let’s talk about differences in office culture by country and region

A reader write:

On a recent post about interrupting coworkers with headphones, I was charmed by some UK readers’ accounts of their offices’ tea-related rituals. I thought it might be fun to have an open thread about idiosyncratic aspects of readers’ office cultures and any differences people have noticed between one country/region and another.

One example I have is a former office that was located in a rural neighbourhood (it was a renovated house). In the summer, the ice cream truck would often come by our street in the middle of nowhere because they were guaranteed the business of about 20 adults who apparently all lived together and had nothing to do during the day except wait for ice cream. Eventually one of my coworkers learned that we could actually call up the ice cream truck ourselves and the situation quickly descended into chaos. (This was definitely not the weirdest thing about that office, but it was one of the more acceptable for a public forum.)

Let’s do it. Readers who work outside the U.S., what’s different about your office culture that you think might surprise American readers? And everyone else, what differences have you noticed when you work in other places (either in another country or in different region of the U.S.)?

{ 1,441 comments… read them below }

  1. DouDou Paille*

    I’m American, but when I worked in London a few years back, I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though the official start time was 9am, most people rolled in around 9:30-10am, and left quite late by American standards (ie 6-6:30pm) with no negative repercussions. Also, many people went to the pub at lunch for a beer or two, and/or hit the pub after work, before going home. (The fact that most were dependent on public transit rather then cars made this very do-able.) It was a more relaxed atmosphere than I have ever seen in the US. Maybe this is not true at button-down London law firms, but it was definitely the case in that publishing company.

    1. EA*

      I noticed that when I interned in France too, people worked more spread out hours. They came in at 9:30, took a long lunch, and then worked later. I like to come in early so I can leave early, so this didn’t exactly work for me.

      French people (and other Europeans I met) were much less positive than Americans. It isn’t rude in their culture, but I think it comes off as rude to people who are not familiar. I loved it, because I find the American overly friendly always happy think insincere and annoying, but I imagine some people would not like it.

        1. paul*

          I’m 8-4, and I like it that way. I’ll live without a lunch break, and have a banana and protien bar at my desk, thanks.

          1. Berlina*

            In Germany you are required by law to take a 30 minute break for a 6 hour work day / 45 minute break for a regular 8 hours work day, so even if you didn’t take it, the work you did meanwhile does not count into your official work time.

              1. Tuesday Next*

                In South Africa we have that sort of law but it’s never been enforced in any office I’ve worked in (probably would be in food or retail). People work through lunch and leave early, or work through lunch and leave at the normal time, or take a lunch of anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour.

                1. ALadyfromBrazil*

                  Here, usually in business with 100+ employees, its mandatory having biometric controlling of the workers time of entry/leave/lunch….. Now I’m thinking its a weird thing. I don’t have to do this in my government job.

            1. Weyrwoman*

              This is true in the US as well – many companies AFAIK can get into trouble if they get audited and it turns out people aren’t using their mandated 30min lunches.

              1. Sterling*

                It depends on the type of employee. If you are exempt you can often get away with skipping lunch. I do the same as mentioned above. I work my 8 hrs with no lunch so I can leave early and miss rush hour.

              2. Cath*

                I recently learned that Arizona has no break time laws, so they can basically make you do whatever they want.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  Texas too.

                  One of my unsavory former employers used that logic to treat employees like they were getting a favor for getting a 30 minute break when they were working double shifts in the hot sun because “well legally we don’t have to give you anything at all.”

                2. Dwight*

                  Regarding Texas, would this be a good time to revisit the infamous memo-happy tyrant boss of the 70s? Seems like it’s been a while since those jewels made the rounds.

              3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                That varies by state, unfortunately. Michigan has no mandated work breaks for anyone 18+.

                1. SadMichigander*

                  As a fellow Michigander, I can attest that this is true. My last job made employees work 17 hour shifts with nothing more than a bathroom break or two. I loved the job’s mission but I only made it four months.

            2. RandomGermanGuy*

              No you are not.

              Or rather, it depends: If you have one of those more junior jobs where you are supposed to actually logging in your hours by means of scanning a key card, well this might be a thing.

              But almost all jobs I ever had run on the concept of „Vertrauensarbeitszeit“ meaning you write down the hours you worked and the firm trusting you.

      1. MLiz*

        I think this has a lot to do with positive and negative politeness. Iirc, Americans (and most anglophile cultures?) practice positive politeness while many continental Europeans practice negative politeness.

        This is a very very broad generalization, of course.

        1. Natalie*

          Can you elaborate a little bit more on what positive/negative politeness means? I haven’t heard of that.

          1. Jesca*

            I agree. I am definitely curious. I am struggling to describe the way it was in Poland. I just know that once I finally returned to the US, everything just seemed loud and busy … and in that moment I found I actually enjoy loud and busy!

          2. KatTheRussian (France)*

            The way I understand it (am not MLiz, though), is that positive politeness is about signaling to others that you are there to help. You ask someone how they’re doing, whether there’s anything you can do for them, be interested in their life in general, and joke around.
            Negative politeness is thinking that it’s polite to not bother other people, not impose on them, and so limit the interactions you have with others, as well as apologize more often than joke, which may be perceived as “cold” by someone who practives positive politeness.

              1. CheeryO*

                I visited Seattle last year and had to laugh when I was coming back home (not to Minnesota but to another Great Lakes area city that prides itself on its friendliness) – our gate at the airport was complete culture shock with everyone laughing and telling stories to strangers at max volume. I totally prefer the Seattle freeze!

                1. Only here for the teapots*

                  Seattle native/expat. I think the ‘freeze’ came from only 40% of the population being born there (probably even lower percentage now). With so many tourists/newcomers, we liked to wait a bit to see if people settle down to Cascadian life.
                  Tourists were usually considered interlopers in our little corner of the world, but grunge/Microsoft/Amazon changed all that. I thankfully left for a then-unspoiled part of the PNW in 2003 though, so YMMV.

                2. Polaris*

                  This is so interesting to me as a Seattle native – I’m now a transplant to Boston, and I find Seattle much more openly friendly, but both similar in the way that people are friendly and polite during “small” exchanges (buying coffee, holding doors for the person behind you, being willing to help someone who’s lost, etc). I think both cities are careful about not imposing on other people unless it’s necessary or we’re pretty sure it would be welcome (you might talk to a stranger after you’ve exchanged a Look with each other over some small annoyance, for example).

                3. Optimistic Prime*

                  @Polaris – same, but in opposite direction. I’m a Seattle transplant, moved here from New York, and I find Seattleites to be much more openly friendly than East Coasters (and especially New Yorkers). But that’s probably because this post made me realize that I am *totally* a negative politeness kind of person.

                4. Rumple Fugly*

                  I’m a negative politeness person and I’ve lived all over, but I still found the Seattle culture to be… Not even cold, because people are friendly, but people are also extremely passive aggressive and kind of judgy. I found the culture to be kind of hostile, I guess? Like not just around actual confrontations, just normal interactions are so often peppered with little snippy comments, even from people you don’t know. Drove me insane.

                  When I mentioned it to local friends they’d say some stuff about Scandinavian culture this that or the other but my family’s from Norway and that ain’t an import.

              2. Manders*

                My theory on the Seattle Freeze is that it’s a quieter variation of the kind of brusqueness you get in New York. Most people live in tight quarters, commute on public transit, work in open offices, and socialize in crowded spaces. Politely pretending not to notice each other is a substitute for actual privacy.

                I have noticed that it’s very hard to get a firm RSVP from people here, and “let’s get coffee sometime” is not actually a plan most people intend to follow through on.

                1. Sterling*

                  I live in Seattle and moved here from the South. The way people act if I smile at them in public has me laughing. they act so put out. and NO ONE holds doors or elevators for others. I have had men close the door right in my face. the Seattle freeze isn’t just that people don’t want to be bothered but that people are very much involved in their own world to the point they don’t bother to acknowledge there are other people in the world as well.

                2. Lissa*

                  Ehhh, I like talking about these differences but it’d be nice if we could do it without implying the way it is where someone else is “worse” or that people are more self-involved/worse people in one region than another. Some people prefer the Southern-style culture and others the Seattle culture but I’d imagine there’s culture shock in either direction.

                3. Scoobs*

                  Manders hit the nail on the head re: motivations behind different attitudes. I was raised in the South and moved to New York, and since coming here have found that the stereotypes of New Yorkers being rude are just… inaccurate. It’s just a different form of politeness, of making sure you’re not demanding a commodity that’s already in very limited supply – usually space, time, and/or privacy. Don’t touch me, don’t look at me, don’t talk to me if you don’t know me.

                  The big exception being that people are usually shockingly good about jumping in if they see someone in need of help – from a lost-looking person in a non-tourist place (think UWS instead of Times Square), to a mom needing help carrying a stroller up a flight of subway stairs, to last year when that scaffolding collapsed and people literally sprinted from all directions to pull people out. It’s pretty cool.

                  Contrast with much of the South where it’s polite to take your time, make small talk, treat everyone as an individual, pretend that you’re buddies instead of two strangers engaging in a business, etc. THAT’S polite because there is (for the most part, by comparison) less of a constant strain on the aforementioned commodities and a different cultural attitude in general.

                  Neither are wrong, just different. (Also, FWIW, despite being born in the South and having lived there for several decades, New York attitude is my JAM.)

                4. Cerephic*

                  Sterling – what you’re doing is actually rude and invasive. It’s not that people in big cities are “self-involved in our own little worlds” or any other negative spin, but when you’re in a city that’s dense, people value their personal space very highly. Personal space can be hard to come by in a city, we do the very best we can by granting a sort of emotional personal space –
                  not forcing interaction with every person we pass by, but without crashing into them.

                  There’s probably a lot of body language cues you’re missing, where people acknowledge the other person in the space without demanding the validation of eye contact or verbal chatter.
                  This is called “civil inattention” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_inattention – it’s a respectful and kind way of not imposing yourself on others and their limited emotional energy.
                  I was raised in the South, and I live in NYC now – it’s a different form of respect and politeness, and there’s no reason to not adapt to different forms.

                5. PhyllisB*

                  It’s funny that you mention the brusqueness in New York. When I was in college (early 70’s) I went on a college trip to NYC and had been warned that New Yorkers were RUDE!!!!!!!! Well, we didn’t get that at all. From our taxi ride from the airport to just meeting random people on the street we were treated with nothing but kindness. Our taxi driver pointed out points of interest on the way to our hotel and when we would ask someone on the street for directions not only would they give us the information, but they would usually tell us about something interesting that wasn’t listed in the guidebooks. Of course, we were young and earnest, but also polite, and Southern. (I’ve discovered you get two reactions to a Southern accent. Either people are totally charmed, or they write you off as an ignorant hillbilly.) Luckily we met mostly the former. But also I tend to believe you get back what you put out. If you are friendly and smile at people, most of the time they will respond in kind. If you are brusque you will get that back. Is this 100% accurate? Of course not, but I would rather be friendly even if the person I encounter doesn’t respond in kind.

                6. Elizabeth West*

                  This is common in London too, the only extremely big city I’ve spent much time in. On public transport, you are crowded up against strangers, especially during the peak hours of the day. The only space that’s totally yours is inside your head. I’ve seen the same phenomenon in busy airports.

                  But it’s funny how people can suddenly become human again. I was standing outside Richmond Station waiting for the bus with a bunch of other commuters one night. A bus going the opposite way stopped abruptly, and a car hit it. Then another car hit the car. Suddenly everyone waiting started to look at each other, and say “Oh dear,” and “Did you see that?” I actually got into a conversation with a nice woman and her two children!

                7. Annoyed*

                  “Politely pretending not to notice each other is a substitute for actual privacy.”

                  This. Also (IME) I think many of us (not all to be sure) are kind of introverts. Not shy but really preferring to not be required to interact with others on our own time.

              3. Traffic_Spiral*

                Something that I think is never discussed about the Seattle Freeze is how much it contributes to a society that’s actually accepting of different people – and not just in a tumblr “you must be my kind of liberal or else” sort of way. The PNW does not care if you want to be a gun nut, or a libertarian, or a mormon, or a vegetarian in a polyamorous treehouse commune, or a Church-Every-Sunday-type, because that would mean getting involved in someone else’s business and We Don’t Do That.

                Just don’t litter and don’t intrude on others, and everyone’s quite happy to leave you be.

                1. Annoyed*

                  “Just don’t litter and don’t intrude on others, and everyone’s quite happy to leave you be.”

                  So much this.

                  Also the weather. A couple weeks ago it was one of those cool, slightly foggy, slightly misty over the tops of the trees, with just a touch of sea in the air type mornings.

                  I took my coffee out on to the patio and told the cat “this is why we live here.”

              1. Starbuck*

                Likewise; I’m in the PNW and it seems kind of common here? I prefer not to be bothered, and definitely err on the side of not interacting with people (strangers in public for example) if I have a choice. I get easily frustrated by interruptions or people stopping me in public unless I know them well.

              2. designbot*

                Me too! This is my whole family, we are negative polite! I often feel like I have trouble making friends, and notice that people who make friends easily ask a million questions that feel really intrusive to me. I can tell others seem to respond well to it, but in my mind I’m going, “don’t ask how their relationship’s going! If they wanted to share that they would have! Don’t ask about their sick dog, what if it’s died?!”

                1. michelel*

                  designbot, yes! I approach conversations as “bring up only generalities, let the other person introduce personal topics”, while most people around me ask specific personal questions. I definitely figure that people will bring up topics they want to discuss themselves!

              3. Lindsay J*

                Totally a negative politeness person. Both in personality and I think because of where I was raised.

                Moving to Texas was difficult at first because it is much more of a positive politeness culture, and I was struggling to not come off as rude while not entirely understanding why I was perceived as rude at first.

                And also, generally I like the more overt friendliness. But one thing that took getting used to was the speed of fast food at the drive thru. (It’s other transactions at stores, too, but drive-thrus where where I was usually in more of a rush compared to places like a grocery store where I’ve blocked out more time. I was used to it being like 5 minutes maximum to go through even a busy drive-thru. Say the order all at once. Pay. Get bag of food shoved at you.
                Leave. Here it can take like 30 minutes because of all the little niceties in conversation in your transaction and with every single person in front of you in the line. But it’s also a bit more human from both sides.

            1. A.N.O.N.*

              Born, raised and currently living in NYC, and positive politeness makes me uncomfortable and borderline annoyed.

              1. Lindsay J*

                It always made me wonder what they wanted from me. Are they “just” being friendly (which is still taking my time and attention if I was planning on doing something like listening to music and now I can’t), or are they going to hit on me, solicit me for money, try to get me to join their cult?

                1. iglwif*

                  YES. I live in Toronto, which is like NYC in this way. I grew up in Alberta, which has a bit more positive-politeness going on, and honestly … I really prefer the negative version because I am an introvert and when I’m riding the subway alone with earbuds in I am enjoying that time to myself and do not want to talk to strangers. We got a dog recently and I discovered that when you ride the bus with a cute puppy, all normal rules of Toronto transit etiquette are suspended, which has kind of thrown me for a loop…

              2. Willow R*

                I’m British, and I regularly visit NYC. I love it there. One of my favourite places in the world, and a good part of it is the attitude. Before my first visit, I’d gotten all of the usual warnings – “Everyone is so unfriendly”, “People are MEAN” etc, etc. It hasn’t been my experience at all. People just…get on with things, usually rather quickly. But they’ll help – and often without being asked. On my first morning, someone showed me how to buy my Metro card, gave advice on the crucial ‘Local’ vs ‘Express’ thing with the trains, and it made so much of a difference.

                I don’t tend to need help/directions/advice much anymore – I’ve paid it forward a few times by helping other tourists with the subway – but I won’t let anyone tell me it’s an unfriendly city. Just walk faster, stand aside if you need to stop, and for god’s sake don’t block the top of the stairs exiting the subway because, seriously, people.

                1. Jennifer Juniper*

                  If you block the train doors, I will run you over. I am very large and move very fast.

            2. Arlene*

              As a North Carolinian living in New England, this frames my culture shock perfectly. I didn’t know there was a name for it, thank you!!

              1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                Even going from the midwest to the South, I found the difference pretty shocking. The niceness was so sugary sweet, that it seemed fake.

            3. Cristina in England*

              Wow. You’ve just described my mother in a way that took me years to figure out. She is negatively polite but she is the only one of us who is, so it often comes across as just not caring enough to ask/call/get involved.

              1. Mabel*

                I had never heard of this until reading these comments. I usually don’t want to be nosy or bother people, so I guess I’m negative polite. But I have no problem talking to strangers in public. I had to learn that one; I used to be mortified when my then-partner would strike up conversations with people on the commuter train. I’m also pretty shy, so I have to work at being friendly so people don’t think I’m unfriendly.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                I’m always nervous about being perceived this way, because I’m definitely negative polite. I think about my friends and family all the time, but I too don’t want to be perceived as nosy or bother someone who wants to be left alone, so I contact them far less often than I think or care about them.

          3. Aunt Vixen*

            In sociolinguistics, as I remember it, a positive politeness strategy minimizes the distance between speakers and a negative politeness strategy emphasizes it. So e.g. calling your girlfriend’s father “sir” the first time you meet him, which many or most of us would agree counts as being polite, is a negative politeness strategy. (Which was a lot to get my head around as a freshman, I tell you what.) Likewise, inviting your daughter’s boyfriend to call you by your first name – also polite – is a positive politeness strategy. See Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, Politeness: Some universals in language usage (Cambridge University Press, 1987).

