10 Interesting Workplace Customs From Around The Globe

Posted April 8, 2020, by Felicity

It is all too easy to get in a habit of comparing our workplace to that of our friends and family. Being able to brag about the perks of your job can give that extra boost and peace of mind that you have a good thing going on. In fact, these ‘perks’ that come into the workplace can make all the difference when it comes to getting a new job as well. But have you ever considered a stint overseas and taken a look at the workplace culture in different countries? Here are 10 interesting workplace customs from around the globe.

It’s no secret that different countries do it differently, and this extends much further than the workplace. But when it comes to the customs we are going to examine below, these are often a reflection of the society, and commonly their religious or personal beliefs as well. You can learn a lot about the values of a certain culture by looking at their workplace practices and where the emphasis lies.

Not only is this enlightening in the way we could (possibly) be doing things better, but it may just be the tug you need to head around the world for the experience.

Lunch Time Naps in Japan

Ever get to the middle of the day and wish you could just rest your head for a little to recharge those batteries? Well, in Japan you can do just that. Known as ‘inemuri’ or ‘present while sleeping’ the midday nap is actually a sign of hard work and commitment to the work day – after all, you wouldn’t need a nap if you haven’t been working hard, right? The higher up you are in workplace, the more accepted this practice is. Before you rush off to join them, it’s important to note that working overtime is commonplace for the Japanese, and most work 10+ hours each day. So by the time you factor that much-needed nap in at your desk, it may not always be worth it.

Dinner in Argentina

Used to scheduling business meetings over a long lunch to discuss important matters? The long lunches are a common custom in Australia as a way to build new business contacts and maintain ties with older ones. What’s better than treating them to a lunch with a glass of wine or two to solidify that relationship? In Argentina, these meetings are moved to ‘dinner time’, which is actually from 9pm for them. Meetings are never held at lunchtime, which does make for a much more productive day workwise, however the nights do get longer as a result.

Supporting Parents in Iceland

It’s no secret that raising a family while working is a tough juggle. But one country is looking to make this as easy as possible. The best part, in Iceland the focus is on both parents and not just one or the other. Their parental leave is currently nine months long, which allows for three months for the mother, three months for the father and the remaining three months to be divided as they wish. Compared to other parenting policies around the world, this is very generous, giving parents an equal opportunity to bond with their children.

Logging Off in France

Ever feel the burn of working too hard? You aren’t the only one. With the internet making it even easier to work from out of the office, it seems that the ability to switch off becomes harder and harder. After all, people can always reach you whether you are in the office or not. France has stepped up to change this for their citizens, and their people are now protected by a right to disconnect law. This states that French workers are not required to respond to emails out of office hours. This means they can actually clock off without the guilt – ah, the freedom! Goodbye work, hello relaxation!

Coffee Time in Sweden

Who doesn’t love escaping the office for a nice hot cup of coffee to keep you going for the day? In Sweden ‘fika’ or coffee breaks are something that is taken very seriously (as all good coffee should be). Some workplaces encourage it as a way to foster friendships between staff members, allowing them to clock off together and enjoy some time away from the office. So instead of ducking out from the office for a coffee, you are encourage to bring a colleague and take your time – seems good to us!

Day of Rest in Egypt

Ever get to the end of the week and become a little less productive than normal? You aren’t alone. Many people report feeling more sluggish on a Friday, putting off important work until Monday of the following week when they are bright eyed and ready to go again. As Egypt is a largely Muslim state, they never hold work meetings on a Friday. It is considered a day of rest. In fact, many businesses operate from Sunday to Thursday – which I guess makes Thursday the new Friday for them!

Kisses from Belgium

So, how do you feel about kissing? In Belgium, the greeting you use is dependant on how well you know the business contact. The better you are acquainted are, the more familiar. Professionals in Belgium greet each other with a trio of air kisses which is also known as ‘la bise’. This was a tradition that was made popular by the Romans and has continued to be used since. Just remember: it’s all in the air, and no contact is actually made with these kisses… that would be a little too familiar.

Food for All in India

Put your hand up if you are always forgetting to pack your lunch for work the next day?! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone was around to deliver it to you instead – think of the time this would save! This is exactly what happens in India and it is called dabbawalla. This lunchbox delivery and return system delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to the people who work, especially in Mumbai. This system has been in place for an amazing 125 years and it won’t be going anywhere soon.

A Drink or Two in South Korea

We all know that a alcoholic beverage loosens us up a little and can take the pressure off. Many workplaces in Australia actually encourage this type of socialisation outside of work hours. South Korea have taken this up a notch using alcohol during work hours. The idea is to remove falsity and allow people to connect on a deeper level. The drink of choice for them is the Korean Sojy, also known as rice liquor. It is well accepted as a great way to build lasting relationships. Not a bad way to do things!

A Matter of Balance in Taiwan

While in Australia it is customary to enjoy two days off over the weekend, that isn’t the case for every country. In fact, in Taiwan it is actually consider rude to put in personal requests for time off. In the past, this meant most people didn’t even ask for it and would work around the clock (just imagine the exhaustion!). To stop this, a new law came into place in 2017. It gives professionals two days off a week (without asking for it). This is significant of a shift towards family over work.

As you can see, there is so much we can learn from the way things are done around the world. These business custom examples show us exactly how companies are stepping up across the globe. This helps make the workplace a great environment for employees, based on what is important to their values and belief systems in these countries. While some of these customs may seem desirable, others may not be that attractive to you. They still serve as an eye-opener to how others do it and what works in other workplaces.

By examining the work culture around the world, business owners can gain a great insight into how they might be able to do things differently. This is based on your own values and those of your employees. Who knows, maybe you can all do with an afternoon nap! While employees can consider their own situation and what may or may not be working for them. Does the lure of daily coffee breaks seem like a good option to you? Who knows, maybe a tripe overseas should be on the cards?


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