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8 posts • Page 1 of 1
Earlier this week I met a French girl who's recently moved to the UK, who worked in Luxembourg prior. One thing she commented on was how people over here go their own way at lunch time, don't often associated with their colleagues and just by fast food. She told me that in both France and Luxembourg, it's more common for co-workers to go to a cafÃ©/bar/restaurant during lunch and eat together.
I recall a few posts from some of my lurking sessions here that this has been talked about before. It looks like, once again, one more thing the UK has in-common with the US.
Yes in America and the apparently the UK as well, we have co workers "going their own way" at lunch time. People just don't like to socialize with others for some reason.
"When I think about the idea of getting involved with an American woman, I don't know if I should laugh .............. or vomit!"
"Trying to meet women in America is like trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics."
I wonder if there is a remedy for this?
Interesting piece of commentary. When I worked in Milan, we would always go for lunch with a bunch of colleagues, usually a group no smaller than 5 people, and enjoy our panini or pasta or chicken cotoletta while chatting away, cracking jokes and laughing.
When I went back to the UK after that 3.5 years stint in Italy, I got hired by a large engineering consultancy near Cambridge, one of those places where you are "encouraged" to interact with your colleagues, team build and socialise outside working hours. We had a canteen and we would go there for lunch almost everyday, in a group of about 7/9 representing two teams working on similar projects.
Again, a few people would chat about random topics, mostly work-unrelated, a few would keep quiet and look (or at least pretended to look) interested, a couple would carry on eating without much of an interaction. Some days the casual conversation would flow more smoothly, some other day you could almost see the unease and even some hints of tension. It so happened that the two teams weren't only working on similar project, but the two line managers had been racing to get the better developers and that had created a sense of competition that wasn't easy to defuse. Hence the tension. Yet, it was usually OK, considering we were just expecting 45 minutes of convivial distraction, surely not a comedy act.
As I learned a bit later in my professional life in the UK, Brits are usually best "consumed" in intimate conversations, those involving maximum 3 people as well as yourself, but ideally a one-to-one. Compared to Italians and Spaniards (or Latinos, or Filipinos), they're simply not gregarious enough to engage in jovial group conversations such as those emerging from a lunch with 10 people around the table. The most enjoyable casual interaction with a Brit is in a pub, where even very large groups can scatter about and form mini-groups of 2-3 people who can then chat amiably, have their say and never feel left out. Very common in such a social setting is the ritual that one person would buy a round of drinks to the others, with the following round being on someone else, and so on.
When I started working in the City (investment banks, hedge funds etc.), again, mixed bags of situations: sometimes I would have lunch with one or two team mates, especially if the company had a canteen (as it's the case for most investment banks HQs in London), sometimes we would be too busy and just grab a sandwich from said canteen, or one of the bars outsides, and eat it "al desco", as we say. If for some reason we couldn't make it for lunch, there would always be the chance of a coffee break. I remember very few days, in the past 6 years, where I didn't have a single break - lunch, coffee or pub/dinner - with one or more of my colleagues. In fact, contracting around for several years meant I knew a lot of people either in the bank or the banks nearby, and I would often go lunch with one or two of my ex-colleagues working round the corner, just for some remembering of the old times, catching up with BS from their new managers, and "brossip" of that sort.
I know where you are coming from, but by my (15 years) experience in the UK, I have to say Brits do generally enjoy socialising at lunch or for evening drinks with their colleagues. Just not as often, and not necessarily around the same big table as we Italians (or the French) like to do.
It depends what you mean by socialising. A chat over a lunch or a couple of beers in the evening doesn't mean those colleagues will be your lifetime friends. With "standard" white Brits, it takes a lot longer to gain their trust and friendship to the point they will invited you for their birthday parties or to play golf with their families. It's much easier and takes less time with co-workers who come from abroad and cultures with a deeper sense of hospitality and conviviality, for whom socialising is more than a casual need, as they don't have a social circle yet: typically people from Southern Europe, the Middle East, India and some Eastern European places.
I eat with my colleagues at my current job - it's a sign of a good company.
When I worked in London in the dot com boom we ate out loads. That was a very special year and a half.
I quit my boring cubicle slave job and now I'm Happier Abroad...
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If I had my choice, a lot of times I wouldn't go out with some of my co-workers. Most of the time the conversations are useless drivel anyways. Besides, I use my lunch break as a way to relax and escape from the daily bullshit.
Another thing, if Americans were allowed to go to bars/taverns during lunch and drink alcohol, you may see a little bit more communal eating. Most people in America don't have jobs that allow them to do that, although I am aware that there are a few jobs that do allow it here.