            KatTheRussian’s description and the subsequent thread sound about right to me based on this definition as well – of course there’s a lot more to interaction than just language.

          4. MLiz*

            sorry guys, I was still working/wrapping up my day and had a sudden request for clarifications, I totally lost the thread.

            There are already some explanations down below (thanks for coming through everyone :)). Here’s the wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politeness_theory

            I came upon this a few years ago, honestly, because working with my American colleagues was SO VERY EXHAUSTING with all the chit chat and the empty “I met you on a flight but now you’re my best friend and you just HAVE to come visit me” stuff (yeah that happened really, never heard from that person ever again). Being continental European myself, and having been called rude especially by American colleagues (and members of Latin nations), when being on my very best behaviour and perfectly polite I did some research and came about positive and negative politeness (this was long before wiki times). It often gets mixed up with direct/indirect way to say and ask for things, which it is indeed related to.

            I think it helps simply being aware of it, especially when coming from a positive politeness angle and facing negative politeness, because I think rudeness is a really bad thing to start off with especially in business. At the same time, by now I’ve gotten quite used to the positive politeness way of doing things, though I don’t practice it myself. I just plan it into my interactions and don’t think it’s an affectation anymore (sorry guys, I was…young?), though it still annoys me when I’m exposed to it for prolonged times. And note, you can run as afoul with positive politeness as with negative politeness, so treat carefully when you’re unsure of general culture.

            1. J*

              Thank you so much for this. I’m in a region that is very much “positive polite” but I’m an introvert and my mind works more in a “negative polite” way. This will help me frame it in a way that hopefully makes me seem less rude.

      2. KT*

        Moving to Canada from Australia, I found the same thing. Canadians (it must be a North American thing) are very friendly, always very positive – not a bad thing! But Australians tend to be more pragmatic and blunt. So in one of my first jobs, I got called out for being rude in what I thought was a perfectly normal, civil interaction.

        1. Catalyst*

          I am in Canada, and have seen this happen to some of the employees I have had that have come from other countries – people think they are being rude when they are just being direct, which is the norm in their culture. I sometimes wonder if I understand it better because I am more on the direct side personally so I am not easily offended.

          1. SI*

            I’m from NY – when I moved to the Midwest (and to the West Coast, for that matter), I was admonished for being straighforward and not couching my language with niceties, etc.: AKA “rude”. I’m a woman, fwiw – which I think was also part of how I was supposed to present myself. I’m pretty sure a man would have been viewed as a strong, no bs sort of guy.

            I’m really not rude at all, I just needed to learn “Midwest Nice”. They compensated by sending me on assignments to the East Coast because I “understood those people”. OK, sure… lol.

            1. Natalie*

              For whatever it’s worth, in my experience men are absolutely expected to conform to Midwestern “Niceness” as well. I’m sure there are still different expectations between men and women, but it’s definitely not the case that unadulterated east coast style would be perfectly okay if it was just coming from a man.

              1. SI*

                I should mention that I’m in banking… I’m definitely describing it from that culture/viewpoint, but I understand your point as well.

            2. Foxtrot*

              This is a coasts vs Midwest thing, not a male vs female thing. Guys can equally be seen as rude and standoffish as women if they don’t conform to the Midwestern expectations.

              1. Traveling Teacher*

                YES. My husband gets in so much trouble with my family when we visit them over this (they’re in the Midwest); he’s European and very much a negative-politeness person!

                1. Birch*

                  I’m from the Midwest and also have a European partner (northern European, where negative politeness is an Olympic sport…). I feel this so hard! Luckily my family was very understanding but he comes across as really stoic and hard when I know him to be a huge softie!

            3. Sarcasm is Caring*

              Yes! And moving East Coast to West Coast, NO one got my dry sense of humor. I’m pretty sarcastic and dry, which is very hip East Coast… but on the West Coast I’m seen as very blunt and rude (which I can totally see). Took a while to realize West Coast is not “I’m teasing you cause I like you” and to stop greatly offending people :/

            4. Artemesia*

              This drove me crazy in the South where being sugary to your face and knifing you in the back seems to be quite an art. Learning to be indirect and clear is tricky and learning what is superficial ‘niceness’ and what is sincere is not easy for people who come from more straightforward cultures. People are excluded from social things, from projects in the workplace, and from opportunity with passive aggression and newbies often don’t realize they have been dismissed or blackballed

              1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

                Did you pick up on the true meaning of “bless her heart” in the South? It’s the epitome of what you are talking bout.

                1. Lala*

                  There is a lot more nuance to “bless your heart” than people actually give it credit for. There are times when it is genuinely well-meaning, and the nastiness that is assigned to it as the “true meaning” by those who haven’t grown up with it is only even possible because there are times where it’s sincerely well-meant. You have to understand the difference between to fully appreciate it.

                2. Sterling*

                  “Bless your heart” can have a LOT of different meanings. It isn’t just a big F you to people. It can mean that. I can also mean “Oh you poor dear I am so sorry to heart that”. It can mean a lot of things and it really depends on context and tone.

                3. Heather*

                  Both sides of my family are from the South and growing up I pretty much only heard “bless your heart” in a vaguely insulting way. Recently a therapist said “bless your heart” to me during an appointment (we are far from the South) and I had to remind myself not to be offended!

                4. Connie-Lynne*

                  Thank you everyone coming here to defend “Bless Your Heart,” I say it a lot and I swear it drives me nuts all the people who think it only means FU.

                5. Clisby Williams*

                  There isn’t one true meaning of “bless your heart” in the South. It can mean just what it sounds like; it can mean “you’re a complete idiot”; it can mean FU.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                So in this setting what would be an example of something sincere? I see so many comments about statements that do not mean what the statement says. How do people know when to trust someone else’s comment?

            5. VA Tech*

              I’m in the south-ish, and I support a lot of people in NY. Even when I know that they’re not intended to be rude, it often comes across that way. It’s definitely been something that I’ve had to work on as far as not getting offended when I can tell people are probably not trying to be rude.

              1. Retired accountant*

                I was on a conference call once with my boss, and two tax people from New York. It was an intense call, and after it was over I looked at my boss and said “I don’t think they were yelling at us, they’re just from New York.”

            6. EvanMax*

              Years back I went to a student political advocacy (about a specific cause) retreat that was located North of Baltimore, but had students from all over the US (lucky me only had to drive up from DC.) After a particular break-out session the student from Berkley approached me and told me that she felt I didn’t recognize my male-privilege enough when I was speaking (first time I ever heard that term, this was a long time ago.) I made sure to clarify first that she didn’t feel that I was speaking poorly of women, speaking over the women in the group, or in any other way treating the women in the group unfairly, and she said that no, I hadn’t. What I was doing was speaking confidently without considering that others may not feel as comfortable being as direct with their ideas.

              I told her that wasn’t male privilege, that was a combination of where I was born and how my father raised me to speak in public. If I’d been a woman with the same upbringing, I’d have spoken just the same.

              Cut to last night when I was on the phone with my father, talking about my infant daughter, and he was telling me how excited he is to teach her to be fearless speaking in public when she’s old enough to talk at all…

              The West Coast has some nice places and weather, but I honestly don’t think I could survive the culture out there.

              1. Another person*

                Berkeley is its own very specific culture that is very different from much of the West Coast/Southern California.

                1. WOC Californian*

                  Well, the rudest most racist hung ever said to me was said by a lifelong Berkeley resident who claimed to be liberal in a room full of other white Berkeley residents….

                  Several of my POC friends are of the opinion that Berkeley is a very different experience if you are white.

              2. Rune*

                I had half of this. My dad taught me and encouraged me to speak confidently, clearly, and “by god enunciate” which got me in trouble because we lived in the South and I’m a woman. My grandmother’s friends who all spoke with a southern drawl commented multiple times “She doesn’t have a southern accent”, “she doesn’t sound like us”, and “How did that happen?” Even at 7 years old I could tell it wasn’t complimentary coming from them. I remember telling my Dad this and he was so grateful. I grew up speaking differently and adjusting myself to fit but I by far prefer the negative politeness and getting to the point. My Dad grew up in the midwest and his assertiveness probably extended from him being male but he had no qualms teaching his kid those things either.

              3. Optimistic Prime*

                I’m not sure what the anecdote has to do with West Coast culture, though? Liberalness is abundant here, but people also speak confidently and clearly quite often.

                1. EvanMax*

                  It’s not a question of liberalness (we were all of varying shades of the same political persuasion, due to the nature of the event.) It’s the assumption that a certain je ne sais quoi of my manner of speaking (my bluntness/lack of couching things/whatever it was) was a product of my gender, when it was actually a product of my geography.

            7. Lindsay J*

              +1. NJ and moved to Texas.

              I wasn’t outwardly admonished. But I knew people were perceiving me as being rude and I wasn’t sure why as I was being – by my standards – completely polite.

              It took awhile to adjust. I now know what situations I need to engage in softer ways and with more small talk, etc.

              I also compensated by finding an industry where blunt direct communication tends to be the rule rather than the exception.

              It’s actually one of the things I use as a weakness in job interviews, because, honestly I’m still not great at it and if a it’s going to be that big of a cultural mismatch for me I would rather opt out.

          2. Middle School Teacher*

            I agree. I’m also Canadian and also appreciate directness. Sometimes I wish people were a little less polite and more blunt.

          3. Specialk9*

            Both Canada and the US have a markedly higher rate of smiling, as compared to most countries. I read a study that linked frequency of smiles in everyday interactions with immigration rates, with the theory being that when there is a language barrier, people smile more to get the message across and to connect enough to get someone to keep trying to communicate. I know that I can feel myself getting waaaay smilier in another language, to smooth over the awkwardness of my own limitations. So it wouldn’t surprise me if that smiling translated into overall friendliness culture.

        2. Natalie*

          I can’t speak to Canada, but there are places in the US where directness is the dominant communication style – east coast & rust belt for sure, possibly others. My theory is that the indirectness spawns from long, isolated winters, since it’s apparently the dominant style in Scandinavia as well. Clearly something about being stuck in a cabin for months with just your family for company required a lot of passivity to survive.

          1. Sans*

            This is interesting. We are on the East Coast and my boss’ boss is definitely direct and blunt – and I have no problem with it. But we have some midwestern colleagues that are intimidated by her. To me, it’s a relief to hear exactly what’s on her mind and not have to worry if you aren’t reading between the lines correctly. She’s not unfair, she’s not mean, she’s just honest. It always amazes me how many people totally can’t handle that.

            1. Jean*

              I hear you on the whole, “Am I correctly figuring out what the heck this person is trying to say?” thing. My current boss adds so many layers of polite/nice/diffident to his comments that I sometimes leave a meeting having no idea whether I was just reprimanded or complimented.

            2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I’m from the mid-west and I *adored* my boss from New York. She was direct and you knew where you stood. It was fantastic.

          2. Overeducated*

            Or could it be the Scandinavian influence on settlement in the Midwest? Russians are super direct compared to Americans, but it’s very cold there too.

            1. Natalie*

              But are they also isolated? My impression of Russia is that the part that the population is mostly crammed into like, 1/4 of the country.

              1. Trig*

                Russia’s huge though. Most of the Canadian population is along the US-Canada border, so you could probably say the same thing… but it’s a biiiiiig border, and I woudn’t call things crammed!

                1. Natalie*

                  Hmmm, true. But they don’t have the heavy Scandinavian influence… And super indirectness is also common in Japan, which is heavily populated but a small island.

                  I need to go back to the lab.

          3. yet another Kat*

            I’m on the east coast (NYC) but originally from Ukraine, and have (coincidentally) worked with offshore teams in the part of the world, and have also briefly lived in France.

            In my experience there is a positive-negative politeness spectrum, and east coast US falls pretty close to the middle. It’s not as positively polite as the South or some other places I’ve visited, but it’s significantly less negative and less blunt/direct than Eastern Europe, and somewhat less negative than France.

            1. EA*

              I agree with this.

              I’ve lived in upstate NY, DC, Boston, and Paris. I think upstate NY and DC were more positive polite. Boston is in the middle, and Paris is more negative polite than Boston is.

              1. EvanMax*

                DC only seems positive polite because of all of the transplants. The natives are keeping their heads down and keeping the transplants/tourists out of their way.

                1. saf*

                  Huh. DC person here, and my experience of that is the opposite of yours. I find the local folks all very nice, and the temporary types much colder.

                2. Specialk9*

                  EvanMax, interesting, in my 2 decades there, the non-native DC people had the inverse experience. The native DC folks weren’t very friendly, unless they had to know you like working together or dating, but the transient ones were open to becoming friends. I suspect it reflects how people with a network don’t need more people to juggle, but lonely people need to build a network.

            2. General Ginger*

              Same. I’m north of Boston, but originally from Russia, and I’d say the Northeast is significantly more positive/soft than Eastern Europe. It’s always a bit baffling to me when it’s referred to as too rude/too direct by folks from the South.

          4. fposte*

            But I think it’s funny that Minnesota is all about the positive politeness and Scandinavia, especially Sweden, is very much not. Maybe it’s the influence of those ebullient Germans.

            1. LAP*

              “ebullient”? Hmm, that didn’t describe my experience. Both my grandfathers were full-blooded German and that word doesn’t describe them at all. I was raised in MN and I kind of know what you mean about “positive politeness”, but maybe that’s more of an American thing

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, it was tongue in cheek. There presumably are ebullient Germans, but they don’t seem to have been highly represented in the immigrants to the Midwest.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ fposte, the ones that ended up in Wisconsin seem pretty ebullient, at least when they are at the bar.

          5. babblemouth*

            I don’t know about that. I live in Denmark and to me Danes and other Scandinavians are way, way more direct than most Americans.

            1. Violet Rose*

              My Danish and German friends all come across as very blunt and direct to me, who grew up in California. I appreciate the directness, but it did surprise me at first!

          6. Birch*

            In northern Europe people are often very direct–the preferred physical and social space isn’t really paired with indirectness, if that makes sense. I’m in Finland, and there is no “we have to get coffee sometime!”–you know whether that person wants to get coffee with you or not and if they do, you’ll make the plan then. People will straight up tell you things that would be incredibly insulting elsewhere. A lot of people find it rude and cold, and it takes a long time to make friends, but people are really warm and caring once you make that bond. I’m not sure how Midwest nice got that way though, since there are a lot of Nordic and Scandinavian immigrants in the upper Midwest!

        3. Admin 4 Life*

          Yes, THIS! I worked in Australia for almost six years and if you hated your job it was absolutely acceptable to show the world that you hated it- it didn’t matter if it was to customers or co-workers. It was actually shocking to be greeted with a happy face because it rarely happened. The polite and generic chit chat (how was your drive in, isn’t the weather lovely, etc.) was something I started to miss. I know that, for the most part, people aren’t going to be invested in my answers but it’s an attempt at a connection that’s missing in Australia. The “let’s get to business” attitude left a sour taste in my mouth and the only time there was an attempt to be friendly was when there was a multi-million dollar contract on the line and the interested party was from a very different culture such as Japan or China (note: I’m just picking these two because they were the most common for my office).

          I did like the benefits and the tea breaks though. Having ten to 15 minutes to catch-up and recharge in the kitchen made it so much easier to tackle the craziness of the day. I figured out some of my best solutions over a cuppa.

          1. Drop Bear*

            I think your experience is an atypical one – it might have been true for your workplace but it certainly isn’t true of Australian workplaces in general. I came to Australia from Europe over 20 years go and have worked in both private and government offices since then in a high pressure, high risk profession, and one thing I have found everywhere I’ve worked is a generally friendly , laid back, ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude and plenty of chit chat -often about how effing hot it is!

            I will agree Australian service staff are a little less friendly than those in the US -not being dependent on tips to pay your rent makes a difference – but I’ve certainly never found them as group to be unfriendly.

            I must admit it took me a while to get used to phrases such as ‘silly bugger’ being used as terms of affection though.

          2. Jade*

            That’s interesting – I’m also from Australia and I haven’t had that experience in any of my jobs. There’s a lot of polite and generic chit chat where I’ve worked.

            Although I do agree that it isn’t really frowned upon where I’ve worked to be quite frank about not liking your job!

          3. Betsy*

            Oh, interesting. I have had the opposite experience moving from Australia to Thailand. I feel extremely chatty and bubbly compared to everyone else, probably to the extent that I could be perceived as slightly annoying. When I think back on it, I made friends in pretty much every single job I had, and I guessed I’d sort of expected I’d make some work friends here too.

            I don’t want to seem defensive of my country, as I’m not a patriotic person, but it could be partly to do with your specific workplace (as no doubt some of my issues are to do with my specific workplace too).

            My perception of Australians vs. Americans is that Americans are a just a little bit more friendly, overall. I find both countries to be very similar culturally.

        4. LondonWorker*

          London from Australia, same thing happened, my pragmatic bluntness isn’t received as well as back home.

        5. Ed*

          Ohh I had this, moved to Canada from Ireland and got in trouble for answering emails without any “fluff”- was told to work on flowering up my emails and not just replying with the answers. I also got a slap on the wrist for doing what someone asked me to do before replying to the email to confirm I got it and was going to do it. Like, it’s my job, why do I need to reassure someone I’ll do it? I can just do it and tell you when it’s done.

          1. Carine*

            I had a similar issue moving from France to Ireland ! I was often too direct and it took me a while to understand I had to ask about people’s weekend before asking any kind of favour.
            Moving to Scandinavia was a relief for me (until my coworkers felt comfortable enough to tell me I looked like shit on days where, we’ll I probably did, but didnt especially need people to point it out ?)

