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9 Ways Workplace Culture Differs Around the World

Many countries take different approaches when it comes to daily habits at workplaces simply because of their culture-specific behavior and patterns. In case you are thinking of starting a business in another country, it’s important to acknowledge these cultural differences in order to know what to expect from your new working environment. These are just some of the most significant and noticeable differences in workplace culture all around the world that might come in handy if you find yourself working for a foreign company.

1. Workweeks in Israel

When it comes to workweeks, the Israeli’s have a completely different system from most of the world and it’s mainly because of their religion. In Israel, people actually start working on Sunday and the workweek ends on Thursday. They mainly use this system so that people can observe the holy day of Shabbat (on Saturday). This holy day starts at sundown on Friday and it lasts until Saturday evening.

However, that’s not the only difference regarding the workweek that they have. Their workweek is also a bit longer. A regular workweek in most countries lasts forty hours, but in Israel, it lasts about forty-three hours. The Israeli’s have a very strong work ethic and they love to try their best to be as productive as possible. Some of them even try to sneak in a bit of extra work on Friday morning so that they can get more work done.

Some companies try to keep up with the Western system and work from Monday to Friday so that they can get in touch with their foreign business clients and partners, but this is more of an exception.

2. Group Breakfast among Co-Workers around the World

Many co-working communities have a habit of creating a specific rhythm for their group in their workspace. And one of the best ways to bond, keep in touch and talk to your co-workers is to eat together. Plus, a lot of co-working spaces already have kitchens included in their office which gives team members the opportunity to cook delicious meals together and spend quality time with each other. Also, making light meals or snacks during breakfast or lunch breaks can really bring the whole team closer and create a very positive work environment. Sometimes, co-workers like to eat in common spaces where they work as well. Other times, they prefer to go out to eat. One of the most common options people go for is nearby parks or cafés.

3. Right to Rest in France

In most parts of the world, employers expect their workers to be constantly available in case they need any urgent help if something goes wrong. It’s not uncommon for employers to ask their employees to come and cover an extra shift last minute or help out with some additional tasks, and so on. In most cases, sending an e-mail as a form of notification is all it takes to let them know when their help is needed.

However, the story is a bit different in some countries. For instance, in France, employees have the full right to say they didn’t check their emails since they didn’t receive them during their working hours. In other words, the French have something they like to call a “Right to disconnect” law and it states that employees in France have no obligation to answer any of the emails they get from their employers once they clock out. This type of measure ensures that workers aren’t being forced to work beyond their physical or mental abilities.

4. Parental Leave in Iceland

Parental leave might be one of the most noticeable factors when it comes to workplace culture differences in the world. When it comes to countries such as Iceland, equality is very important. Here, both parents get quite a bit of paid time off from their work when they start dealing with a newborn child. As a matter of fact, they both get three months off in order to rest and get adjusted to having a baby, followed by an additional three months that they get to share among themselves. The parental leave in Iceland isn’t fully paid. However, parents do get about 80% of their original salary which is still pretty admirable. The goal of this kind of policy is to help parents spend time with their families and learn how to be good parents while having a chance to take care of the child equally.

Related: How do Eastern and Western Cultures Differ

5. Workplace Culture in Japan

  • Fitness

Japan is one of the countries where the employees’ health, both physical and mental, is taken very seriously. As a matter of fact, they encourage their workers to work out even during their work hours. There is a very popular regime they use called “Radio Taiso”. It is commonly enacted when people are in their office doing their regular job and taking care of all the daily responsibilities. This very specific name actually comes from the music that is being played on the radio during these exercises. The music is played on Japan’s national radio station throughout the day so that employees get to choose to do these exercises whenever they feel like they need a quick work out.

Both students and employees are strongly encouraged to take these 15-minute breaks regularly throughout the day and work on their fitness regimes followed by the music. People tend to do it collectively in groups early in the morning so that they don’t end up interrupting any important tasks and work in the middle of the day. The benefits of regular exercise in these groups are really important for their productivity. It can increase morale, reduce stress, and even build a sense of unity in the workplace.

  • Work Naps

Japanese work culture is also quite different from the rest of the world when it comes to relaxation and resting. Work is taken very seriously in this country and people often take it too far. It’s simply a part of their culture to go beyond their abilities for the sake of the overall company’s success. They are quite a collectivistic oriented culture. They even have a specific word for the cases of dying from doing too much work. However, sometimes there are many negative impacts of overworking on productivity. Being overworked can make people work very inefficiently.

