Friday, March 14, 2008

'The Bistro' - Work Force Differences Part I

A friend from Sweden visited my workplace last year. I showed her our lunch room and said, "nobody really eats in here."

"I can see why," she said, and we moved on to another part of the building.

Why am I posting this now?

A previous post about vending machines deserves a balance, an in-depth explanation. Based on that post, non-Americans may become prejudiced and think all Americans are lazy. Most Americans are not.

Work is not considered a place where one should get too comfortable. Eating at your desk is common because you get more work done that way (although the official policy is of course that employees should spend their half-hour lunch break in a relaxed atmosphere).

Buying lunch is the norm rather than the exception. To me, however, it just makes more sense that with the (small) amount of money we make working for this big corporation, we should cook our own meals and save the hard-earned money for something we really want.

It is also a matter of status. Americans are very proud. People who cannot afford gas to get to work still buy lunch every day to show that they can. They can eat as a member of a group. They can belong.

'The Bistro'

Our lunch room (we call it "The Bistro") consists of an old refrigerator, a water cooler with hot and cold water (but no drain), a microwave and three tables. Leftover office chairs from various departments are scattered throughout. Florescent lighting brightens the room. The walls are white. Old newspapers are often spread out on the tables.

Teachers' lounge

Before I came to the U.S., I worked at a school in Sweden. The teachers' lounge consisted of a kitchen area, private bathrooms and two dinner tables (one of these could also be used as a conference table). Tiffany lamps with a mild glow charmed workers into staying longer than originally intended and gave a relaxing break from the all-too-common florescent lights. Walls were painted in a soothing color, and the kitchen counter space was bigger than the one in our condo. There was a stove for cooking meals, kitchen cabinets for plates, cups and glasses and drawers for knives and forks. You could have lived there, if you had to.

The view of what makes employees happy is entirely different in different countries. The workers are just adapting to what society has given them.

This is Part I in my series of differences in the work force...


BluePlastic said...

Awww, I wish we had a nice employee lounge like that.

Suspicious that work still gets done in Sweden (I assume...) Almost seems like people have lied to me all my life when they acted like all work would stop if work environments were not stressful and unhappy all the time to "keep you focused"...

Anne Sofie said...

Still working at that school, I can tell that we don't have that "teachers' lounge" anymore. We have another, same standards but somehow less cosy which means I don't meet my colleagues as much as I used to, and more often I e-mail them for those work-related issues we really did use to talk about over lunch, too.

I keep an electric kettle in my office to make tea and munch away on the sandwiches I brought from home, while trying to manage as much as possible of correcting tests, marking and administration before next class. The consequence is I miss out the small talk which is a pity. A bit of socialising is important to aquire good working conditions.

Wally said...

Honestly Vik, I've only seen one member of our work family eating in the Bistro. I don't want to embarrass anyone, so we'll simply refer to him as D. Hutter, no wait, that's too obvious, we'll call him David H. I'm going to do my hardest to start bringing my lunch. You are inspiring me.....i'm so hungry