        6. BeenThere*

          I’m Australian living in America and I get in so much trouble for being direct. It’s really frustrating, I’m an engineer so usually I can find engineers who think like this however management doesn’t. I have to practice what I refer to as politician speak which is never saying what you mean and making sure everyone will feel good about themselves, then you go and do what needs to be done anyway.

          I’d love it if AAM could cover how you go from being to direct to being indirect without feeling like you are telling a large ball of lies.

          1. Specialk9*

            BeenThere, I think it starts with finding a way to respect the other way. People who complain about other cultures being “fake” “liars” will never find their way in that culture, for obvious reasons. If you can find a way to reframe that into how this way of acting is based on respect, that’s helpful. (Because, if you’re wondering, you’re being hugely pretty darn disrespectful of them – they’re probably picking up on that, on top of your plain talk. Indirect =/= stupid, in fact they’re *more* tuned into signals of contempt because indirect relies on decoding unvoiced signals. Stop putting out contempt vibes by changing your mental frame.)

            So like people who(Because, if you’re wondering, you’re being hugely pretty darn disrespectful of them – they’re probably picking up on that, on top of your plain talk. Indirect =/= stupid, in fact they’re *more* tuned into signals of contempt because indirect relies on decoding unvoiced signals. Stop putting out contempt vibes by changing your mental frame.)

            So, like people upthread were talking about positive politeness (reducing social distance by treating strangers like friends), you’d focus on the underlying motivation that it’s *respectful* to treat every human being like someone worthy of being noticed and acknowledged. (And recognize that people are imperfect, and do this imperfectly.) So chatting with strangers and asking coworkers about their weekends or dogs etc are ways of being polite because it makes a connection and makes someone feel seen and heard.

            With negative politeness (increasing social distance by ignoring people or not prying), you’d focus on the underlying motivation that it’s *respectful* to give people privacy, especially in a big city with a lot of demands on time and attention and physical space. In that sense, respect is not intruding on strangers with eye contact or chit-chat, and holding off on getting too intrusive with people you know.

            So my specific advice to you:
            1) Reframe indirectness as respect, rather than a “big ball of lies”. A different respect than you use, but still respect. In other words, stop thinking of them with contempt, most people can pick up on contempt real quick.
            2) Make a habit of naming your plain talk tendency upfront and make it something they are analyzing with their brains instead of their emotions. Brains are much more forgiving of cultural differences. “Oh, sorry, I know that my Australian plain talk comes across as rude here – I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. Just the way I was raised to talk.”

            1. Veracity*

              I’m not sure where you get that BernThere is being contemtous of his/her co-workers. It seems to me that s/he’s simply trying to find a strategy that works for something that doesn’t come naturally.

              1. Annoyed*

                I don’t know. I felt pretty disrespected (as an Anerican) just reading it. It read as completely contemptuous of a way of doing things “differently than me and therefore wrong.”

          2. Jennifer Juniper*

            I see it as saying what I’m supposed to say. It doesn’t matter if it’s what I feel or not. Total engagement and approval of whatever the boss says is what is important.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        In a perfect world, my workday would start at 5 am and end at 1 or 2 pm. I’m one of those annoying morning larks, except I get up earlier than birds do.

      4. Jolie*

        At my current workplace (3 of us full time) , we have everything :
        Office /payroll officer : comes at 8, leaves at 4
        Boss : comes at 9,lives at 5.
        I come at 10 and leave at 6.

      5. Barbara*

        Why is this rude not to be positive in American culture? I am from France and I don’t know American culture except through movies.
        It’s true that we have long lunch breaks. It is also okay to have wine at lunch break

        1. RJTinRVA*

          I can’t imagine drinking during the workday. That wouldn’t be acceptable anywhere I’ve ever worked.

    2. Lynca*

      This was the office culture I saw when I was visiting my now-husband in Australia. Arrive at 9 and leave at 6.

      My job in the U.S. is about as regular but lacks tea breaks. I was invited up to meet his co-workers at a tea break and I wish we had that here.

    3. Natalie*

      I worked abroad for one summer in Ireland and I loved pub lunch, because they all had soup and soda bread and it was really cheap! We were there at the wrong time, exchange rate wise, and were super broke.

    4. Sketchee*

      I’m in the US, but 930-6pm is my usual schedule. My office is flexible so the early birds leave around 4:30. I think we all like having the quiet periods either in the morning or the evening

    5. ANon*

      This could also be a city thing, since people are reliant on public transportation which can often have delays. Staying late seems to be the standard way to make up for it.

    6. Jen RO*

      Fwiw I still find it shocking that people in the US start work so early. I’m not even awake at 7! I would seriously decline a job that would ask me to start before 9. At the moment I work 9 to 6 officially, but I usually get to work at 9.30-10 and leave at 6.30-7.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I know some people who work 6am – 3pm, but I think they volunteered because that way they get out early.

        1. Not really a lurker anymore*

          I do it because it means I can pick the kids up after school. Their Dad drops them off at the before school care program but we weren’t able to get them into the after school care program.

      2. Karma*

        I’m fortunate to work for a company that encourages flexible working and in a role where it often doesn’t matter what time I am there. I choose to start work at 7:15am and finish at 3:45 but people in my team can start as early as 6am and as late as 9am. We can also work from home up to 3 days a week if we want to.

      3. Anon for this*

        I think this is also more common on the West Coast where people are more likely to get in early if they need to have more overlap with an east coast office or client.

    7. Laura*

      Strangely, I moved from London to New York a few months ago and have found the exact opposite! Every job I’ve had in London, every person is there by 9am and if not, you’re *late* (and potentially given the side eye). No one leaves before 6pm either. Here, people seem to come in anytime from 9-10.30, and leave from 5pm onwards.

      1. Mitsy*

        Second that! Have been in London for the past 10 years, and 9-6 is the most common schedule for most (I have so far worked in 3 companies and different industries). I think media might be an exception to the rule, but also things have been tightened up in recent years in terms of attendance.. Was working in New York prior to moving to London and had a much more flexible schedule there at the time

    8. Doc in a Box*

      I’m 7:30 to 4, which technically includes a 30 min lunch but I usually take lunch at my desk while charting because I want to leave on time. (My bus runs hourly, so if I miss the 4:15 I have to wait around doing nothing for another hour.) If I’m really running behind, I’ll log in from home and put in another hour or so over dinner.

    9. Candace*

      I am a Canadian currently working in the US, but in academe specifically, which is often very different. I absolutely depend on being able to come in later and stay later. On top of never having been much of a morning person (even when I have had 8 or 8:30 firm start jobs, I cannot help it, no matter what I try, I can get there on time but am just dumb as a rock till 10), I have chronic insomnia and sleep issues, and a severe (potentially fatal) reaction to the entire class of drugs most often used to treat these issues. I treasure the ability to come in at 9:30 most days, 10 if it has been a really bad night, and stay till 6, 6:30, or later. I do bring work home often too, and my boss is thrilled with my performance – but if I had to work at a rigid place I’d leave. I feel like more places I have been in the US were more rigidly focused on time than on what you got done (and I get that for places that have to be open, but that is not my role at all). Luckily I have found spots where I fit and it works.

  2. Chewy Mints*

    I’ll go!
    I am from South America and it is very common to greet your coworkers AND cheek kiss them every morning when you get to work. Some people might get offended if you see them and don’t at least say “good morning”.

    1. Anony*

      I went to Europe for two weeks at one point and had no idea how to react when a coworker kissed my cheeks.

      1. Irishgal*

        Worth pointing out “Europe” is lot of different countries so while kissing on cheek might be acceptable/normal in some it is likely to get you up on charges of harassment in others

        1. Emilie*

          Most scandinavians would find it rather odd (and be very uncomfortable!) if someone kissed them on the cheek in a work related setting.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      *adds South America to places never to move to*
      That cheek kiss is the stuff of my nightmares! I don’t even like being that demonstrative with close friends/family.

      1. LadyL*

        Same! Where I grew up in the US it’s very normal to greet/say goodbye to people via a hug, and I haaaate it. I can’t imagine the horror of adding cheek kissing to that!

        1. SpiderLadyCEO*

          I’m with you on hugs – but I love cheek kisses! A quick kiss on the cheek is much less physical closeness. Hugs are overwhelmingly close, and I often feel smothered, but of course that is the way of life in my part of world. (Southern US.)

        2. Demon Llama*

          Oh yeahhhhh the hugs! I’m a Londoner working in London but for a company with many American offices… I once met a senior American lady for the first time at a breakfast meeting and was just putting my bag down at the table when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned, and the next thing I knew, I was being hugged. I just froze. I have never felt so British in my life. Lovely, friendly Americans – please don’t introduce yourselves to British colleagues with a hug. ESPECIALLY not at 7am pre-tea. Most of us are not programmed to cope with it…

        3. Lady at Liberty*

          The hugging thing seems to be becoming more popular. I’m never sure how to handle being hugged by an acquaintance. It’s like, “uhhhhhh… O HALP WHAT DO”

        4. Story Nurse*

          I’ve found social greeting hugs to be a very gendered thing, especially in work situations. I’m nonbinary but people often think I’m a woman, so I get offered (or pulled into) many more hugs than men do. Ethnicity and culture also come into play. (There’s a great Key & Peele sketch about this.)

          My mother is U.S. born and raised, but loves the European cheek kiss and hates social hugging. She once got really annoyed at all my friends hugging one another goodbye every time someone departed from my birthday party and complained about how long it took!

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I got to Spain just a couple weeks before my cousin’s birthday, and of course she had to introduce me to ALL HER FRIENDS. I have never had that many strangers’ faces closing in on mine. She thought it was a hilarious way to get me over my culture shock — kind of like the logic to jump into cold water all at once so it doesn’t feel as cold.

        1. Beachgal*

          Yes in my culture, we kiss hello and kiss goodbye and people will be offended if you do not kiss them upon arriving. It is funny because I’ve noticed my American friends mimicking the kiss hello and goodbye they have seen throughout the years at my family events.

      3. Spooky*

        Same. I once saw a webcomic about an American getting cheek-kissed in Europe and muttering “this is how you all got the plague!” and I think about it every time now. Not historically accurate, of course, but still funny and a perfect description of how I feel.

        1. Jen RO*

          Oh wow I literally laughed out loud at that.

          I’m in an European country where it’s normal to kiss and hug your friends and I haaaate it.

      4. yasmara*

        I mentioned this yesterday, but I was SO BAD at reading the cheek kiss when I lived abroad (American in London). Sometimes it was done but sometimes it wasn’t? Sometimes it was one side and sometimes it was both?

        My husband has a funny story about how he ended up awkwardly hugging someone who went in for a cheek kiss because he couldn’t figure out what was going on.

        1. ALadyfromBrazil*

          hahahahaha In Brazil we have these differences from state to state. In Rio de Janeiro, is common 2 kisses. In Sao Paulo, only 1 kiss. In other places sometimes 3 kisses is the common thing.

          But I think its not common for workplaces unless you are friends with your coworkers.
          I work for a public university (another state, not Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo) and here I just say a “good morning everyone” from the door and this is okay. I share a room with 8 people so would be very weird compliment each one with a kiss.

        2. WorkingOnIt*

          I am British and I do this to. It seems to be at more posh, formal occasions that you’ll get this, although not always and I never know when it has suddenly been decided this is happening. Although I lived in Europe when I was a teenager and had no clue what I was doing either, I full on kissed my friend on both cheeks rather than the customary air-cheek kissing. I think going for a hug is better frankly, especially in the UK when we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to cheek kissing.

      5. Artemesia*

        I often visit cultures where this is done and have yet to be actually touched by lips. Just as the hand kiss does not involve applying lips to hand, the check kiss is usually a near miss as well.

        1. Bleeborp*

          I have some family in France (in a part where you gotta do 3 kisses each time!) but the only time I got a full impact kiss on the cheek was from an English guy who’s Air B&B we were staying at in Spain…so it can happen!

    3. Lady Jay*

      Love it! I visited Argentina a few years back and got very used to the air kisses near the cheeks! :)

    4. Rockhopper*

      Ah, yes. I volunteer as an ESL teacher and my student from Peru gives me a hug every time she comes to class. I knew it was a cultural thing but as a native New Englander, it made me uncomfortable at first. Last time she also brought the class Peruvian cookies though, so all is good.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Food offerings make everything better.

        No lies: my AP English teacher in high school would give you a higher grade on class presentations if you incorporated food in some way. It was the last class before the latest lunch group, so everyone was starving and inattentive, but if you fed them they paid more attention.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Did you go to high school in Illinois? The division head of the English department did the same thing in my Level 4 Humanities class.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I didn’t, but I’m happy to know this was a more widespread practice! It definitely made class more fun :) And delicious.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Same here! My classmates and I enjoyed watching our elegant and intelligent division head go crazy over things like ‘Desserts From The Italian Renaissance.’ No one had the nerve to point out that our Honors Humanities curriculum did not include The Italian Renaissance. Or food.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Nice! One of my classmates had parents who were wizards of Hawaiian cuisine — let me tell you, she was very popular in that class!

    5. Zip Silver*

      Same thing happens here in South Florida. It was definitely a culture shock to move from an Anglo majority state in the Midwest to Miami, but you get used to the cheek kiss greeting pretty quickly.

    6. Samiratou*

      Is it an actual cheek kiss or more of a kiss in the general vicinity of the side of their face?

      It’s been awhile, but the last time I visited somewhere with the cheek kiss, there generally wasn’t actual facial contact. The greeting was too quick for it, actually.

      1. Chewy Mints*

        It’s more the cheeks touch, and your lips kiss the air. So there is definitely skin touch. In some regions is one kiss, in others two. The very enthusiastic people, though, will kiss your cheeks with their lips. Now that’s a bit too much even for a native!

        1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

          The more friendly and close they are with you, the more lip action there is. Sometimes there are even hugs. Even among the men.

        2. Beck*

          You can always avoid skin touch if you want to though, it’s far from required. I don’t like it, so I just hover.

        3. MeowThai*

          This. I’m Chilean and when non-family members do a lips-to-cheek kiss, I’m all “GET AWAY FROM ME”

    7. Lana Kane*

      I’m Puerto Rican, and when I moved to the US I verrrrry quickly learned that the cheek kiss upon greeting and saying goodbye is very much Not A Thing here!

      1. Plague of frogs*

        Depends on where you are–cheek kissing is very much A Thing on Long Island, I think because of the substantial Italian population (not sure though). I’ve never learned to do it correctly, to my shame. I hit people with my glasses, I get my hair tangled in their earrings, I make not enough contact or too much contact…

        The first time I was on LI, all the women cheek kissed me, and none of the men did. So I thought it was only a single-gender thing. But the minute I got engaged, all the men started kissing me too. So it relates to marital status also.

        Lip kissing is also not unheard of there–my husband’s (female) cousin kisses everyone on the lips. That REALLY took some getting used to.

        I should mention that I’ve only visited LI socially, and I don’t think the kissing extends into the workforce.

    8. Lora*

      Yes! I love how very macho heterosexual non-South American men react to the cheek kisses from other men.

    9. Blake A.*

      Oooh, I’m from South America as well and didn’t realize how weird this came accross in the US until I had to temporarily move to New York for work. My company (a US bank) sent me and a male coworker to their headquarters in NYC and we said Hi each morning with a kiss on the cheek. Until an american coworker asked me if we were dating. I was horrified. But yeah, back home it’s a kiss on the cheek for everyone, including your boss, your doctor, your lawyer, etc.

        1. Blake A.*

          Lol. I’m afraid so. This has happened to me with every doctor ever (allergist, surgeon, ENT, gynecologist,etc.) And it’s very hard to not kiss them because they lean in with their face to your cheek which makes it extremely awkward to refuse.

          1. ALadyfromBrazil*

            I’m having fun with this thread. Although here this is not so common, I have some doctors that are very friendly and hug or kiss me on the cheek, male or female.

    10. sparty07*

      One thing I loved in Brazil during my 10 month work stint was every day they had 2 people come through each department to do a 10 minute stretching exercise. Everyone was expected to participate, and departmental bonuses were partly based on % participation. On Fridays they would usually have wooden massaging “cars” or stress balls to be used on the other person’s back.

      1. ALadyfromBrazil*

        I’ve worked at a meat industry here where we did this kind of exercise. Now, I’m at a public university and don’t have budget to do these things anymore.

    11. Jesca*

      Oh my yes! I was going to post about this. I’m America, and when we go to South America, for meetings, it can take up to 50 minutes after the meeting start time to get going because literally every single person must hug and kiss every single other person – which can take along time with like 50 people! And then here we laugh because we won’t even recognize each other’s presence as we walk into a room.

      1. NorthernSoutherner*

        I’m from Miami, which has a very Latin population. I was accustomed to the kissing and general physical friendliness, and it took me a while to realize reserved New Englanders prefer the handshake (if that).

    12. Baska*

      In Quebec (Canada), it’s two cheek-kisses (usually right, then left) in most social situations. I don’t generally cheek-kiss colleagues or in a professional setting, but if I’m introduced to someone socially, it’s generally both accepted and expected. I admit that when I went to France and they did THREE cheek-kisses, I was completely flummoxed!

      *Note that this is for women greeting women, and women greeting men. You don’t generally see men cheek-kissing men; usually they’ll do a handshake.

      1. Cristina in England*

        I really miss cheek-kissing from when I lived in Montreal! It only went wrong once with a lady from… somewhere else I guess who didn’t know it was right then left. Imagine the horror when our lips grazed.

      2. Zahra*

        Help me out on this one, because I always get confused.

        Right then left means you present your right cheek first or that you turn your head right (thus presenting left cheek first)?

