Do you ever wonder what it’s like to work in another country? This will be interesting if you’re looking into moving for work, or even just curious. However, not only may there be a language barrier, get ready for a culture shock as well. There are business capitals all over the world, so knowing proper means of interaction, communication, and professionalism is vital in maintaining and creating international relationships. Here is some insight into office cultures from different countries around the globe.
Time off is the essence of Sweden. Here, workers value their time and manage it to the best of their ability. Workers are encouraged to take paid leave - it’s actually mandatory for employers to give a minimum of 25 paid vacation days to their staff in addition to 16 months of paid parental leave. “Fika” breaks are also a custom throughout the workday where employees have the opportunity to take a quick coffee break and have a bite to eat while interacting with their fellow colleagues. Individual well-being is of high importance to the Swedes, and there is typically room for promotion within the workplace.
In India, it seems as if there are no specific sets of working hours. Instead, people come in late, take long breaks, spend long hours both in and out of the office, and many of them even work after midnight. In this sense, a work-life balance is not necessarily a concept in India. Relationships with colleagues only develop into friendships after trust is earned and the power structure is hierarchical. Discussions tend to become heated since Indians are typically emotionally engaged in work.
Long breaks and “siestas” were once common in the traditional Spanish workday. Now, people working in Spain cram long workdays into their schedule to match up to, and exceed, clocked hours from their European counterparts. Their deep commitment to employers allows them to work as late as 8pm, or until the work is complete. Spaniards tend to develop friendships with their colleagues, so at least they’re not alone.
The Chinese often work a lot of hours, but long lunch breaks are typical. Both personal and professional lives are blended because employers feel they should know what their employee does outside of work. For example, in job interviews, it’s common for them to ask questions about your personal life, so they can get to know you a little better prior to hiring. China also has a tradition of drinking with colleagues, so gifting alcohol is typically a move of professionalism.
Office culture throughout Latin America is typically more laid back, but each region is slightly different. In this sense, workers might come in late to meetings, meetings may run late, and workers may take long breaks throughout the day. Work hours are typically from 8:30-5pm including breaks. Appearance and attire are key indicators of status, so someone dressed nicely tends to be of higher status. Here, workplaces are hierarchical and it’s interesting to know that interrupting someone is acceptable.
Germans tend to be very reserved at work to the point where small talk barely exists. Workplaces in the country are very structured, to the point where permission from supervisors is required to enter specific departments. Germans are very serious about their work and punctuality, possibly because of their cultural sense of collectivity. While work mornings begin earlier than in other countries, Germans typically leave their work in the office.
There is one main difference between French office culture and other countries – booze. Office cafeterias usually have both wine and beer available to enjoy during their breaks. In terms of their meals, French workers will generally take about two hours each day for their lunch break, possibly due to the maximum legal work week being 35 hours. Even though they have long breaks, colleagues are generally more reserved with one another and don’t share details of their personal lives with their coworkers.
Due to our common means of communication, British and American office culture tends to be similar. However, there are a few key differences between the two. For example, Brits tend to work a set number of hours, whereas Americans tend to clock well over their 40 hours a week. Additionally, British office workers also frequently socialize with each other, with co-workers drinking together on a weekly basis.
Japan is a country with a lot of rules, especially when it comes to work. Some rules include conference room seating based on rank, along with allowing guests and superiors to enter and exit the elevator first. Additionally, it is expected that colleagues go out for dinner and drinks together frequently. One of the more interesting rituals includes the daily recitation of a company mantra and song in the morning before the start of every workday. Some co-workers even exercise together during this time to get pumped up and excited for the workday.
Through these different comparisons, it is interesting to see how other countries spend their workday. America, comparatively, includes many workers willing to work more than the typical 40 hours a week, work multiple jobs, take fewer breaks, and don’t consider vacation days of great importance. While Americans are known for their work ethic, some USA-based companies including Patagonia, Clif Bar, and Salesforce are taking an initiative to provide a more European work-life balance by offering benefits such as free child care, nearly a month of paid vacation, and free massage therapy and yoga classes.
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