It’s not uncommon for their workers to fall asleep at work from being too tired and overworked. Taking a nap at the workplace is actually considered a sign of diligence. If an employee falls asleep during their work hours, that means they have gone the extra mile to get their work done. Also, taking these short power naps in the work environment can end up boosting their energy and productivity and therefore is highly encouraged. Some employees even pretend to fall asleep in order to mimic other productive members of their team and appear more hard-working in front of their employer.

6. Prayers in the United Arab Emirates

Being productive during work hours is without a doubt a number one priority in any workplace. However, in some cultures, some activities are considered more important than doing constant work. For instance, in the Islamic faith, daily prayers are a crucial part of people’s everyday life and are therefore taken very seriously. They are a crucial pillar of their religion and are a respected ritual by all people. They are to be done several times a day and everyone practices them regularly, without skipping any of them.

For example, in the UAE, not even phone calls and business meetings should prevent you from doing your daily prayers. And if you happen to visit any of these Islamic countries, it’s very important that you respect this routine even if they interrupt something of importance to you.

7. Happy Hour after Work in the US

In many countries, having a drink with your colleagues after you’re done with work is a very important daily ritual. In most states, going to a bar with the colleagues right after finishing the shift is very common. Relaxing with your co-workers after a long day is just as important as working with them and being productive. This seemingly insignificant, yet very important ritual will help you relax after a long day and recharge for new upcoming responsibilities. And if you spend time with your co-workers outside the work environment in a casual setting, drinking and laughing you will less likely associate them with stresses of work.

Another great aspect of this is that you will be able to build more morale in the office as well. You’ll be building strong relationships and bonding with your co-workers outside the office which will also bring positive energy and atmosphere into your workplace.  Each workspace has a unique element or a twist to their own happy hour. For example, make it a rule that whoever first brings up work-related topics during a happy hour has to buy everyone a shot. Also, believe it or not, there are many businesses that actually encourage their employees to have a drink while they are on the clock. This is something that is usually done near the end of the workday because it can be a great way to get the workers to relax as they’re finishing up their work.

Related: How to Prepare for a Job Relocation

8. Swedish Coffee Breaks

There are many factors important for boosting productivity at the workplace. One of them is getting a proper amount of sleep and rest. No human being is capable of working for hours and still being able to keep up the good results. This is one of the reasons why taking coffee and snack breaks is something that should be strongly encouraged by employers. That is one of the best ways to make sure the workers are completely focused on their work and doing their best for the overall progress in the company.

Countries like Sweden go out of their way to ensure their employees are well-rested and getting enough coffee breaks at their jobs and in their work environment. As a matter of fact, they take their coffee breaks very seriously. They even have a specific name for their breaks. They call them “Fika” and every employer strongly encourages their employees to take every opportunity they have to take the precious time with a cup of their delicious office coffee and enjoy their break while recharging their energy for the rest of the day. Employees tend to gather around in groups and have a small talk in their coffee break rooms. Many companies in Sweden tend to practice these breaks even several times a day.

9. Business in Finnish Saunas

The Finns even go a bit further with their relaxation time and decide to include their own personal saunas in their workspaces. While many American businesses go for places like restaurants, bars, and cafés, in Finland it is completely normal for companies to encourage their employees to go to saunas. As a matter of fact, it is very common for their workers to have a negotiation in a hot bath. Going to saunas is simply a regular thing in their culture, both in their casual life and their work culture.

This practice is actually so common that many companies go as far as to adapt their offices in order to have their own saunas. Sometimes they are located near a wellness center that has a sauna, and other times they even bring that form of luxury to their own company. Some companies even have office saunas where workers have the opportunity to discuss business in a relaxing and stress-reducing work environment. It is said that these types of settings can help relax the mind and open it up to creativity. They truly believe that saunas are the key to making successful business decisions.


There are many differences in culture when it comes to the way employers and employees perceive their work duties, relaxing time, and other important factors such as bonding between team members. Some might not appear that out-of-the-ordinary. However, some of these aspects might be very surprising to foreigners who have never been a part of such an environment. Learning these differences can help anyone who seeks to find job opportunities outside their country. Knowing how to adjust your own behavior to fit these habits can be quite helpful and can help you get used to the new environment quickly.

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