        1. Baska*

          “Right” = Right cheek to right cheek
          You’re not actually so much turning your head as touching your cheek to their cheek (or even just in the air near their cheek) and making little kissing noises. :)

    13. L*

      Haha. I grew up in Miami where it’s pretty normal to cheek kiss your friends and relatives, but I moved to NYC for school and ended up staying for the first 5 years of my career there. I came back down to Miami last year and was completely shocked by the fact that indeed, many people cheek kiss in the office. Not necessarily to greet your every day coworkers, but at the beginning of a meeting with colleagues you don’t see often, etc. It still feels really really weird to me.

    14. Smithy*

      I used to work in Israel and my work involved meetings with many different INGOs and Embassies/Consulats. As secular Israeli society has no one take on cheek kisses – for so many meetings you just had no idea what you were headed into. One kiss? Two? Three? None?

      That being said preferred handshake grip also went all over the place (super firm to very soft) – so in a way it ended up being a bit easier to navigate the kisses.

    15. Viktoria*

      Haha yes! I studied abroad in Argentina, and also interned in a small office there. I was fascinated to watch all the employees go around and greet and kiss each person when they walked in, and then if they came in and someone was eating each person would always wish them “buen provecho,” and then at the end of the day everyone making the rounds again to say goodbye! Very charming, very friendly, very time-consuming!

    16. Julianne*

      Most of my students are from cultures where cheek kissing in greeting is normal in the workplace as well, so this happens all the time with parents. (Dads/male parental figures don’t usually cheek kiss female teachers on first meeting, I’ve noticed, but moms/female parental figures tend to.) Our faculty members who are from those cultures usually greet one another with cheek kisses daily, but they only break those out for the rest of us on the first day back and the last day before summer vacation.

  3. Me2*

    When I lived in Germany, you never said hello to strangers you passed on the street or the footpaths, unless you were both walking a dog, but whenever you entered a small business like the doctor’s office or the apotheke you were expected to greet the entire room, not just the receptionist or sales clerk.

    1. ZSD*

      This was always so strange to me! Older people would come into a waiting room, wish everyone a good day, and I’d just be like, “Um, hi.” (I could probably handle it more gracefully now that I’m not 20 years old.)

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I’m curious, why does walking the dog make a difference in the case of strangers of the street?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yup. This was the case for me in NYC, too. I rarely made eye contact with people on the street until I adopted my dog. I lived in a particularly friendly neighborhood, but having the dog and running into other dog owners got me actually talking to neighbors at 6:30am in the park.

          1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            Oh totally! I’m super introverted and generally don’t really become friendly with people just out of proximity (neighbors, etc). It’s totally an anxiety thing, just not one that I was particularly keen on working on. But then I got a dog and I made friends with a neighbor. Made friends with a woman at the dog park – to the point that we’ve dog sat for each other! It was funny how easy and comfortable it became making small talk with strangers when I had something specific that I could connect over. It also helped me with some external stimuli – I wanted to keep my dog social and provide her the opportunity to interact with other dogs.

            1. FoxyDog*

              Same here! I’m a complete introvert and I happened to get an exceptionally adorable dog. (Seriously, I can’t take her in public without getting at least one comment.) I had no choice but to get more comfortable talking to strangers. Dogs are great icebreakers!

          2. Alienor*

            I dog-sit for a friend pretty regularly, which involves the dog staying at my house for a week or so, and every single time, I’m amazed at how much people want to stop and talk when I take him out. It’s like I’m the handler for a seven-pound celebrity with a furry face and terrible breath, lol.

      1. Myrin*

        For the record, it’s totally alright to greet strangers on the street, even without a dog! There are no unspoken rules that you have to and it’s not weird if you don’t, but it’s not weird if you do, either!

        1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

          So it’s more like just personal preference as opposed to A Thing That is Not Done? Like here in Texas, you are often labeled as curmudgeon if you don’t greet strangers when you’re out and about – and this varies depending on how deep into the city you get.

          1. baconeggandcheeseplease*

            I think it depends on where you are. In NYC, if you randomly greeted me on the street, I would think you need something (probably directions). Sometimes strangers on the subway do bond over the many subway issues though…

            1. Doesn't talk to strangers*

              In NYC you do not speak to people on the street. People in my neighborhood who try to talk to me on the street are usually asking for money, homeless, high, or a combination of the above.

              However, in the small, rural community where I grew up, you wave at every driver you meet while on the road – even cars you don’t recognize. It’s known as the “farmer wave” – you raise your index finger from the top of the steering wheel and then put in back on the steering wheel:

              1. bonkerballs*

                I”ve usually seen this explained as a way of giving people space. In more rural places, there’s lots of space between me and the other person I’m greeting in the street. Everyone’s comfortable. So it’s polite to acknowledge each other. In a big city or somewhere else really crowded when you’re elbow to elbow pushing past each other, you’re not able to give people *actual* space, so you give them emotional space by not greeting people or making them feel like they need to greet you. It’s a different kind of acknowledgement and comfort.

                1. baconeggandcheeseplease*

                  This too (although I never really thought about it like that), but also, if I greeted everyone on the street in NYC, then I would never get anywhere because I would be greeting SO many people, and no one has time for that.

                2. FoxyDog*

                  This. I moved from Los Angeles to a pretty rural area. I’m still not used to greeting random people when I’m walking my dog.

              2. De Minimis*

                My father does that. It’s definitely a small town/rural thing, I’m from Oklahoma. I’ve seen it on rural roads, not on highways/town streets. I know it’s also super common in Texas.

                1. Collarbone High*

                  My dad does one finger for cars, two fingers for trucks. Larger vehicles deserve a slightly larger wave, I guess?

                2. Nonyme*

                  I live in a very rural community with about a dozen fill time people, and commute into a small town for work. Part of my commute is seven miles of dirt road.

                  I might see 2-3 cars on a busy morning, and I wave at every one.

                  Now, if the person you come across is someone you know, it’s socially acceptable to stop in the middle of the road, roll your windows down, and chat for a minute, until another car comes along and you need to move out of the way …

                3. nonegiven*

                  BIL waves at people he meets on every road but the multi lanes with a median where they can’t see it anyway.

              3. MaureenS*

                There’s a similar thing on Ontario lakes between boaters. You stick you hand/arm in the air, but do NOT move it around. You then lower your hand when the other boater / cottager raises their hand in response. Excessive movement is viewed as a distress signal & will get you a very different response.

                1. Trig*

                  Ha! I didn’t know waving meant distress, but definitely do the arm-life wave when canoeing.

                  My partner’s southern Ontario farming family also do the ‘farmer wave’ finger lift. I live in a city though; we mostly ignore each other unless, as mentioned upthread, you both have a dog. Or you have a dog and they like dogs, then there’s usually a smile.

              4. the cake is a pie*

                Yep, I’d say cultural preference instead of personal preference. When I first moved to Big City, I smiled at everyone I’d pass by in my neighborhood. It was such an abnormality that I vividly remember people stopping and remarking on it. Now I stick with a neutral, mind-my-own business approach and it just makes everything smoother. (Don’t get me wrong, I love city life. It’s just how it is.)

                And boy have I learned to avoid anyone who starts with, “Can I ask you a question?”

                1. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Agree on the “Can I ask you a question?” thing. An extra hearty Fuck You to the salesdouche expert that decided hijacking a social nicety was a legitimate sales tactic.

              5. Swedish Chef*

                It’s a certain car thing as well. When I owned a Subaru WRX, other WRX drivers would wave/acknowledge me. I had to learn to do it so I wouldn’t look like a jerk!

                1. K*

                  Funnily this is a thing under Subaru enthusiasts in Germany as well. Probably because the brand is not seen incredibly often and it feels more like a “like minded person behind the other wheel”

              6. BackHomeAgain*

                I had the same experience as you did in, but the DC area. People didn’t speak to you unless they wanted something, so I resented every time someone would approach me.

                After years in DC I moved back to my hometown in the Midwest. Not long after I moved back I was at the grocery store looking at soda when the man next to me says, “Hey, miss?”

                And I turned to him with my “leave me alone” face and said my cold, “Yes?”

                And he smiled and said, “That soda you’re looking at is on sale for $2 a pack cheaper at the store across the street.” I almost laughed at the abrupt realization I was back home, then smiled and thanked him.

              7. working abroad*

                I had this issue when I was working in television and stationed in a small, Southern town for a few months while a show filmed there. The production manager had to pull me to the side and tell me some of the locals thought I was unfriendly because I was so reserved. By the time the show finished it was so ingrained in me to wave at people while I was driving and smile at people when I entered a room.

            2. animaniactoo*

              Even on the street, it depends on how busy the street is. If you’re the only two people on the street, it’s common to at least nod hello. What would be unusual is stopping moving in any way in order to say hello. Unless, of course, it’s late at night in which case you just eye each other as you pass by.

            3. Fiennes*

              I think this strongly correlates to population density. If you’re going to pass one person while walking down the block, you greet them. If you’re going to pass 85, you don’t. In large cities, “negative niceness” is partly about the impossibility of greeting everyone, partly about the courtesy of giving people some amount of mental space that would otherwise be hard to come by.

          2. Myrin*

            Yeah, absolutely! I have days where I feel like greeting others and days where I don’t; at least in my area, I’d say we tend to lean slightly more towards not greeting – some people visibly startle because they don’t expect it – but it’s definitely not strange or over-invested or something if you send a friendly greeting a stranger’s way. (Locale matters, of course. You don’t greet anyone at a busy pedestrian precinct or in a big city with lots of traffic. But in my hometown, where I meet like two or three people on my way to the baker’s, both actions are totally valid.)

            1. Julia*

              Sure, in small towns, this is probably the polite way to go. My parents greet everyone in their village. But in Berlin, people will probably look at you funny.

          3. shep*

            I’m a Texan but I’m pretty much the grumpiest Texan ever, per the bar of greeting strangers. I was raised near and currently reside in a large metro area, so maybe that’s part of it, but I also have some minor social anxiety so the thought of greeting random people scares the crap out of me.

            1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

              Fellow grumpy Texas here. Born and raised in DFW and I still live here, so it’s definitely more normal for me to not greet strangers. When I’ve visited small towns I get a little freaked out by the stranger friendliness.

              1. RJGM*

                Hi neighbor! Chiming in as another grumpy Texan… I do that awkward no-teeth smile at people most of the time, if anything.

                Texas is the go-to example for this stuff, but I feel like I see WAY more greeting-strangers-on-the-street when I go to visit my grandma in Oklahoma. When we walk around her suburban neighborhood, she has to say “good evening” to eeeevvveryyyyone, and often stops to chat for 20+ minutes. (To be fair, they are her neighbors, but she’ll sometimes tell me later that she didn’t even know the other person’s name!)

            2. paul*

              I spent a lot of time in various cities and towns; I work in a largely rural region of Texas but have had family in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio…and there was a stretch where I was in Austin for work 3-4 times a year. You can definitely tell a difference between downtown Dallas and say, Paducah or Bovina or Ft. Davis. Which I guess makes sense.

            3. Rebecca in Dallas*

              Also a grumpy Texan! With the exception of when I’m out running, say I’m coming up behind a walker/slower runner, I’ll say “Good morning/afternoon/evening” mostly so that I don’t startle them as I pass them.

              Definitely a difference between Dallas (probably any urban area) and the smaller towns.

          4. miss_chevious*

            When I lived in New Mexico I was stunned that people would just SAY HELLO to you when they didn’t even know you. People would wave from CARS. I’m from Wisconsin, so not the East Coast or anything, but the level of engagement from strangers was still very shocking.

        2. Blue Bird Yellow*

          I think it depends on the size of the city. In smaller places, greeting everyone is the norm. In larger cities, people will be weirded out (I know I was) and side-eye you (I know I did). But I think that’s very similar to other countries as well.

        3. KR*

          As a New Englander it’s a little strange to greet people you don’t know on the street!! Not rude but not common either!! I’m in Southern CA now and it’s still strange to me how nice people are here.

          1. Kelly White*

            I’m a New Englander and I remember being confused when I went to DC to visit my brother (he was in college). I was walking by myself on the mall and people kept saying hello! I still remember it to this day!

      2. trilusion*

        It’s because you have something in common! In Germany when walking, you greet / nod another person with a dog. In traffic, bus drivers / motorcyclists / camper vans greet each other too (mostly just lifting a hand), or people driving rare cars do that too (VW beetles, Citroën 2CV).
        I also believe: the smaller the town, the more is being greeted. I don’t think this happens much in larger cities.

        Very interesting comments!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes! I learned this when I first met my husband. Motorcyclists wave to each other. I was surprised how wide spread this is, too. And the passenger waves also. I don’t know why I never noticed that before.

          Likewise with dogs. Dogs seem send out the message, “I am open to conversation if you chose.” Tell a person they have a very nice looking dog and watch their faces light up each and every time. My friend is almost 6 feet tall, he’s a big guy. He has a 10 pound dachshund. (Big dude with a dog the size of his shoe, it’s very funny.) She has gotten him into more conversations with people than anything else in his life.

      3. Plague of frogs*

        It’s like how when you’re on a motorcycle you wave to other people on motorcycles. Back in 2003, if you were driving a hybrid car you waved to other hybrid drivers but sadly that’s died out.

    3. Samiratou*

      Is everyone expected to give a verbal response when someone greets the room, or do you just sort of look up and throw a brief smile/wave? Or does the room even need to respond?

      1. Blue Bird Yellow*

        Ideally you’d greet the person back. So if a person enters the room and says, “good morning!”, you say that right back to them.

      2. Myrin*

        At least where I am, verbal response at the doctor’s office (although no one takes note if of the five people already waiting, only four open their mouth in a greeting; it’s the chorus that matters) and all-your-responses-are-fair-game in other places, although I’d say a quick verbal greeting by at least one person is the norm. Now that I think about it, though, you usually take your cues from the person delivering the greeting/farewell – if they’re looking at the room at large, I’ll automatically respond, but if they’re just angled towards the salesclerk, I don’t feel adressed and don’t really react. (Also and just btw, in my dialect – and in many others I know as well, though not all – there are several ways to greet or say goodbye and with many of them, it’s clear whether someone is speaking to multiple people or just one, and you can react accordingly.)

      3. Like, Really Smart*

        In Switzerland, you have to greet every single person individually when you enter someone’s house for a party/dinner/whatever. There’s a joke that that’s why Swiss people are always on time; no one wants to be the last person at a party who has to go around and greet 20 people individually.

    4. The Senior Wrangler*

      In rural UK, it’s totally fine (and nice) to smile at and start random conversations with people in the street, on the bus etc. If you try it in a larger city, especially London, people look at you as if you’re mad.

      1. AnnaleighUK*

        Or clutch their bag a little tighter, because obviously you’re going to mug them.

        Unless, of course, you’re all stuck waiting for a bus that isn’t coming, or on a broken down train. Then it’s customary to talk to anyone as long as it’s about your current mild peril.

        1. Jesca*

          Haha that is any city. I grew pretty urban although in a pretty rural state. And still really, no. If a stranger talks to me or acknowledges my existence in any way, I always assume they have an ulterior motive. It is just not done! LOL

          1. Lissa*

            I live in a mid size city and if someone talks to me they are likely to be, in order 3. hitting on me, 2. asking me for money or 1. evangelizing. Dunno why but missionaries love me. I must look extremely convertible.

            1. K*

              “I must look extremely convertible.”

              For some reason, that’s super funny to me. Thanks for making me chuckle!
              Probably because I also often had missionaries approaching me.

      2. Kora*

        In Liverpool you probably don’t start a conversation with strangers on the street, but it’s totally fine to do it on public transport, in a pub, at the theatre etc. It was a pretty big culture shock for me when I first lived somewhere else in the country.

      1. Myrin*

        That’s where I am, actually, and what I’m basing my comments on. “Grüß Gott” is how you would greet a stranger on the street but in my neck of the woods, we tend more towards not saying anything at all.

      2. Countess Aurelia*

        In Austria, you would say that as well (to someone when you walked into a store, too). And you ALWAYS said a ‘wiedersehen’ getting off the elevator.

        However, if you say Gruss Gott to someone in Berlin (particularly with an Austro-American accent)…well, I had one guy ask me if I was his Bavarian grandmother.

        Oh, also in Austria: if you told the checker at the grocery store to have a nice day as you left (just, “shoenen tag!”), they looked at you like you had two heads.

    5. dshockley*

      I wonder where in Germany you were! I have family in rural north-west Germany (near Bremen, and also very north Nordrhein-Westfalen in the middle of nowhere), and where they are, every single person greets you when you’re out walking. I’m not sure, but I don’t think people think you are rude if you don’t, just weird or not from around there. (My partner is Italian, and we speak English with each other, and my daughter looks German enough but is very loud and switches between English and Italian, so I guess it was always clear we’re not from around there anyway though!)

      1. Me2*

        I lived in Nordrhein-Westfalen but in a village on the outskirts of Bonn, on the Rhein river. People rarely answered when we greeted them as we passed by walking along the river or if we were walking in the Siebengebirge. But if I walked with my friend and her dog, every other dog walker would greet us.

      2. Misquoted*

        In Ostfriesland, we greet strangers walking by with “moin!” But generally only in the rural areas, not walking down the busier streets.

        1. trilusion*

          Yes! My boyfriend is from there. Visiting his home town, walking anywhere, people say Moin! to each other all the time. At first I kept asking, “Who was that?” (because I thought he knew them) and he always said “no idea”

        2. Amerikanerin*

          When I spent a year in Kiel, it was always “Moin, Moin” in a sorta sing-song fashion. Out of step with the rest of the social niceties there.

