Vivir en UK

UK vs Spain. Schedules, systems and lunches

Yesterday I was writing a new blog’s section, from now on I am going to keep record of my children’ lunchboxes.

As I was writing I was thinking the life in England is very different from living in Spain.
Not only language and climate is different, but also schedules, customs, traditions …

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(Keep in mind that this post has been written for people who don’t know what it’s like to live in England)

I’m sure sometimes I’ll tell you things that will sound like Chinese, things that only make sense if you know the English context.

For you to be able to understand the reason for this new section of lunch boxes I should explain some things first.

Let me tell you:

Here in the UK, the school dining room system works different too, as it couldn’t be otherwise.

Differences in the school dinning room system

Primary school starts at 8:50 in the morning until 3:15 in the afternoon. All children stay to have lunch at school. EVERYBODY.

Each mother (or father) decides whether to pay for her child’s school dinners or if she prefers to bring pack lunch.

At lunch time the classes are divided in two, the school dinners on one hand and on the other hand those who carry their lunch boxes.

To be honest school dinner is quite cheap only costs £ 2.60 a day, £ 11 a week. (Compared to the price in Spain)
It has to be paid weekly.
According to the parents’ income sometimes you can get Free School Meals.

Since 2014, to promote healthy food for children, the classes of Reception (P4) Year 1 (P5) and Year 2 (1st) have free school meals.

My personal choice

I prefer to send them pack lunches, because in this way I know what they have eaten and how much.
Juliet has the free School Meal as she is in Reception, and although I could prepare her lunchbox like her siblings, she would be the only one with lunch box in her class and she would feel out of place.

To think what to prepare for them to eat each day is not easy, it has to be something that they like and it has to be as healthy and varied as possible.
I remember when I was working and I had to prepare the lunch to take away, it was easier. Because either I was having the leftovers from the previous dinner or I would grab anything to warm up fast.
But with children it is not so simple.
So I want to share my experience and give some ideas to prepare the lunchboxes for the children.

Common mistakes

In my first year doing school lunch boxes for Yvette I made some mistakes, for example, to put things that are better to eat hot, like macaroni with tomato sauce or paella, since in school they do not have microwaves to heat.
As I put it inside the lunch box it would come home in the afternoon.
My daughter, who is very shy and does not like to attract attention, would have killed me if I had put the food in a thermos, so the thermos was not an option for me either.
And also avoid to put the same kind of bread sandwich, because in the end they get bored and did not eat it.
I just needed to get used to it and keep trying different options and combinations until I get what they like.

And now that I’m writing about meals and schedules I’ll tell you another mistake I made …
Try to fit our life in UK to the meal times of Spain.
Serious mistake that was driving me crazy.

Differences in schedules

  • In Spain the children take to school a snack and they eat it around 11 a.m.
  • In the UK the children take their lunch to school and eat in turns, from the youngest to the eldest, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


  • In Spain the children leave school at 1 p.m. and go home to have lunch. They return at 3 p.m., do 2 more hours of lessons and do not leave until 5 p.m. that is when school day finish. (I talk about the schedule that Yvette had when she went to school in Spain)
  • In the UK the children do not go home at lunch time, they eat in school. They finish school day at 3:15 p.m. and do not come back until the next day.

Misunderstanding of systems

In Spain after finishing school, children get a big snack, known as “merienda”
But to give them a snack when they finish school at 3:15 p.m. was a big mistake, because at that time they are very hungry.
If I gave them the snack when they finish school, it would never be enough.
They needed more than a snack otherwise they would spend the rest of the afternoon demanding more food.
Then it was time for dinner but they were not hungry anymore so dinner would last forever.
In the end, bedtime was also delayed and no one was happy.


Accept reality and adjust to English schedule.
Change dinner for merienda and merienda for dinner.
Now when they leave the school we come straight home and have dinner. Yes, yes, at 4 o’clock we have dinner.
Here it is very easy since in winter at 4:15 p.m. it is already pitch-black night.
After dinner … then homework, games, reading, chores or whatever suits us.
About 7:30 in the afternoon we had a merienda like a glass of milk with cookies or yogurt with cereals, a sandwich and fruit, crackers and cheese… always something easy and fun. But more like a merienda than dinner.

The solution seems easy, although it wasn’t easy for me to understand and make the decision …
On this matter, from Spain there will always be different opinions, some people think I’m crazy to send the children to bed without having a “traditional Spanish dinner.”
There is others who think this was the right thing to do and they wonder why I did not do it before …
Others think that the children should have lunch when they are back from school, then having merienda and later having dinner hahahaha

There is a Spanish saying that says:
“Allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres.”
Wherever you go, do what you see.

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