What does your lunch break say about your culture?


Here’s a breakdown of the typical lunch in a few of the places I have lived:

Rural France:  Two leisurely hours of eating, talking and drinking.

A Filipino Fishing Village:   An hour of eating and socializing followed by another hour of a siesta nap, stretched out on bamboo platforms.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: A civilized break of an hour or so (enough to get to a decent restaurant)… rural areas and smaller towns shut down for lunch and take longer.

England and the United States:  A stale sandwich at your desk.

Sweden:  A buddy of mine Facebooked me with a link to the latest trend in Swedish urban culture:  Clubbing for lunch.   Here’s how it works (I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed):

1)  People literally leave work for an hour and dance.

2)  The location looks like a club, complete with appropriate lighting (or lack thereof) and DJs spinning.

3)  No alcohol or drugs

4) There is food and drink (which most people grab on the way out)

5)  Clubbing for lunch has gotten so popular as a de-stressor that employers are starting to buy tickets and offer them to employees as perks.


As much as it is very tempting to be a cultural fundamentalist and insist that one system is better than the other, I am personally convinced that doing so is stupid.  First of all, you close yourself off to different ways of being human that could actually improve your life.  Second, you look like a bigot.  If I could have a dollar or euro for every time I have heard some Americans criticize Europeans for being lazy and unproductive and some Europeans criticize Americans for being workaholic fatties, I would be a modestly rich person taking multi-hour lunch breaks.  You never look like a good person when you blow off steam like this, just irate and inflexible.

Cultural Buffet

One of the fundamental ideas behind savvy, global do-gooding is to treat global cultures as a huge buffet… you as the cultural savant get to pick and choose of the best out there.  Do this with your lunch breaks.  Sure, it often makes sense to prioritize productivity and a strong work ethic.  But all work and no play makes you a very pathetic person.  So mix it up.  With more than just your lunch habits.

There is so much variety out there and the beauty of travel and the internet is that you have access to different views and cultural practices on a level that has previously been impossible.  Be a culturemutt.  Enjoy and practice the best of what you come across.

Life is beautiful and exposure to world cultures will make you a better, fuller person.  Get out there, explore and experiment.



Bjorn Karlman

One thought on “What does your lunch break say about your culture?”

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