          You wouldn’t use it in a busy street, but on an elevator in a hall, on a street where it’s just a few people, you use it.

          Of course, that was several decades ago…

      3. Ann Cognito*

        I’ve lived in Cologne, most recently two years ago, and I love it as a city, but I found I couldn’t wait to get back to the West coast US just for the friendly, day-to-day interactions with strangers. I found Germans in and around Cologne to be unfriendly and rude, especially older people. That was my experience when I lived there 20 tears ago too. I never want to live there again because of it!

      4. MaryQuiteContrary*

        I do think it’s about location! I grew up in a very rural village in northern Germany – would never greet anyone in any of the bigger cities I moved to but I wouldn’t dare not say ‘moin’ or at least wave at people back home – I’m 26 and I still fear reports of me not greeting people in the village getting back to my mom.

    6. Roz*

      This happens when we do business in the South East of France! Everyone was greeting us as we waited for our appointment and I was so confused. We are Canadian.

    7. De Minimis*

      I had never heard that about Germany! I took German in college and they talked a lot about cultural differences, but not that one. The main one I heard was that people often could know someone for years without using the familiar form of address, so the idea of greeting so many strangers seems odd to me.

    8. irritable vowel*

      My Dutch friends have told me (and I’ve observed them doing this) that when it’s someone’s birthday, you say “happy birthday” to everyone present, not just the person whose birthday it is.

    9. Emily Spinach*

      When I used to jog in Germany, where I lived alone and was starved for human interaction, I got VERY enthusiastic about greeting other walkers/joggers, and they were very nice about it. I think being in an actual park/path you’re more likely to be greeted occasionally versus on sidewalks. But here in the US I’d say runners are most likely to wave/nod versus actually saying anything to each other (besides “on your left!”).

    10. LurkNoMore*

      I talk to strangers all the time (from the Midwest) and it would completely freak out any Japanese co-worker I was currently traveling with. One time, after traveling for about 10 days from NY to Cal, one of the Japanese engineers turned to me and asked me if I knew everyone in the whole US – he had been under the impression that I knew every one I had talked to during our trip.

    11. Anon for this*

      When I lived in Mexico City, other customers leaving or entering a restaurant would say “provecho”, basically enjoy. The first few times I was very concerned. Why are you looking at a stranger and wishing them a good meal.

  4. Marie B.*

    After reading the update on Monday from the letter writer who had to have a special chair flown in to where they work due to their weight, I was surprised to learn from that post and the comments that in some places it is okay to tell your co-worker they are getting fat, or to measure/send your employees to a health coach for weight loss, or for 2 or 3 people to sit in letter writer’s chair at once to take and share photos (his chair was large/wide for people who are 30 stone/420 pounds). I know the letter writer said he was fine with all that but I would be horrified and devastated if any of it happened to me, whether I was working abroad in a different country or not.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      When I lived in (rural) Kenya, it was super normal for someone to comment on whether they thought someone “got fat.” Not the weight loss, etc., or taking photos, but if someone didn’t recognize you because you’d gained weight, it was not considered offensive to say so. It was just a matter of fact statement.

      I don’t know if this is the case in Nairobi or the other large cities, though.

      1. Samiratou*

        Also, in places where people are thin because of lack of food or other resources noting a weight increase is a compliment.

        As such, size can also be an indicator of wealth or status.

        (Former Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa)

        1. Kate*

          My dad had the same experience growing up in rural Georgia in the 50s/60s. “Now, ain’t that baby fat” was apparently a very high compliment for a child.

          1. Sometimes yes, sometimes no*

            Mom circles I’m in still practice some of this for at least a little while. Comments on baby rolls and fat little tummies and chubby cheeks, etc., are all extreme terms of endearment!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Number 3 RPCV from WA. I shared in the last thread that I knew of a volunteer who got her villagers to greet her with “You look very thin today!” because she couldn’t adjust to “You look so fat!” the standard polite greeting.

            On babies, I’ve heard of that with doctors working with refugee populations–the doctor will comment on the baby’s size and grandma who cares for him while mom and dad work will be ECSTATIC at the compliment, because for years in the camps there were no fat babies.

            Marie, it really is just a different set 0f cultural rules as to what is and is not remarked on. Humans are very adaptable to shifting cultural norms–what would be cruel in one culture is the equivalent of observing “the weather is warm” in another.

        2. Snargulfuss*

          When I was in Vietnam a few years ago a tour guide told us that being a bit overweight was seen as a sign of wealth.

        3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

          Yes! My mother in law is AfroColombian, and for years she would tell me that i was big( to be fair, i am a bit chubby, but still!) and i was always a bit hurt, until one day she was telling me a story about how boys always ignored her in favor of the “bigger, pretty girls” and it clicked! Context, it matters!

      2. RPCV*

        Yup yup, same in Swaziland. “Oh Colile (my Swazi name), you’re looking fat today!” Also, as an unmarried adult, questions about my virginity were completely fair game.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, same. Someone also once offered my (male) coworker money to buy me in exchange for “cut” virgins.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yes! The “buyer” was referring to FGM. The whole experience around that convo was awful, and I’ve never really forgiven my male coworker (he thought it was funny to egg the guy on as a “joke”).

      3. Heather*

        I did a study/volunteer thing in Tanzania one summer in college, and I was the youngest person in my program (I was 21, my fellow volunteers were all late 20s-40s). But I found out that a Tanzanian at the house I was staying at thought I was much older because I was fatter than the other women! He said “I thought you were older because you’re big.” I was not offended but tried to kindly let him know for future reference that other American women might be.

    2. the gold digger*

      I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, where I worked with a co-op of Mapuche women. My co-workers would tell me it looked like I had gained weight or would mention the big pimple on my chin. They thought it was really weird that I was taken aback, especially as in their mind, they were just stating fact and making conversation, not making any value judgments.

      1. Blue Bird Yellow*

        I wonder what sort of smart talk you’re supposed to make in these cases? I’m struggling to follow that logic.

        Person 1: You have a pimple.
        Person 2: I know.
        Person 1: It’s a big one.
        Person 2: Yep.

        1. Jesca*

          I am thinking more a long the lines of making idle comments on the weather or saying the grass looks a bit browner today. In many places of the world, a lot less is put on certain aspects of appearance that are considered “unavoidable”.

        2. Goya de la Mancha*

          I don’t think I could contain my sass….

          1: *looks at rudolph sized zit on nose* You have a pimple.
          Me: Really? Are you sure?

      2. Alienor*

        I married into a family from an Asian/Pacific Island country, and I found out pretty quickly that if you walk into a room full of ladies playing mahjong, they’ll be more than happy to comment on your weight gain or lovingly (?) call you Four-Eyes because you got new glasses. :)

        1. Thany*

          Same. I married into a Filipino family. My MIL and aunties comment on my husband’s weight or my weight often. Sometimes they only speak in Tagalog, but my husband usually translates for me. Recently I gained about 15 lbs and they all asked me if I was pregnant. I was horrified.

          1. Story Nurse*

            My MIL grew up in the States but married a Japanese man and now lives in Singapore. One day she saw me in a fairly snug dress, patted my belly, and said, “Anyone growing in there?” Maybe she picked it up from her Asian neighbors and friends, because that seems a little forward even for a Jewish mother who would loooooove to be a Jewish grandmother.

        2. awb*

          My grandpa’s first sentence to me when he saw me for the first time im 10 years was, “you’ve gotten fat.” Again, it wasn’t meant maliciously but I was 18 and definitely very upset!

    3. CoffeeLover*

      Eastern european perspective here. People comment on weight all the time but it’s not thought of as a taboo or offensive topic. Someone will say “wow you put on a lot of weight since I saw you last”, but it’s just not seen as offensive. Coming from that culture, I always thought we North Americans (because I grew up in Canada), are too sensitive about weight. So what if you put on some extra pounds? There shouldn’t be any shame, guilt or insult around that.

      Also it goes just as much (if not even more so) the other way. When you lose weight people will comment because they’re concerned about your health. I guess it’s important to not that boundaries around that kind of stuff (weight, wellness, health) are way different.

      1. General Ginger*

        Hmm, I wonder how much that varies across Eastern Europe, because where I grew up the weight comments were super-common, but carried a fair amount of negativity. The “babushkas on the bench” would discuss arriving/departing/neighboring people’s weight in terms of character, it was very much a value judgment.

        1. Jen RO*

          It’s not uncommon in Romania, but it’s not polite either. At least for the younger generation. For my grandparents’ generation however, a fat baby is the ideal – ‘are you feeding him enough?’ is the bane of so many mothers.

          1. General Ginger*

            Oh, yes, for babies, definitely. Though I feel like “did you bundle him up enough, where is his hat, you know what happens when you take him outside w/out a hat” usually took precedence over “are you feeding him enough”.

    4. Manders*

      My husband worked in Japan, and his explanation of the culture was that you’re very polite to people you don’t know, but very direct with your “in group” of friends or colleagues. It’s also not considered rude to comment on someone’s unusual physical attributes. He’s tall and broad, and people weren’t shy about commenting on it. I don’t watch a ton of Japanese media, but I tried watching Yuri on Ice a little while ago, and the jokes about Yuri’s weight definitely seemed mean to me but my husband confirmed that it’s pretty normal for friends to talk to each other that way.

      1. Manders*

        Oh, and commentary on ethnicity and religion works a little differently too–in both Japan and China he’s been complimented on being a Jew, and the stereotypes of Jews being highly educated and good with money are considered very positive attributes.

        1. Goyangi*

          I was once taking a Korean class at a local church and our very nice elderly teacher said something along the lines of “The Jews are a great model for us [Koreans]! There are so few of them, and yet they control all the money and power!” I had been taking a sip of my coffee and just about spit it back out.

          1. Manders*

            Hah, yes, he told me a story about a Japanese diplomat complimenting a Jewish one on how well his people controlled the world’s banks.

            Oddly enough, in China, he got special praise from party members because Karl Marx was a Jew. I’m not sure how they combined “good with money” and “Marxist” as stereotypes.

            1. Carrie*

              Even here in America many of the sharpest business people I know are current and former Commies. They’re under no delusions about the system and they tend to have a lot of hustle, prioritizing doing business for themselves over loyalty to a boss or company.

      2. Lucie in the Sky*

        Yeah, this is super common. Lots of comments about peoples size “Oh hey you got fat” is something i’ve been told wayyyy more then anything.

        Also, pretty specific discussions about people’s work abilities. Lots of comments about how “I don’t think that guy ever does any work”

      3. Janie*

        I’m Japanese American and was surprised when I stayed with relatives in Japan how quick they were to comment on my face “getting fat in the last three days.” Because they had been non-stop feeding me for three days.

        1. Lo*

          My husband is Sansei. As a child, he was called “big” in Japanese by relatives in the USA bc he was larger than everyone else. Both tall and more filled out. The term they used could have been construed as “fat.” It was not a compliment.

          So if you haven’t hear any JAs do this, I’d say you haven’t met enough Issei or Nisei little old ladies. Vicious.

          I’m white. The old Japanese American women I knew in Cali constantly talked to me about how our hapa kids would look and told me he and I needed to breed more smart, pretty hapa girls. I’m too old now to get that commentary.

          Once, walking down a street with my husband, an Issei woman who barely spoke English came up to me and said “make many pretty hapa babies with husband.”

          1. Julia*

            A lady at a store in Japan told me I’d have really cute “haafu” (half-Japanese) babies. To be fair, my dentist in Germany said the same thing when she heard I’d married a Japanese man, so it’s not just Japanese people who say things like that.

          2. Rumple Fugly*

            Honestly the number of times I’ve been told my partner and I will have pretty hapa kids by total strangers of all varying ethnicities will never stop being weird to me. It’s be pretty cool if we could stop fetishizing multiracial people as a general rule.

      4. Jesmlet*

        My mom’s family all live in Taiwan where she was born so whenever we interact, which is not that often since I live in the U.S, there’s always some comment about my appearance.

        “Woah, you still have pimples at 26?!”
        “You’re lucky you got your chest from your Italian side!”
        “It must be hard to find good clothes with such wide hips!”
        “Looks like you’re finally losing weight, do you have a boyfriend yet?”

        And they wonder why I don’t like visiting lol… I guess it’s not considered rude to call attention to things that make people insecure over there, but it definitely is over here in suburbia.

        1. Alienor*

          Oh God, my college-age daughter hates that aspect of spending time with her grandparents on her dad’s side of the family. They moved back to their country of origin a few years ago and only visit the U.S. once or twice a year, so she puts up with it, but not happily. We’ve had a lot of conversations over the years about how it’s a cultural thing and they don’t mean to insult her (although that said, they also lived and worked here for 40+ years, and they know perfectly well what is and isn’t rude by American standards) but she’s just about done with them because of it.

      5. matcha123*

        I work in Japan, and it’s considered rude. But, since your husband was (probably?) not Japanese, those rules are thrown out. Apparently family, friends and other “in-group” people feel fine commenting on those things, but you don’t generally say it to strangers. People will whisper and cast side glances, but not say anything. When it comes to westerners, people are taught that westerners are “open” and “freely” speak their minds, so I feel like that also factors in.

        1. Lo*

          Except that the Japanese relatives my husband has do it to each other. In Japan. Amongst themselves.

          Of course, they are all older.

          I’m not so sure it’s a much of an in v out group issue as it is generational. Or public v private.

          Based on my experience, I’m not so sure your conclusions are 100% correct.

          Maybe someone Japanese can comment.

          1. matcha123*

            Well, you said that your husband is sansei and to most Japanese people that means not “real” Japanese. Also, I’m sure there are regional differences, but I’ve been living in Tokyo for a year and lived in another large Japanese city for over a decade. I’m not going to call myself an expert on Japanese culture, but I do think I have a pretty strong base to my opinion.

        2. Julia*

          THIS. In my grad program here in Japan, we often talk about language and culture, and SO many Japanese and Chinese people here believe that English and Western languages in general means always saying what you mean. They look STUNNED when you tell them that no, even in the West, you don’t usually tell your boss that you don’t want to do this job or your mother-in-law that you hate her cooking. It’s an uphill battle…

          1. Betsy*

            Yes, my colleague said a similar thing when I was wondering why our students can suddenly sometimes seem oddly blunt, and it seems to come completely out of the blue (I’m in Southeast Asia). He is from an East Asian country, and says it’s a common perception that people from Western countries always speak completely directly. I find it interesting– there are a lot of ‘softeners’ in conversation here, but they’re almost the opposite of the kinds of ‘niceties’ in my culture. So sometimes I think it’s just a case of me feeling hurt about stuff that wasn’t intentionally hurtful, and conversely probably causing offence myself, in other ways.

      6. littlen*

        I studied abroad in Japan, and stayed with a good friend’s family for a few days over New Years. She was a little heavier than the average Japanese girl, but not that much, and oh man – the comments/jokes her family made about her made me so uncomfortable! “That chair is broken because Mari sat in it,” for example, or “The reason Mari is fat and her sister isn’t is because when we lived in America when they were little, Mari loved American food and her sister didn’t.” Ouch.

      7. Julia*

        I’ve been in a Japan for a while now and have worked in Japanese workplaces and married into a Japanese family, and my suspicion is that many Japanese people say things to foreigners that they would NEVER say to another Japanese person. Even if you speak the language extremely well, and you have a freaking Japanese name, when they can see your face and it looks foreign, they will treat you differently. Not everyone, of course, but when I have repeated some of the things I’ve been told at work or by strangers to my Japanese friends, they were always appalled that someone would say that to me.

        Of course, every culture simply has rude people, so it might have been just that as well.

      8. Teal*

        Being overly polite with someone can actually become a snub because it indicates that you don’t want to be friends. Though commenting on appearance is reserved only for very very close friends.

    5. Snargulfuss*

      I lived in Argentina for a little while and it was completely normal and acceptable for people to refer to each other as “la gorda” and “la negrita” *(the fat one, the black/dark one). Gordo/a (fatty) is a super common nickname or term of endearment.

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      When I worked in Vietnam and Thailand commenting on the fact that I was taller/bigger/had bigger feet at work was pretty normal and similar comments among local staff were also the norm. It was also not uncommon for the older women everywhere (e.g. at the market, in the neighborhood, at work) to scold other women if we went outside without a hat/parasol, to bring food to fix some real or perceived health/appearance issue, and to offer unsolicited advice and critiques on pretty much everything. I think it was a perk of being an elder

      I’d have been incredibly annoyed if it happened here in the US, but in both countries there was such a lack of malice in the comments that they never stung. Partially because they were commenting on the obvious (I was bigger, taller, and had bigger feet than 95% of the local population), partially because sometimes it was clear that the comment only sounded rude because of language limitations, but mostly because there was a fundamental lack of malice.

    7. Triple Anon*

      I’m enjoying this thread. I was unaware of these differences. Sometimes people from one of the cultures mentioned have said something that offended me and I thought it was meant as an insult. Now I see that cultural differences were at play. Here’s to being more compassionate and understanding.

    8. Hey Nonnie*

      This would be awful for me, since I only gain weight when I have medical problems serious enough to impact everyday functioning, and if I have serious medical problems I do NOT want to talk about them with anyone outside of my doctors and very close friends/family. Aside from the North American implied judgment, it would feel incredibly invasive for an acquaintance to comment on it.

      “Hey, you got fat!”
      “I’ve been having health issues, thanks for bringing that up.”


