are a traveler here, you can follow your own schedule, although it isn't uncommon for restaurants in some areas to close by about 8 pm, particularly in smaller centres. If in doubt, check before you go. Even in this case, hours tend to be more extended on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • Even in Portugal, daylight hours vary signifcantly through the year, between about nine and fifteen hours. (The northern tip of Portugal is about half a degree higher in latitude than the southern tip of Ontario.) – David Richerby Jul 21 '18 at 14:59
  • @DavidRicherby Indeed. Southern Ontario is at about 42-44 degrees latitude. The principally-populated parts of western Canada, where I live, are between 49 and 52 degrees. – Jim MacKenzie Jul 21 '18 at 17:58
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    People are often surprised to learn that most of the U.K. is significantly father north than the urban areas of Canada – Tim Jul 21 '18 at 22:31
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    @Tim In particular, all of the UK is north of the long straight bit of the US-Canadian border. – David Richerby Jul 22 '18 at 11:47
  • @DavidRicherby The southernmost parts of Canada are at the same latitude as northern California. – Jim MacKenzie Jul 22 '18 at 13:52

Your statements about meal times is correct. Restaurants generally follow the same patterns but there are always some exceptions including ones open 24/hours per day. Typically though breakfast service is from 7 to 10, lunch from 11:30-2 and dinner starts at 5:30 which most restaurants winding down quite a bit by 9, meaning the kitchen closes around that time, although people can stay an hour later or so. This is typical but there are quite some variations. Busy places often are open from lunch until dinner time and do not close in between, although can be quite empty from 2-6 PM.

The sunrise and sunset time varies daily and between the earliest sunrise and latest one, there are quite a few hours. People do not generally change their routine for that, it would be too disruptive. Transport has fixed rush hour schedules morning and evenings which also do not change as sunrise and sunset times do.

Most people's schedules are driven around work hours weekdays and shift later during the weekend. So most people wake up between 7-8 and end up sleeping around 11-12. Some people purposely shift their days earlier or later (as do I because if feels better for me and saves me transit time). Generally though people sleep in more in the weekends and stay up later Friday and Saturday night. Restaurant meals are often adjusted accordingly with breakfast served in 11 instead of 10.

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