Credit: Jenny Hugues

Arriving in the United States and having to get used to local customs is one thing. Successfully integrating into an American company is another. In this first "Business Etiquette", our section dedicated to the codes of the professional world in the United States, we are interested in the thorny subject of the lunch break.

In France, most workers take between 30 minutes and one hour break to eat. They eat in the cafeteria of their business, take their tupperware or go out to eat. This is not necessarily the case in the United States as reported in this 2018 study by recruitment agency Robert Half, more than half of Americans (56%) take a break of 30 minutes or less for lunch and 29 % work at the same time. The average duration of the meal would be 39 minutes (against 43 in 2014).

Mathieu Bigand is a consultant at Goldman Sachs in New York and previously worked for the same bank in France. "IThere is no lunch break in the United States while it was taken in France. People go downstairs with colleagues to buy a salad in the cafeteria and they eat it at their desk for the vast majority ". The only times the young man leaves his office to eat are during business lunches.

The Frenchman regrets the time he was sitting around a table with his colleagues: "I thought it was the right time to create a social bond. We also eat better by taking the time to eat a dish with an appetizer or dessert "he explains. The consultant also noted that, unlike France, employees do not hesitate to schedule appointments or meetings between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.

"In France, when it's time to eat, the shop closes and everyone takes their time"says Florian Marciniak, a trainee in financial analysis at OTCFin. The Niçois has become fully accustomed to American work habits. He allows himself as his colleagues a break of about thirty minutes, or eat at his desk. "If once in the week, we take an hour break to eat somewhere else, nobody will say anything. If we do it every day, it will be a little frowned upon. They will not necessarily make a comment, but they will make it understand insidiously ", he says.

Even if he has less time to talk with his colleagues during meal breaks, the trainee appreciates the more relaxed relationship he has with his managers. "We're going to drink beers together, we go to the restaurant, we talk about sports. There is a friendly team atmosphere, it is much more horizontal and flexible than in France and I prefer that "concludes the young man, who hopes to make a career in the United States.

Even though most Americans take very short breaks or eat at their desks, Mathieu Xuereb, in LIFE at Lisi Aerospace near Los Angeles, has not seen a change. " At the level of meals, I do not notice any concrete differences between France and the United States, the break lasts between 30 minutes and one hour. On the other hand, Americans bring a lot of food to the workplace: donuts, cookies to share … Laughs the Frenchman. A study in 2018 found a correlation between taking regular breaks for food and better productivity. Perhaps something to change mentalities in a country where hard work is valued.


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