Aug 31, 2020
In her article Sarah illustrates how she experienced lunch breaks in four different countries. Dive into her lunch break adventures from London, America, Hamburg and Barcelona.
You’ve heard it all before, New Work, work-life-balance, working from home and various other buzzwords and phrases. But (in my humble opinion) I think a majorly important topic is being overshadowed here – why is no one talking about lunch? Or, even worse, the tragic busy day where there is a lack-there of?
I’d like to think we can all agree on one thing (regardless of the current state of affairs)— having lunch, or at a minimum a lunch break is imperative. So, why is it the first line item to go in order to meet a deadline? How can we design solutions if we are hungry? Furthermore, if lunch breaks make employees happy and happy employees perform better, could skipping lunch be hindering our productivity? If happiness is contagious, could sacrificing that sandwich be more harmful on our collective wellbeing than we think?
Regardless of your stance on the matters, lunch can take many forms. Be it in the office, at the desk (watching an INDEED lunch break seminar, of course), home, the gym, with a friend, client or even a book—a lunch break can do more than settle a rumbling stomach. Let’s also not forget to appreciate, lunch is also a global phenomenon—most everyone eats it. In fact, I’ve now worked in four different countries with a lunch break. All of which have completely different cultures, quirks and fortes.
I’ve learned a lot from these different experiences, and I think there are different takeaways from each. So, let’s delve a bit deeper, and (in no particular order) dissect what can be learned from each:
There’s no place like the UK for an affordable, fresh takeaway lunch. In fact, for those who are familiar, Marks & Spencer’s may be one of my favorite places on the planet. Seriously, I’ve never experienced such a bounty of pre-made meals and snacks in my life. However, if you are craving something made fresh do not fret-- the street food and food markets in this country have little to no competition globally (from my perception, at least). Cuisine of all shapes and sizes reside at your fingertips without breaking the bank. This is fitting, considering having a proper break for lunch can sometimes be a bit more of a ‘nice-to-have’. Nevertheless, if the lunch break does not quench the social appetite, the after-work drinks definitely will.
Quick, grab the punch card! Wherever you go, time will need to be used wisely. Chances are likely you’ve gotten friendly with your favorite lunch spot and they ‘hook it up’ when you arrive. Your meal is probably going to be a burrito bowl or a salad (which is not necessarily a bad thing) especially if you decided to spring for the guac. However, American lunch culture will definitely depend on where you are located. It’s easy to forget just how vast and diverse the 50 states are! I wouldn’t want to put them all in the same box (or same lunch box, rather). However, I can assure you wherever you end up, there will be free water and it will absolutely be iced.
Although this has been my most recent lunch break adventure, the last but not least rule definitely remains true. A German lunch is not to be missed, literally. You will not ever have to miss it because you will plan your time accordingly to fit it in. Unsurprisingly, it will begin on time. Your meal will likely be something hot, fresh and substantial. What can I say? The German’s have got it down to a science (a very delicious science at that), and lunch at INDEED is no exception. Perhaps it’s because we enjoy the space, each other’s company, or the opportunity to show off our latte art, but most colleagues choose to enjoy their lunch in the communal kitchen. This includes take away (providing you remembered to bring your reusable containers)!
There’re not many bad things one can say about a Spanish lunch, and Catalonia is no exception. Although I can’t say I experienced many siestas firsthand, however if you are lucky (and live close enough) you’re actually able to go home for lunch. And, this is not just to have a sandwich, but to enjoy (what my mother would consider) a real, fresh flavorful meal. If you are really lucky, someone may even invite you to have lunch in their home-- now that is really what lunch dreams are made of. Regardless, it will definitely be enjoyed... even if that means working later. What’s the hurry, anyways?
Unfortunately, I fear COVID-19 has crippled the lunch break. While living and working in the same space already can make drawing boundaries difficult, congregating in the office kitchen or meeting up for meals is not exactly a safe alternative. Lunch is a crucial opportunity for bonding and building company culture. At a minimum, it’s a reliable source for small talk. “What’s for lunch?” may be one of my top five conversation classics, and due to the international nature of the topic, I can admit it has crossed borders globally.
Admittedly, I should disclaim my opinions by stating they are just my perceptions and a summation of my own personal experiences. There is undoubtably a selection bias relative to the roles I’ve undertaken, the companies I’ve worked for, the sub-culture of the various industries and perhaps even the personality types I attract. However, I think there is something to be learned from each experience regardless.
The point is—lunch is a form of connection. An excuse, if you will, to connect with your peers, yourself, your body, your tortellini even. It’s an avenue to express creativity. It’s an opportunity for small talk or an opportunity for no talk. It’s the one time during the working day we get to stop and think about the big questions, the little questions or even question the questions. So, I conclude with one of the best questions… What’s for lunch?