Workplace and Office Rituals from Around the World

The “working day” varies dramatically around the world. Whilst the nine-to-five might be the norm for you, the average working day in Japan couldn’t be more different if it tried. In the UK, we take a lunch “hour” which ranges from between thirty minutes and an hour, but the French often enjoy a leisurely two-hour lunch break and it’s considered rude to refuse a glass of wine!

Let’s take a trip around the world to see how the working day, including office rituals, culture, and etiquette, vary from country to country.

Workplace Office Ritual Around the World COMPRESSED


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Definition of a Working Day

A working day is defined as “the part of the day devoted, or allotted, to work”. With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see how it can vary so much from country to country.

The Working Day in the UK

In the UK, the typical working day for an office-worker in the UK starts at 9am and finishes at 5pm. UK workers spend more time in front of their computers than any other nation. This doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider that 50% of workers work through their lunch, and a 52% eat lunch at their desk…

Working Hours: 9am – 5pm (8 hours)
Morning Ritual: Grab a coffee on the way to the office
Typical Lunch: Meal deal
Drink of Choice: Tea or coffee

The Working Day in France

A quick hop across the pond and we’re already starting to see differences in what is considered the working day. French office workers typically start their day between 9:30am and 10am, and finish between 6pm and 7pm. Whilst this is technically longer than the UK’s working day, French lunch hours are a more relaxed affair; taking up to two hours and often including a glass of wine, or two.

Working Hours: 9:30am – 6pm (8.5 hours)
Morning Ritual: ‘La Bise’
Typical Lunch: Long break with a glass of wine
Drink of Choice: Coffee

The Working Day in the USA

As Dolly once said, working nine to five, what a way to make a living! In the United States, the average working day in an office runs from 9am to 5pm. Despite being in work for eight hours, the average American office worker is thought to be productive for around three hours a day.

Whilst the French revel in their lunchtime breaks, 80% of American workers don’t take a regular lunch break; instead grabbing a bite to eat at their desk.

Working Hours: 9am – 5pm (8 hours)
Morning Ritual: Check emails before the first coffee of the day
Typical Lunch: Sandwich or salad eaten at their desk
Drink of Choice: Coffee

The Working Day in India

If you thought your commute was bad, then spare a thought for office workers in India. As much of India’s population is rural, employees can spend around two hours each day commuting to their places of work in the cities. Whilst the typical working day in India starts at 10am and finishes at 6pm, many offices work unsavoury hours to tie-in with Western workers and their working hours. This can even include working weekends.

Working Hours: 10am – 6pm (8 hours)
Morning Ritual: Breakfast on the go
Typical Lunch: Tiffin; a type of packed-lunch often delivered by a Tiffin-Wallah
Drink of Choice: Tea

The Working Day in Italy

In Italy, office workers manage to strike an excellent work/life balance. On the way to the office, they’ll grab an espresso and a pastry at their favourite local coffee bar before settling in to work at 9am. The atmosphere in an Italian office is often pleasant with colleagues preferring face-to-face contact with each other rather than impersonal emails or phone calls. Many workers choose to nip home for lunch, or enjoy a bite to eat at a local café or restaurant to unwind. The working day finishes promptly at 6pm and workers head home to spend time with their friends and family.

Working Hours: 9am – 6pm (9 hours)
Morning Ritual: Grabbing an espresso and pastry in a coffee bar on the way to work
Typical Lunch: Pasta, vegetables, bread, and, often, a glass of wine
Drink of Choice: Coffee

The Working Day in Mexico 

In Mexico, the typical working day begins at 8am and finishes at 6pm. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), discovered that Mexicans dedicate the most hours per day to both paid and unpaid work, clocking in an average of 10 hours per day. Mexican office workers are renowned for their dedication to their tasks; they work until the job is finished, not when the clock strikes six.

Working Hours: 8am – 6pm (10 hours)
Morning Ritual: Start the day with breakfast during the daily briefing
Typical Lunch: Tortillas, stews, vegetables, or canned tuna are popular choices
Drink of Choice: Coffee

The Working Day in China

Unlike Japan, business hours in China are regulated, ensuring that no-one works more than 44 hours in a week. In China, the working day starts at 8am and finishes at around 6pm. Whilst there are regulations in place which prevent workers from undertaking more than 8 hours of work per day, and 44 in a week, lunch breaks are often slightly longer in China than the rest of the world, with many taking a brief nap after eating.

Working Hours: 8am – 6pm (10 hours)
Morning Ritual: A quick breakfast usually finished on the go
Typical Lunch: Noodles or rice with meat and vegetables totalling no more than three dishes
Drink of Choice: Tea

The Working Day in Japan

Whilst officially the working day in Japan runs from 9am – 5pm, overtime and overworking are huge issues. Many office workers will sleep at the office to be more productive, and taking a day off sick is deemed unacceptable and disrespectful to your co-workers who will need to pick up your slack. Worryingly, there’s a specific word in the Japanese language which refers to death by overworking; Karoshi.

On the other side, communal exercise is fairly common in Japan including light stretching and aerobic exercises which helps to reduce injury, increase productivity, lower absenteeism, and lower overall health costs.

Working Hours: 9am – 5pm (8 hours)
Morning Ritual: Waking up at work and getting started
Typical Lunch: Rice, fish, and vegetables in the office cafeteria between 12pm and 1pm
Drink of Choice: Tea

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