There is nothing surprising when we say that cultures differ depending on a particular region of the world. This is perfectly normal, as different people do things differently on a daily basis but they can still come to an understanding and do business together. You would expect the office rituals to be more or less uniform worldwide but matters couldn’t be more different. From the length of the break, all the way to consuming alcohol at the workplace, office rituals vary significantly across the globe. What you deem as preposterous is normal in Japan, for instance, and the details that you don’t pay much attention to might shock an Australian office worker. Care to find out more about the peculiarities of office rituals from around the world?
The country that inherited the rich history of the Roman Empire has many work-related oddities that concern, you guessed it: food. It’s not uncommon for Italian workers in rural areas to leave work at lunchtime and go home to eat their meal. This practice is rarer in big cities like Rome or Milano, where workers get a quick bite to eat in a street restaurant. The drink of their choice is coffee which is consumed in a single swift sip. In fact, most Italian workers do not bother to eat a proper breakfast, because they supplant it with a quick espresso. Although they eat a lot of pasta and vegetables for lunch, Italians rarely opt for large breakfasts.
Chinese enterprises have only recently started implementing Western capitalistic methods of work. This means that their office manners are quite traditional and hierarchy is respected. Work often comes before family and definitely before meals such as breakfast. Some Chinese workers do not even bother to have a break for breakfast as they eat it on the go while still working. The beverage favored by many is tea that is drunk throughout the day and it is more potent in the sense that it has more caffeine than the tea brands we are used to. The layout of the office is dictated by Feng shui which determines where bosses sit and which places belong to their inferiors.
Moving onto the American continent, here we find the country that some of the longest work hours in the world. However, Mexicans are not very productive in comparison to the number of hours they spend at work. This is perhaps due to the fact that they are known to take a nap in the middle of the day called a siesta. Even drinking a lot of coffee does not help boost productivity levels.
Although Australian office culture originates in the West, it has taken up many elements of Asian tradition which makes it quite unique. For instance, it is common to hear Aussies swearing in the office and in general using bad language when doing business. Of course, they know how to behave in the company of foreigners but when doing business among themselves, Australians are not afraid to speak their mind. Secondly, there is a developed coffee culture in big cities, such as Melbourne, Sydney or Perth. Even in the south of the continent there is a great love for a good cup of coffee, so coffee machines in Adelaide are a common sight. What a water cooler is to the average American office worker, the coffee machine is to an Australian: the hub of social life.
Perhaps the most extreme and the oddest work rituals can be found in the island nation of Japan. Work borders sacred in the Land of the Rising Sun, as overtime is almost considered mandatory. Not showing up for work or taking sick leaves is perceived as a very negative thing, so people are literally forced to work by the norms of society. This has led to a number of deaths by overworking, which are called karoshi. The typical lunch eaten at work includes fish and rice and officially the workday ends at 5 PM, although some people continue working deep into the night by their own choice. This means that they
have to spend the night at work and then get up already at work. Bizarre, right?
Staying on the Asian continent, India has a work etiquette that Westerners find hard to adapt to. In general, superiors can be quite rude to their staff, yelling at them and telling them off constantly, which is perceived as perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. Like the Chinese, Indians prefer to drink tea in the office, which does not come as a surprise as arguably tea originated from India. The breakfast is almost non-existent because many Indians work crazy office hours because they are outsourced by American and European companies which means overnight work is quite common. In fact, many workers have no problem working every Saturday and even showing up to work on Sundays.
Tolerance is the keyword when it comes to understanding your colleagues abroad. The office rituals are not the same in every county and only by understanding our differences can we successfully do business together.
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