    9. Casanova Frankenstein*

      It is definitely considered a normal and ok thing to comment on people’s weight in China and Taiwan. My boss frequently travels to China for work and sometimes goes on juice cleanses before his trips to try and head off weight gain comments. I also used to work with a Chinese factory manager who was slightly chubby by American standards, whose boss (the factory owner) once told her he would reward her with a vacation to Tibet if she was able to lose a certain amount of weight.

      1. doubleblankie*

        I worked in China for a while (still go there for work) and comments on appearance are just considered normal. A Chinese colleague, with no malice at all, would always comment on my appearance – things like ‘your outfit today is very nice. Apart from the shoes’. Pretty funny mostly.
        Once I was in the office elevator and a lady looked at me and said to her colleague, ‘foreigners really do have big noses!’. She just assumed I couldn’t understand-but I’ve had that said directly to me a lot of times!

        1. Betty*

          I’ve recently moved to a very black area. I am white (family history so so 100% white, but I am pretty small with pale skin and dark hair but…so are many other English people!) but I have had so many people (including one randomer at a bus stop) ask me if I am Chinese. And when I say no, they express scepticism, like I must be secretly Chinese and somehow want to hide it from them. Two people have told me I should get an online DNA ancestry test to check it out. I now really really want to go to China and have some Chinese people comment on my appearance to see what they think!

    10. Annie Moose*

      My sister-in-law who works with Nepali refugees to the US and has been to Nepal several times has remarked before on how she just had to get used to how blunt the Nepali culture is–my sister-in-law is chubby by American standards, but the Nepali people she knew would straight up go, “oh, you’re looking fat today” which was quite a bit of culture shock at first! Ditto for commenting on acne. But according to her, it’s not at all rude–people are just stating facts.

      1. Jen*

        I work with refugees here in the U.S. and I still remember the day one of my Nepali coworkers passed me in the hall and said “Oh, you’re really getting your weight back.” Bless his heart (I’m southern).

    11. Lissa*

      I think this sort of thing really hits a lot of liberal North Americans where they live, so to speak, because it has two ingrained views in conflict — “don’t comment on people’s appearances, especially weight” and “be tolerant about cultural differences.” Like, it’s hard not to have an implied “and it’s really not cool that they do that” tone about things that are completely fine and normal in other cultures, or a view that eventually the North American way will or should permeate the whole world and everyone will see weight as an offlimits topic.

      I get some people would be upset about it this but I honestly think the chair LW’s attitude was super healthy because he wasn’t being negatively affected by something in the culture where he lived that wasn’t meant badly and he wasn’t likely to change. I don’t know if there’s really a solution to this other than “don’t work or live in countries where they have a normal social thing that would be super miserable” though. I’m not sure how I would do in some of the cultures mentioned above that involve a lot of physical contact on greeting! I’d try to get used to it but might run screaming into the night…

      1. Bleeborp*

        I feel similarly that I could handle the weight stuff in these other countries (I’m chubby and would definitely get comments!) because, well, I’ve come to terms with that aspect of myself and even when someone does comment on my weight with malice, I laugh it off because that’s their insecurity, not mine. So if someone just says “you’re fat!” like it sounds coming from the cultures where that’s normal, I’d be like “Hell yes, I am!” But the constant cheek kissing of some cultures, I’m just not bred for it, it would make me dread meeting anyone ever!

      2. Specialk9*

        Liberal North American here who is also very well traveled. Your comment pretty much assumes that we must not travel, which is weird.

        1. Lissa*

          How so? I feel like it’s more of a challenge for those who do travel, if anything, to balance the issues about being culturally sensitive and understanding with the feelings about what’s really insulting or unacceptable, since it would come up more often! (I am a liberal north American myself, though haven’t travelled as much as I’d like recently!)

  5. ZSD*

    Well, unlike when I worked in California, I’ve found that no one here in DC wears flip-flops to work. :)

    1. CatCat*

      Haha, when I moved to DC from California, I did notice that people tended not to dress down quite so much.

      And also that people seemed to be in much more of a hurry.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        To people who are used to the pace of DC (or NYC), the non-hurriers are unbearably slow! I like to think of myself as an easy-going person, but a clutch of tourists walking four abreast on the sidewalk at a snail’s pace when I’m rushing to a meeting…ragestroke.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          (By “ragestroke” I mean, I say “excuse me” in a polite but loud voice. I’m a native Midwesterner so I can’t actually be rude!)

          1. awb*

            This is my favorite way of clearing space in NYC. I say excuse me firmly and loudly while maintaining a very fast pace. The excuse me gets people’s attention and then they move whem they see me heading towards them at speed.

        2. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          I used to work in Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the tourists who would to slowly stroll through the busy Quince Market Building at lunch time made me crazy! For those who don’t know…it’s a historic building that now houses all sorts of food counters- very busy at meal times – and the idea is to leave the center lane clear for people to walk and then to step to the side to peruse the menu boards, look at the food selections, or order. Tourists always just stop short in the middle which causes a bottle neck of people – most of whom are carrying food. I’m from Boston, born and bred, and have never had a problem with being direct so many a tourist heard me yell at them “Damn it! Move to the side! We’re all hungry and would like to get through!!”

          1. Overeducated*

            Ohhh no. I used to work at Faneuil Hall myself and I never ever bought lunch at Quincy Market – for one thing it cost about my hourly wage, for another the crowds were just. Not. Worth. It.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            And when they need to stop and discuss the fact that they are lost, it’s always in a doorway. Not off to the side.

            1. KT84*

              Lol, in NYC i find large groups of tourists think the middle of the sidewalk is the best place to discuss where to get lunch. Never mind the dozens of people having to maneuver around them. It is particularly funny/rage inducing when they leave their hotel lobbies and then hog the sidewalk. It’s like, you just came from an open space, why couldn’t you have had your conversation there? (On the flipside, I am sure the tourists go home and complain about the New Yorkers who are rush, rush, rushing every where they go).

      1. Floridian anonymous.*

        Seriously, it’s below freezing in FL in the mornings this week, and people in my gov’t office are wearing flip flops to work.

        1. Brandy*

          My mom works for Metro and loves her flip flops. She has her “dressy” ones for work and regular for at home.

        2. SophieChotek*

          It’s below zero where I am…and I’ve seen a few teenage girls at the mall wearing flip flops. (Sorry, not quite related to work.) I couldn’t fathom wearing flip flops when it is a high of zero…

      2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        82 degrees in Los Angeles today. It almost never gets below 65 during the day. I’m always amazed when Allison talks about not wearing sandals to work and business offices requiring closed-toed shoes. Flip flops are a bit a stretch for an office though.

        1. Lo*

          I’m in the South. My court judges don’t require closed toe shoes. Even the ones who prefer women to wear skirts

      3. Former Floridian Flip Flop 'Ficionado*

        One of the hardest things for me moving from FL to NC was realizing I needed actual shoes. I was just talking to another FL transplant today at lunch about what constitutes “dress” flip flops, and other concepts unknown in these parts. Except for when I worked in a company that had a factory floor so closed toe was mandatory, and for the many years I was a vet tech (comfy running shoes were a must), flip flops were totally fine for work!

      4. blackcat*

        I grew up in California. I would were flip flops to school on mornings that it was below freezing. My feet were cold in the morning, but fine by the afternoon.

        Flip flops and a northface fleece jacket. Bay area 2000s chic, I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          Yes! Northface and Reef leather flip flops for me. Rain or shine, work or play really. And I lived in Berkeley in the 2000s, not too far from the Northface outlet so that helped.

          1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

            Reef flips are THE BEST. I bought a pair in 1997 and finally retired them around 2013.

    2. de_pizan*

      I remember seeing a comment on a blog somewhere about how supposedly you never see adults wear backpacks in New York because “backpacks are juvenile.” And my thought was about how probably a good 60% or more of the adults you see on their way to work here in Portland OR wear them, whether because of taking transit, biking, or simply because it’s a super casual city. Even at the law firm I worked at, I would see lawyers in their suits coming in wearing them.

        1. Doesn't talk to strangers*

          Backpacks are the bane of my subway existence in NYC. I hate them and wish they were not allowed on the subway! The people who use them rarely take them off in a crowded subway and are always bumping me with them and taking up more room than necessary. I legit will tap people on the shoulder and ask them to take off their backpacks on a crowded train. I find it very inconsiderate!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            They wear them on their backs? I’ve never been to NYC but I’ve noticed on public transit overseas that people often wear them in front (presumably because of pickpockets).

            1. Spreadsheets and Books*

              Almost exclusively. Pickpocketing isn’t a huge issue here, especially outside of tourist areas. You’re supposed to take your backpack off and put it between your feet on the subway but few people actually do that.

            2. yet another Kat*

              I wear my backpack in the front on the subway in NYC but it’s actually just out of consideration bc a backpack on someone’s back a) can take away floor space that could be occupied by a person, b) can easily bump people who aren’t equally considerate.

              Like Doesn’t talk to strangers above, I’ve been known to call out other who don’t turn their bag around or put it down. I have also, on a limited number of occasions, simply shoved a bag back. I’m mostly embarrassed by that behavior, and don’t recommend it, but seriously if you’re clueless enough to have a giant bag on your back on a crowded morning commute train, you’ve most likely made the decision that you dgaf about anyone else already.

              1. Liza*

                I do keep my backpack on when I ride the T in Boston, because the floor is filthy and I don’t want to set my bag on it! Though if the train is extra crowded I’ll take the backpack off and carry it by the top loop.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, my husband commutes into NYC (from the NJ suburbs) via public transit and he always has a backpack. I once asked him why he didn’t have a laptop bag for his laptop (which is the main reason he has the backpack), and he said it was much easier to have the weight evenly distributed over both shoulders, rather than just weighing down one side.

          1. Kate*

            I was going to comment just this. I wore a messenger bag for years and had all sorts of back and shoulder issues. I’ve also heard that backpacks are juvenile, but when I have to lug my 10 lb laptop into an office, it’s going in a backpack.

            1. Aleta*

              This gets me, as a former bike messenger. You’re really not supposed to be carrying a lot of weight for too long in them (they’re more about ease of access), but even then, all the office types I see wearing them are doing it wrong! The top end is suppose to sit up near you shoulder, not down near your butt. I always cringe whenever I see it, their poor shoulders and backs.

              1. Aleta*

                Here’s an example what I’m talking about : https://trashmessengerbags.com/#/product/28

                (Also I don’t mean to imply you or other commentators are wearing them wrong, it’s just a thing I definitely see on an incredibly regular basis. We’ve actually started calling them sling bags to distinguish from office workers’ improperly worn messenger bags.)

                1. Kate*

                  I have seen them worn like that, and it makes sense, but I’ve always found that you have to make them really tight to keep them in that position, which makes it hard to get on and off. Also, even as someone who’s not particularly chestie, I found having the strap really tight across my check to be…challenging. But I do get what you are saying, and that is probably why I was having trouble with it.

                2. Aleta*

                  Aha, see, proper messenger bags have easily and quickly adjustable straps for that. You loosen it to either get inside it or take it off, and then tighten it back up when it’s time to go. It’s very fast, and why they’re preferred for messenger work. I would NOT be surprised if the random “messenger” bags you buy wherever don’t have that feature, though.

                3. Kate*

                  I’m kind of a Timbuk2 fanatic, and I’m pretty sure they do have that feature , but I was just too clueless to realize what it was for. So that’s good to know. I may have to dig some out of my closet. Thanks :)

                4. Aleta*

                  Different strap systems have different methods to get them tightened and untightened quickly while remaining secure, and I definitely had to see someone do it to get a few of them, so I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. Timbuk2 isn’t hugely popular with the messenger crowd (not really durable enough for the extra abuse), but they definitely are a brand that like, actually properly designed their bags and didn’t just copy the general look, if that makes sense, so they should be able to do that.

            2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Yeah – I used to carry a nice canvas tote bag, and then a messenger bag for a while, but once I started carrying a laptop (and then a laptop and tablet!) I needed to switch to a backpack.

          2. KR*

            I agree with your husband! I hate messenger bags. I used one during travel to Cincinnati and Charlotte in which my hotel was super close to the office and I didn’t need a rental/Uber. I was walking crooked all week and my shoulder hurt so bad. Now it’s a backpack all the way.

          3. rosiebyanyothername*

            I also commute to NYC from the NJ suburbs, and backpacks vs. laptop bags/briefcases seem to be a generational thing. Younguns like me seem to prefer professional-looking backpacks to briefcases. I used a totebag for about a month until my shoulder started killing me, and then I moved to a Fjallraven Kanken bag. It makes me look like hipster trash, but my back feels lovely.

            1. Specialk9*

              “hipster trash”. I’m having a hard time putting those two words together. Being a hipster is so expensive. I could see pretentious, fake, other such words, but trash? Does not compute.

        3. paul*

          All this talk about backpacks…are we talking like high school type backpacks? Hiking backpacks like what I’d take on a day hike? Or do they make professional looking ones?

          1. Doesn't talk to strangers*

            Mostly high school type. People wearing huge travel backpacks (usually tourists/travelers!) take theirs off. It’s the rude New Yorkers who leave them on! They do make more “professional” looking ones that are usually black and nicer material like leather or canvas (like a laptop bag, but a back pack).

            And yes, they wear them on their back; only tourists would wear them on the front.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              I have a backpack that converts to look like a messenger bag or briefcase. The straps zip away invisibly when they aren’t in use. It’s a lifesaver.

              1. Lindsay J*

                Is it the Solo brand one? I have that and love it. Comfortable and it looks professional without being fussy.

          2. Kindling*

            I live in Toronto, Canada and use a professional looking backpack. It’s made of vegan leather and it’s a pretty popular model here. Never had anyone comment on it. I use it because I typically bike to work (though not in the winter) and it’s a lot easier than a purse for that.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Did the person who wrote that comment live in the city? Because I’d say a solid 80% of the people in my Midtown white collar office wear backpacks to work. On my team of 10, only 3 of us don’t wear backpacks. I see lots on the subway, too.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My mom said when she was flying from Los Angeles to Seattle she could always tell which gate was hers because it was the one surrounded by people wearing backpacks.

        Basically everyone on the bus I take to work wears a backpack. I used to be a messenger bag person but I switched to a backpack because my back hurt. Mine is blue with red trim.

        1. Swedish Chef*

          +1 to the Seattle backpack thing. My progression was college messenger bag to fancy pants leather tote to black hipster backpack because I have all kinds of back issues. My work BFF refuses to get a backpack, but she’s definitely in the minority at this point.

        2. Manders*

          Yes, the backpacks are a thing in Seattle! I think it’s a combination of a less formal culture and having bulky work supplies to carry around–many people take work laptops home with them, brown bag their lunches, etc. Plus, a lot of people walk or bike to work.

          1. Swedish Chef*

            Totally agree. I made sure to get a backpack that could hold laptop, running clothes, lunch, and my purse. And still close.

      3. Bag Lady*

        My boss in DC wore a (professional-style, not Jansport) backpack to the office every day. He used public transit and picked his kid up from school after work, so he didn’t want to carry extra stuff. Always seemed sensible to me! I wore a backpack to work myself when I had tendinitis and carrying a bag on one shoulder was painful.

      4. blondie*

        I see people, including professionals, wear backpacks all the time. I get why they do it but I always think that they look ridiculous.

        1. DuchessofMuchness*

          It could be because of shoulder problems. I was specifically told to switch to a backpack because I was causing damage to my shoulder from years of carrying fancy tote bags.

      5. voluptuousfire*

        They must not commute at all or be over 60/work in a more formal environment, because I see more backpacks than I do fancy tote bags/messenger bags/attache and brief cases while commuting in NYC.

        I personally carry a backpack with a laptop pocket. I have a smaller messenger bag I use during the summer/if I have an event where I don’t need to carry my backpack and that can make my lower back/hip hurt.

      6. DuchessofMuchness*

        A lot of people in NYC wear them. I wear one because carrying a classy tote bag around was giving me shoulder problems.

      7. Stormy*

        I work in the industrial sector in P-burg and backpacks are absolutely a thing. It’s a safety and ergonomics issue for carrying tools. Our company (and our competitors) makes custom embroidered ones for techs to wear to job sites.

    3. blondie*

      I just moved back to my home state of CA (to San Diego, no less!) after living in NY and Chicago for the last 10 years. Let me tell you: I kept wearing flip flops, even in winter! I would just keep a pair at work and change into them once I got into the building. I lived right next to shopping center for a while and sometimes in freezing weather I’d quickly walk into the building in flip flops and NO JACKET! So freeing.

    4. PR for Now*

      I’m from CA but I live and work in DC. I’m totally guilty of working flip-flops to work on some Friday in the middle of summer. Thankfully, my office is super casual.

    5. SanDiegoSmith*

      I recently relocated to San Diego from the North Bay Area and we have a “no flip flops” in the office rule that no one really follows unless we have clients coming in. Bay Area Office Casual is really relaxed by most office standards, and San Diego office casual even more so. I’ve had to adjust to the fact that “fancy” events out here (at least in my industry) simply mean a “good pair of flip- flops” and khaki shorts instead of blue denim. And about 7 months into the move- I don’t think I wanna go back to the other way. I couldn’t do DC after living here. I prefer to watch Winter from my TV.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’m in the upper Midwest and my sister lives in San Diego. She buys most of her work clothes here because she finds it too dang hard to find appropriate work clothing there.

    6. Valkyrie*

      Native Los Angeleno here. I keep my “work shoes” under my desk and wear my sandals to and from work. They’re Birkenstock’s version of a flip-flop…I’m deeply committed to sandal life.

