Taking breaks around the world

Even if you haven’t joined the workforce in your host country, and don’t intend to, learning how locals ‘break up the day’ can give you small but illuminating insights into the culture.

Coffee and cake

In Swedish culture it’s important to slow down to appreciate life’s small joys while drinking coffee and eating delicious pastries. And that’s what fika  is all about! Many companies even encourage employees to savour this ritual as it’s believed that it boosts well-being (and productivity).

Have a smoko

In Australia and New Zealand, a smoko  is the colloquial term for ‘short work break’. Its origins can be traced back to the British navy when sailors took a break to puff on tobacco and sip tea. In the 19th century, it soon became common practice in rural and manufacturing professions across Australasia. Nowadays the term is still used even if no one is literally going for a smoke.

Sleeping on the job

In the fast-paced megacity of Tokyo, an office worker might prefer to grab forty winks rather than nip out for a latte. Snoozing at their desk isn’t a sign of laziness. It just means they’re dedicated employees. Known as inemuri  (literally, ‘present while sleeping’), napping in the middle of the day is even encouraged by some companies.

Long lunches

In Italy, forget about having lunch ‘al-desko’. There’s a reason why many business owners close up for a few hours at noon. They’re heading home to enjoy a riposo. Restaurants will often stay open during this time to cater for office workers who appreciate the life-enhancing pleasure of a long lunch break. Meanwhile, Ethiopians also like to take their time when enjoying a coffee. A traditional coffee ceremony (jebena buna) would involve the washing, roasting and grinding of the beans, which gives friends plenty of time for a chinwag. In Argentina, where dinners are often eaten after 9pm, many locals enjoy a break, known as a merienda, at around 5pm. They will sip on espresso or mate  (the herbal tea) and snack on medialunas  (the flaky half-moon-shaped croissant), or delectable facturas  (pastries packed with sugar, dulce de leche, butter).

Research mission

So what about your host country? If you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s one effective way to learn more – befriend a local and ask them how they typically catch up with friends or take breaks during the day.

This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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