    7. gl*

      LOL :)

      Just drive a few miles south and you’ll see flip-flops for years. It’s possibly the DC environment is a bit more professional due to government workers etc. I can assure you that at least 30 minutes outside of DC the flip flops come out!

    8. Karma*

      Mate, we don’t even wear flip-flops to work in Australia. We call flip-flops ‘thongs’ though so that’s fun when we talk about tongs around Americans.

    9. Government Lackey*

      In the mountains of North Carolina it’s incredibly common for people to wear Chacos (outdoor sandals) 365 days of the year, even in offices.

  6. A Person.*

    In my southern U.S. office I am apparently the only person who will take the last doughnut/ sliver of cake/ half cookie left in the common area hours after it was put out because I’m not from around here.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I wonder if that’s particular to your office or the area. I grew up in the south and still live/work here, and I will always take the last treat, conventions be damned. I want that treat!

      I should note I’m in Texas and sometimes we do things differently than “the south proper”.

      1. A Person.*

        Without fail if I comment on why anyone would leave a razor thin sliver of cake or half a cookie, the response is, “well that’s how we do things in the south.”

        Frankly I think some of them use it as a cover to not have to clean up.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I learned to accept it as being more symbolic than anything else. After all, no one is expected to eat that last sliver of cake or fragment of brownie. There’s no utility.

          1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

            I can see that if the razor thing piece of cake has been so mangled that it’s basically a chunk of crumbs, which is often the case.

        2. Liane*

          Not in this part of the south, the Arkansas capital. It’s like just about any workplace I’ve ever been or heard of, anywhere in the US: If you want food/drink to Totally Disappear–Fast, put it in the breakroom.

          I agree with A Person.’s cover up theory, because there’s no shortage of workers in this city who fill their cup/mug with coffee, leave 1 ounce in the carafe and don’t start a new one because, “I didn’t empty it–there’s still some left!” (I have a wide sample because all my friends complain this happens at their jobs) Heck, at the house, College Kids and Husband often leave a half inch of beverage in the soda bottle or iced tea pitcher.

          1. Brandy*

            Here in Tennessee we wait. Like its announced food time and you wait a good 5 minutes before heading up. You don’t want to seem starved.

            1. buffty*

              Ha, I’m in TN also, and we always rush the food. I’m often first in line, so I guess I’m one of the worst offenders!

              1. Brandy*

                We always get a second announcement before coming up. I thought it was how I was raised but I saw it here too and was surprised.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I still remember going to a launch meeting (in New England) that was a mix of sales and editorial people. The sales people were extroverting it up, making connections, while editorial tried to figure out when it was okay to go for the buffet. Like baby sea turtles waiting for one brave soul to make it to the water, and then the frenzy.

          2. Story Nurse*

            …this is a Southern thing? The “there’s still some left” thing? My Virginian partner does it and it drives me up the wall. I don’t think they even know why they do it—when I tease them about it (“There’s still one chip left in the bag so I guess you’re not done with it yet”) they don’t have a comeback! It’s just what they do and I don’t think they’re capable of stopping.

        3. Autumnheart*

          We do that in MN too. The most Minnesota example I ever saw was when someone brought in one of those gigantic Costco tubs of cheese balls, and the tub sat in the break room for hours with a single cheese ball left in it.

        4. Rumple Fugly*

          Huh, that’s funny. I’m from the South and the only place I’ve seen people play this game is when I worked in an office mainly populated by locals in Seattle.

      2. Lynca*

        I grew up and live in the “south proper.” I would take the last doughnut. That seems like a weird convention.

        1. Fiennes*

          Same here. Never seen any hesitation on taking the last piece/serving etc., though people often first ask whether anyone else wants it.

      3. The Photographer's Husband*

        A lot of times I will take the last piece of something purely because others will tip-toe all around it all day and let it get stale or cold or what-have-you. I figure someone ought to enjoy it while it’s fresh, so I’ll take the fall and be That Guy.

        Your welcome. ;-)

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Same. I was raised in the Midwest, not the South, but it was deeply ingrained in me to never take the last serving of anything, ever.

          I was halfway through college before it occurred to me how ridiculous that was. Food is meant to be eaten. And it’s a pain to keep a bunch of nearly-empty containers in the cabinets.

          Now, in office situations I might politely wait for five minutes to see if anyone else wants the last donut, but if it’s still there when I go back it’s fair game.

      4. paul*

        I’ve seen the last donut/cookie/cake slice linger, but we’re a small enough office that I can’t tell if it’s politeness or just that no one actually wants it.

    2. PB*

      Oh, interesting. My family does that, too, and I never really knew why. My friends found it very weird. My dad is from the south, so maybe just a little bit of regional culture.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve seen that tendency, although not as pronounced, about being first or last here in the Mid-Atlantic area of the US. However, since I see no noticeable qualitative or quantitative difference between the first or last item of food or those in between, I ignore it, and if anything people seem relieved. I think part of the “not taking the last [X]” around here is because people don’t want to have to clean up and/or throw out wrappers, boxes, etc., and I don’t mind doing those things if I’m partaking.

      1. H2O Lady*

        Ugh that drives me nuts! In my office, a plate of crumbly lumps of food will be left in the middle of the table indefinitely because no one wants to wash the dish. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerator….

      2. the gold digger*

        For me, it’s about not being the greedy person who takes the last bit that someone else might want.

        I am, however, perfectly willing to be the First Eater at any event.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I’ll usually only do that when things are sitting unattended and the last piece hasn’t been taken for many hours or days, or at a potluck when I’ve seen everyone go up at least once, and everyone has had a chance to go twice.

      3. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        I’m pretty much always the first person to take food, and it gets commented on. It’s annoying, but it’s more annoying to me to have everyone stand around silently and make nervous jokes about going first while the food just sits there. Eat the damn food!

    4. Natalie*

      This is really common in my home state (Minnesota) but now thanks to the internet we’re all super-aware and self-deprecating about our various quirks. So it’s okay to take the last Food Thing, but you have to awkwardly comment on how you’re doing the non-Minnesota thing by taking it.

      1. Sunnyside*

        In my office in Chicago we call it “Minnesotaing!” Walk through the break room and there’s one cookie left. An hour later, there’s half a cookie. In the afternoon there’s a quarter cookie. Leave the office and notice 1/8 of a cookie.

      2. Samiratou*

        I was just coming to post something very similar to this!

        Minnesotans, man. We’re nothing if not predictable. :-)

        1. don't want to enter witness protection yet*

          An anonymous location in Minnesota: My spouse had a work situation where their breakroom was eliminated, and they were told they could use another unit’s breakroom. Call other unit “Unit B.” This was not very convenient as you had to walk a ways to get there to microwave your lunch or whatever, but space crunch, so ok. Spouse went to Unit B’s breakroom. Spouse saw large cookie tray. Spouse saw exactly one cookie on it. Unit B’s people sitting around in breakroom. Room probably hushed (my theatrical imagination). It was after lunch. Spouse took last cookie. Ate it. “Hm, pretty good! Hi all!” Left, went back to work in Unit A.

          Email chain commences. Someone’s complained to a manager and there is a cascade of messages about inconvenience unit B is experiencing sharing the breakroom. Email cascade includes phrase “and he took the last cookie!” Matter is escalated through leadership.

          Unit A regains breakroom the next week.

          1. Emily S.*

            Oy. Good thing Unit A is getting their breakroom back.
            Personally, I may well have taken the cookie too! Free cookie in a breakroom is up for grabs unless there’s some kind of sign.

        2. Bethann*

          I am a Native Minnesotan and hate this. I used to work in an office where someone always cut the bakery items in half before the meeting. I would always comment on how it dried every thing out. I always want the whole thing and don’t like someone touching it first by cutting it in half.

      3. Covered in beeees*

        It’s also a very Minnesotan thing to not take all of the last Food Thing, but cut it in two and only take half. Depending on how Minnesotan your office is, this process may repeat itself multiple times, until there is only 1/8 or 1/16 left.

      4. BadPlanning*

        Yes Yes Yes! I know I have personally declared, “Well, I’m taking the last one” in an acknowledgement that we’d otherwise “politely” leave the last thing for someone else.

      5. Pollygrammer*

        You’re also allowed to recruit somebody to “split the last piece.” That’s the loophole.

    5. Elena*

      I think it’s more of a British thing than a southern thing. My family has the same habit, when never takes the last piece of anything. To do that would deprive anyone who hadn’t gotten any yet of their chance at it too. I’ve noticed in the past that certain versions of British forms of politeness still remain in the south.

        1. Ode to a hormone*

          Okay people- the thing where you can’t take the last piece is a Scandinavian immigrant rule- it is EXTREMELY RUDE to take the last piece because it implies that your host did not have enough to feed you- it means you are implying your host is either poor or extremely inhospitable. If there were a lot of Scandinavian immigrants in an area then this is a rule. If you do this when visiting my grandmother, she will be crushed because she didn’t put out enough food.

      1. SarahKay*

        We created a rule in our family that once the meal or occasion is over then leftovers are fair game! Mostly because we’d all been being polite and not greedily taking the last piece of cake and then it would go stale.

    6. PRGuy*

      In Wash DC, when sweets are brought in, the first thing that comes out is a knife. Nobody takes a whole piece of anything–and nobody finishes the last one until at least 5p. Leftover lunches, however, go quickly.

      1. miss_chevious*

        I find the office custom of cutting up sweets/snacks and leaving half so gross. I don’t take the last half of anything that didn’t arrive precut, because I don’t know who has mauled it.

        1. Beachgal*

          It never looks like it was cut with a knife either but rather ripped apart by hand. Basically just take the whole thing and save the rest for later. Noone wants to eat a half ripped donut.

    7. Lil Fidget*

      Where I am from in the Midwest, (this is sad and depressing), this last piece is called “the old maid’s piece.” I don’t like the phrase – I’m unmarried and above 30 – but it’s especially depressing when you think of the meaning. I believe it comes from, “this piece of cake has been sitting out too long, and now nobody wants it” :( Sorry to bum everybody out.

    8. LAI*

      I am in California but this is also very much a thing in Japanese American culture (maybe all Asian American?). No one can take the last piece. People may cut the last one in half and even in quarters, but there must be something left on the plate. I think it’s related to a sense that a good host will provide an abundance of food and you don’t want to be rude by eating it all and implying that maybe there wasn’t enough. Because the other thing about Asian gatherings is that there will usually be at least twice as much food as the number of guests can reasonably eat.

      1. Allison*

        I heard of this on Awesome Etiquette, that in some cultures you should leave a bite of food on your plate so the host knows you’re full and don’t need another helping.

        Where I live, I wonder if the unspoken rule against taking the last piece has to do with this idea that you never take all of what’s there, and you always leave something for someone else.

      2. Call centre worker*

        that’s interesting because my mother (british) lived in greece for a number of years and says that for the same reason, there was no taboo about taking the last piece of anything. her interpretation was that it would be assumed that the host has prepared enough food that the guests couldn’t possibly eat it all and that there will be more cake in the kitchen

        1. Manders*

          Hah, yes, my mother’s side of the family is Greek and I’ve never seen a family party ever come close to running out of food. When she worked in Greece and I was allowed to go to her work events, there might only have been two cakes out on the table, but there were more in the kitchen.

    9. Manders*

      This happens in the PNW too! The last donut is always the Zeno’s paradox of foods, it keeps getting cut in half but never fully eaten.

      1. Swedish Chef*

        Also in the PNW, and my office has zero qualms about finishing up a box of donuts (or any other treat for that matter). They occasionally forget to then throw the empty box in the recycling, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.

        1. Manders*

          Oh yes, your recycling habits WILL be noticed here. It’s not considered weird to carry around a piece of trash for a while if you can’t find the right disposal container.

          1. Durham Rose*

            I do this! I am Seattle native living abroad and can’t figure out why we are the only ones who know how to sort the recycling properly! Heavily ingrained from a very young age, I think.

    10. Cajun2core*

      I would resist taking the last piece of something. Especially if there were 2 cookies, I would not take both of them. Now, if all that was left was a razor thin slice of cake, I would take that if I wanted it. I would not try and cut it even smaller.

    11. Allison*

      I’m a “rude” northerner who will shy away from taking the last something unless it’s been there for a very long time. For baked goods, end of the day. I think it’s because I imagine someone angrily shouting “WHO TOOK THE LAST COOKIE??” Not sure where it’s from, TV shows? Commercials? My sister getting upset about the last something being eaten by someone other than her? I don’t know, but I seem under the impression that taking the last anything is some kind of social no-no.

    12. PizzaDog*

      It’s such a pet peeve of mine to see that last Timbit or whatever just hanging out there all day because someone doesn’t want to be the last person to take something (or just doesn’t want to toss the box / tray). Just eat it!

      1. KT84*

        I agree, I don’t have much patience for wasting food for pointless etiquette issues. People sometimes get way too hung up on things like that.

    13. ampg*

      These responses are funny to me! I always thought people didn’t take the last one because they’d rather not have to clean up the plate / box / whatever

  7. Anonymous Poster*

    When I’ve worked with Europeans (Italians, French, and German) in engineering, I was always fascinated by how they brainstormed. They generally wouldn’t want to brainstorm where I could hear, but would go off for about 30 minutes, I would hear lots of yelling in their native language, and then come back to me with, “We think this.”

    I wanted to be in those conversations – why did you come to this conclusion, did you consider X, etc., but that just Was Not Done. No idea if this is a European thing, or my engineering field thing, or just their personal quirks.

    1. dshockley*

      That’s so weird! I’m an American software developer (not engineering, but also technical), and I live and work in Italy, and my coworkers (at two different companies so far) definitely do not do that. Sometimes they switch to Italian, but they’re always happy to translate something for me and they are happy to have me in the conversation and definitely don’t hide in another room (except for the purpose of not disturbing me in case it’s something mostly irrelevant to my area of work). I understand enough Italian that often I follow anyway, but if I ask for clarification, someone always translates, and if I have thoughts, of course they intentionally include me in the discussion!

    2. Safetykats*

      I worked on a project a few years ago with a number of foreign nationals. While I think that everybody spoke English in meetings it wasn’t always possible to identify it as such (particularly for the Scots, lol). And of course they would all talk simultaneously. Our project manager came to one brainstorming meeting, and after watching for about 20 minutes he said “I have absolutely no idea what you’re saying. But I really like your enthusiasm!” Then he left.

  8. The Other Katie*

    Leaving on time! Norwegians and Danes basically don’t work late at all, and might even leave a bit early if they have to pick children up or something. There’s absolutely no culture of long hours to “prove” how hard you work.

    1. Samiratou*

      Good to know I’m bringing some of my Norwegian heritage into my workplace by refusing to play the visibility game.

      Not that I won’t put extra time in from time to time when warranted, but I won’t work long hours just because.

      1. Midwest for Life*

        Same! I push my team to wrap up by their end time and not stay late. Family is super important.

      1. The Other Katie*

        Same. People tend to assume you’ve got too much work or are inefficient, not that you’re being extra dedicated.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Oh god, please do so. At least half of Scandinavia would move there, though

        *Cough, cough, had another snow storm today*

    2. Peggy*

      I’m currently reading both The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and The Danish Way of Parenting and I’m trying to pick up a few tips about happiness. What a way to live. <3

    3. MaureenS*

      When I visited a company in China years ago, no one could leave until the boss left. If the boss was working late, everyone else was working late. Not sure if that was to a) keep people at work longer or b) encourage the bosses to go home at a reasonable time.

    4. London Calling*

      Yup. Used to work for a Danish bank and on business trips to head office in Copenhagen it was very common at 4pm to have the male colleague I was working with announce that he was finishing up now, it was his week to pick the kids up from school. They took it quite as a matter of course and would be astonished if any comment was made about it.

      1. Stone Cold Bitch*

        Yeah, us scandinavians strongly believe that fathers are parents. Why should men be denied the chance to be with their kids?

    5. Violet Fox*

      You also get chastised by your coworkers if you don’t take your vacation time.

      The work day does typically start earlier, often 7am or 8am, sometimes so that people make sure they are able to leave work in time to pick up their kids (this goes for both men and women).

    6. TaxAnon*

      I recently left a toxic workplace where I was slammed on my annual review for “leaving at 5”, after which I would go home and work the rest of my evening on my laptop. Apparently if you’re not in the office it didn’t count.

      I am now at a new job where working from home is not permitted asked my manager at my new job if it would be poorly received if I came in at 6am during busy season so I could leave at 6pm to spend time with my family. She said she would be thrilled to have another early bird and nobody would think poorly of me for not being in the office until 8-9-10pm or later.

    7. Red and White*

      Absolutely this! I work in Canada and generally this sentiment of long hours = working hard is quite common. But given my European background I find it complete bs! In my culture, staying late is actually looked at quite negatively towards an employee’s work habits. By staying late you’re showing that you’re incapable of managing your time effectively; that you’re incapable of completing your work in the eight hour window that you’re given. I make it a point to leave on time every day because I manage to get my work done on time every day.

    8. Cyberspace Hamster*

      New Zealand instead but oh yes, the difference I experienced between moving from a big American multinational to a small Kiwi run company in this regard is amazing. I love that I don’t have to worry any more that the only surefire way to get recognition for your work seems to be to stay a few hours late.
      Funnily enough though I’m more likely to work a little late here now because I know nobody is going to bat an eyelid if I leave early some other time and I occasionally do stuff after work with colleagues who finish half an hour later than I normally would (I start slightly earlier than average for my workplace). I dunno if it’s a NZ wide thing though – I could just have an awesome company to work for.

    9. Stone Cold Bitch*

      Scandinavian here!

      It’s very common for people to leave around 15.00 or 15.30 on the days when they pick up their kids from daycare. Most of them come in between 7 and 8, or make up the time on days when they are not the one picking up their child. Parents usually split the job of picking up or dropping off at daycare, so it’s very normal for men to leave at 16.00 or having to go home to care for a sick child.

      Parental leave is 18 months (to be split between parents so some do 50/50 others do other precentages) so fathers usually take a few months off for parental leave.

      1. KT84*

        Sigh, it must be nice to live in a country whose work culture actually respects people and their personal lives – not like the US with our long hours, working lunches, unpaid breaks and six lousy weeks of maternity leave (which doesn’t even have to be paid – it just means your employee cannot fire you for taking six weeks to care for your newborn baby!).

        My last company actually told us 40 hours a week was the minimum and that they expected 50 hours from us at least. Go-getters we were told should work even more than that. We were all salaried so overtime was not a thing. Its depressing to think most people see there co-workers more often than their actual family.

      2. Specialk9*

        18 months. I’m having a hard time being happy for you. 1.5 month here, and I’m lucky for here.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Not necessarily chaos, but when I worked in a more rural part of CA, my coworkers and I definitely adopted “mid-afternoon froyo” hour during the warmer months. I think it cracked up the restaurant staff to see 12 adults, sometimes with children/grandchildren in tow (it was common/ok to bring your kids in over school breaks), coming over every day for a treat.

      1. Ella*

        I know Alison said “rural neighborhood,” but I am imagining “house in the middle of nowhere that is surrounded by forest reachable only by dirt road,” which is making it even more strange in my head. An ice cream truck trundling down a rutted, dirt lane with its music fading in and out, to approach an abandoned-looking house surrounded by rusty cars and Subarus with $250k miles on them…it’s like the beginning of a Coen brothers movie.

        1. Temperance*

          Booth’s first job out of college was in a rural town where their office was actually a house. It wasn’t quite as desolate as you’re imagining. All of the roads were paved, although there were a lot of junky cars and Amish people riding their buggies through town.

          1. Ella*

            Omg! Temperance Brennan! I’m so excited to run into you on the internet.

            (Like, seriously, your name just made me smile all over.)

        2. oranges & lemons*

          That’s a pretty accurate description. Sadly, the ice cream truck driver was not Steve Buscemi, but she was a kind of local celebrity. And we had a number of weird, obscure 70s celebrities living in the area as well.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      I worked in the corporate office of a supermarket, specifically in merchandising. There were always food samples around. Eventually it became expected tradition that the frozen people would offer ice cream or other frozen desserts to much of the merchandising office on Fridays – especially during the summer.

      1. Ella*

        I know you mean “people in charge of merchandizing frozen food,” but I’m having fun imagining “the frozen people.” Are they encased in ice? Are they fans of Elsa?

      2. yasmara*

        Super common in the food industry – it’s fun! Most food companies also have company stores where they sell their products at an employee discount.

        My husband was expected to bring food to his PhD defense (Food Science).

      1. Xarcady*

        My company arranges for an ice cream truck to come by 2 or 3 times every summer. We all go out and get a free ice cream, everyone stands around in the heat for 20 minutes chatting, and then we go back in and work again. The level of happiness in the office is much higher the rest of the afternoon. Peak was reached during the eclipse last year–we had the ice cream truck in the parking lot for an hour.

        So curious about what that other office got up to with the ice cream truck.

        1. Weyrwoman*

          Xarcady, my office is similar – we have a food court on the first floor of the office building and there’s a delightful popsicle place that comes up to our office randomly to give out popsicles. (I always get chocolate sea salt because mmm)

      2. As Close As Breakfast*

        I REALLY want my own on-demand coffee truck. We used to have a Bread Man come by once a week, but I’ve long fantasized about a coffee truck that rolls up (when called or at 2:30 every afternoon…) playing Flight of the Bumblebee to let us (ahem, me) know they’re here.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      At old ToxicJob it was a fairly common occurrence that people would cry at work. I had a very kind manager who never quite figured out how to handle it when his female subordinates would drag him in a conference room and cry over their frustration with something. There was a small deli across the street from our office, so boss got in the habit of going over and buying ice cream for whoever it was that cried. That became him buying ice cream for our whole team anytime someone cried, so there were times when you’d step away from your desk and come back to find an ice cream sandwich and be like “Oh, who cried?”

    4. Maggie*

      I used to work in a rural area (though definitely an office, not a house) and we would almost always get ice cream in the afternoons in the summer from the place across the street. While not everyone would join every time, HEAVEN FORBID you did not go around the office before you left and ask everyone individually if they would like to go. This caused no less than 3 arguments at the beginning of every summer despite the number of times that we warned the new interns.

    5. Insufferable Bureaucrat*

      There was an ice cream shop by my work that gave out free ice cream scoops on their company anniversary. It was also next to a university and high school so major chaos on free ice cream day with a line always going down the street. I feel sorry for the employees, that day must have been traumatic. Every year people at my work, myself included, would take like a two hour break that day to wait in line for ice cream, get the ice cream, then get back in line and eat it while waiting for the next scoop. This was a totally acceptable thing to do for some reason. I guess all rules are suspended when there is free ice cream. It was high quality stuff too, I miss that place.

  9. Angela B.*

    My last office was in central Mississippi with a pretty decent contingent of people who grew up on or near the Gulf Coast/southern LA, going to New Orleans all the time, etc., so every year at this time there would be people bringing in king cake every week and leaving it in the break room… it was glorious. Now I work in upstate New York and nobody even knows what king cake is! Sadness abounds.

    1. Ella*

      That is horrible! You can order king cake off the internet now and they’ll ship it to you from New Orleans. Expensive but probably worth it. :-D

      1. Angela B.*

        My husband and I were actually at a wedding in New Orleans this past weekend and I schlepped not one but two king cakes back on the plane with me. One got eaten immediately and the other has been frozen for my traditional king cake birthday cake :D But in the future, yeah, I’m gonna have to order online because I can’t not have it.

      2. Jessie*

        I used to work with a woman who was a post-Katrina* transplant from New Orleans, and she would get a king cake ordered up to our office in Kansas, as well as hand out beads to everyone. I don’t work there anymore but I still have some of those beads.

        *she had a before/after photo album of her house from when it got destroyed by flooding that she would bring in every year at the Katrina anniversary.

    2. cncx*

      i’m from that area. i didn’t know until i went to college that no, you don’t get mardi gras off of work/school and you just don’t get king cake all the carnival season (in high school we literally had some every day, someone would always bring one in). i was literally an adult before i realized other places didn’t do mardi gras.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I’m Catholic and from the south, so Mardi Gras was always a Big Thing at school at at my house. When I went to public school and made non-Catholic friends, I just roped them in. Now I have a big ole party every year, and since I live in the Frigid North, I’ll be making the king cake myself!

    3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      Ohioan here, and at my last workplace, one of my coworkers would bring in king cake during Mardi Gras/lent. The first time she brought one in, I had no idea what it was. I had to ask someone. Lol.

      1. DuchessofMuchness*

        I’m also from Ohio (but live in NYC now) and somehow I always knew what king cake was? I think I must have read about it in a book or something. Don’t swallow the baby!

        In my home area, it was packzi (Polish doughnuts) that everyone went nuts for around Lent. Came out here to NYC and no one has any idea what I’m talking about.

        1. Red Reader*

          I’m not in Michigan anymore, but I get super excited during paczki season and shove them at anyone I can to share the goodies :)

        2. Ruth ok*

          Here in the UK the Tuesday before lent starts we all make pancakes (mostly thick crepe style with sugar and lemon juice, but American-style sometimes in cafes). Then pancake races (where you run and toss pancake in a frying pan) happen in some places. Went to one a couple of times it’s good fun. On pancake day I just eat sweet and savoury pancakes all day!

      2. As Close As Breakfast*

        I’m in California and just had to Google what king cake was in order to follow this thread, if it makes you feel any better. :D

    4. C in the Hood*

      I’m in the Northeast, and we have a King Cake sitting right next to my desk as I type this, shipped to us from one of our vendors! We get like 2-3 King Cakes a year.

      1. Ella*

        Hi it’s me the intended recipient of that king cake. I’ve been trying to contact the vendor about their mistake forever and ever.

        (worth a shot.)

    5. stress ball on a deadline*

      King cakes are great.
      10 years ago, two coworkers set up a ‘Fat Tuesday’ trade between the Michigan office and the Louisiana offices.
      Paczki from Hamtramck, king cake from New Orleans.
      Though the offices have changed very dramatically since then, we still have king cake every year and toast old friends.

    6. Swedish Chef*

      I’m in Seattle, and our office randomly received two king cakes last week. It was absolutely amazing, and we were all delighted. Rumor has it there was no baby in the cake, but it was delicious regardless.

    7. paul*

      you can keep the king cake but man oh man I miss shrimp boils from when my aunt was living in Louisiana. Goodness those were nice.

    8. HRM*

      I just started noticing grocery stores carrying king cake here in western NY (think Buffalo/Rochester/Syracuse) within the last 2-3 years… I had never heard of it before! I still haven’t tried it

      1. Angela B.*

        Well the capital district needs to get on that ASAP, this is the first place I’ve lived where I haven’t had easy access to king cake and it sucks!!

      2. irritable vowel*

        Yeah, I am in New England and I was very surprised to see king cakes at my local Whole Foods last week!

    9. Party Gras*

      I live on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama (*birthplace* of Mardi Gras), and we get three days off of work for Mardi Gras, and our students (I work in public education) get a whole week off! That, combined with the king cake and moon pies, make life GLORIOUS this time of year!

      1. working abroad*

        Former Mobilian here! (Well, from the Eastern Shore but went to high school in Mobile)…nice to see ya on AAM!

    10. oranges & lemons*

      Important distinction: are we talking contemporary sheet-cake style king cake or the traditional, cinnamon roll-like ones?

    11. Lissa*

      Canadian here who had never heard of king cake and just went on a Google extravaganza….I need to somehow find some of this!

    12. Blathering*

      I’m sitting at my desk in downtown New Orleans, pleased to see all the King Cake love. I’ve sampled 12 different varieties this season so far. But it’s a short carnival season this year since Mardi Gras is next Tuesday.

      We have a king cake once a week (this week’s is homemade and delicious) and one year we made shoe box floats since much of our staff grew up elsewhere and did not make them as kids.

      I’m the director at the moment and everyone knows that I’m going to work short days because if I stay to regular time on parade days, I can’t really get home. Everyone accommodates those of us who live near the parade routes.

  10. D.W.*

    When I was working in South Korea (2012-2015), I quickly found out that it was frowned upon to disagree with your boss when asked “what do you think” and to decline a group outing. I don’t drink alcohol, so I always said “no, thanks” when the team was going out for drinks.

    I still maintained great relationships with my boss and my co-workers, but it took some getting used to on both sides.

    1. Marie*

      Often in office environments Koreans are expected to stay out drinking until the early hours of the morning with their boss even on work nights. On the plus side I believe the boss is expected to pay. Though if you don’t drink it doesn’t help you.

      1. D.W.*

        I know, though that still didn’t endear me to the practice. I don’t drink, and I don’t like mingling with my manager outside of work, so that was pretty much not happening.

        The team figured out something that worked for all. It was their first time meeting a non-drinking American before!

      2. Trig*

        My partner’s old company was working with a Korean company on some software. The Korean team came overseas to get the training in person, and of course they had some dinners/nights out. With them was a guy whose only job, as far as partner could tell, was to hold his liquour. He drank as much as everyone else, but stayed completely sober, and could thus round them all up at the end of the night to get them back to the hotel. It was impressive!

      3. Fleet Manager*

        As the ex-Fleet Manager of a certain international Korean electronics manufacturer’s UK division, it was my job to clean up after the Korean execs if they happened to have any incidents whilst driving home from an evening of excessive drinking…

        The stories I could tell! How none of them were ever arrested or anyone was killed still amazes me now, some 15 years after I decided I couldn’t take it any more and left.

    2. Betsy*

      I’m still struggling with the expectation of not disagreeing with your boss in the country where I am now. I have trouble knowing what to do in meetings, being naturally quite outspoken. I think the meetings here are more for the bosses to tell you what they have already decided, rather than for coming to decisions as a team, or for having any input.

  11. Cassandra*

    Some twenty years ago I traveled to Budapest with my father, who was on an academic grant. I learned that business-office hospitality in Budapest usually involves tiny cups of very strong espresso. There did not seem to be a polite way to refuse.

    Since I was (and am) not a coffee drinker, I also learned the hard way that it’s okay to drink espresso with sugar!

  12. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Being too polite. I have always worked in Minnesota, so people rarely say things directly. Lots of passive aggression. On the other hand, everyone welcomes new coworkers, is friendly to each other, and baked goods are often brought to the office.

    Two things I’ve noticed:

    1. If you are in or near to being in someone’s way, or need to get by or near any other person, both will undoubtedly say, “Ope, sorry!”

    2. Taking the last office snack is social suicide. Instead, cut in half or leave it. And maybe someone will cut THAT half in half, and so on.

    1. lady bird*

      I’m an Okie transplant living in Texas and can confirm “ope, sorry!” and “ope, my bad!” are said down here too! I didn’t know it reached all the way up to Minnesota.

      1. paul*

        I’ve beeni n Texas since 2002 or 3 and go to Oklahoma a lot and don’t recall hearing ope at all. This is weird.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I hear it a lot! It just sometimes happens when someone says “Oh” quickly followed by “sorry.” I don’t know if it’s American’s tendency to add a “p” sound to the end of some words (nope, welp) or if it’s because it can naturally happen if you fully close your lips after saying “Oh,” but it happens. I would bet you’ve heard it before but the “p” sound was soft enough/followed quickly by the “sorry” that you didn’t pick up on the sound.

          1. Trig*

            Canadian here. I say it, because if you step on a Canadian’s foot they will apologise… I always thought of it like an alternate “oops”.

      2. Arielle*

        East Coast transplant from Michigan here, can confirm “Ope, sorry!” is part of my vocabulary and I have never seen it written out before!

    2. The Senior Wrangler*

      As a British person, I will routinely apologise for things that aren’t my fault, like if someone bumps into me in the street. And you can have the last snack, as long as you offer it to everyone else first. If you are offered, it means the person offering wants it, so you sort of have to say no.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Same here! I hear that anyone who wasn’t born in MN and is in the catering or event business has to learn that just because there is a little bit of a food left, doesn’t mean the customers don’t want more! They’re just too polite to finish it off.

    3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      I have lived in Ohio all my life, and we do the “ope” thing here, too.

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        My boyfriend’s from Ohio and insists “ope” is an Ohio thing. Funny enough I’m in NYC, and I feel like I say ope!

    4. Just Peachy*

      +1 to the ‘Ope, sorry!’

      I live in Kansas City, MO, and EVERYONE says ‘Ope, sorry!’ (myself included). I saw a meme once that pointed out how everyone in the Midwest uses this phrase. Now I just chuckle to myself every time I catch myself or someone else saying it.

    5. Jubilance*

      As a transplant to MN, I can definitely agree with the passive aggressive thing. Also a lot of native Minnesotans are surface friendly only. The running joke is “Minnesotans will give you directions to everywhere except their cabin”.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        This transfers over to North Dakota, too. Everyone likes to tell you how nice North Dakotans are, how they’re the kindest people you’ll ever meet, on and on. But no one here is actually nice or kind or helpful, they’re just polite. As a southern transplant, it’s mindboggling.

        1. Eppie*

          I moved to MN from ND (about 350 miles). I’ve had people ask me about cultural differences. I usually respond, “in ND, we don’t talk so damn much.” :)

        2. Candace*

          I moved to ND 3 years ago, and to me, it is really refreshing to be left alone! Polite is fine, but please, stay out of my business. Maybe peope leave me in peace because they don’t care, but I’m good with that. Of course, this is after 22 years of crowds and massive cities and everyone knowing my business because I lived so close to people I could literally stick a hand out the window into the neighbor’s living room.

      2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        In fairness, one needs a sort of regional background, often, to FIND said cabin! Directions to a friend’s place are something like “drive 35 north, pass the huge lake and through the Native reservation, pass two small lakes, then take a left on the second dirt road with the bent tree hanging over it.” No joke.

          1. Stormy*

            I HATE THIS. All the time, I hear people give directions to their teen children referencing a business that closed twenty years ago. Join the present and learn street names, you dusty old farts.

            1. saf*

              Once upon a time, I went to visit a friend who was stationed at a naval airbase in Maine. He lived off-base.

              He gave me directions to his place that involved a LOT of unnamed things. I asked for street names/route numbers. He just said, “sorry, those don’t exist.”

          2. General Ginger*

            I think this may be a general rural area thing, because I’ve encountered it in rural Eastern Europe, France, rural upstate NY/NJ, and most of New England.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep, yep, yep.
              Can’t use the street names and route numbers because they keep changing those.
              One time I got instructions to go past 25 pine trees and turn right. really? I just looked for right hand turns instead. I am not one for needless complexity.

        1. curly sue*

          Eastern Canada, lord love a duck. “Take a left at the willow, head up towards the old Pete farm and make a right where the red barn used to be.”

          (Except the barn burned down in 1978, and ‘the willow’ isn’t a tree, but an intersection named after the old hanging tree for pirates that used to stand there… in the 18th century.)

          1. a-no*

            “Lord love a duck” is also pretty big in central Canada to about Alberta. My parents are from Manitoba & Saskatchewan and they taught us that and here in Alberta, those not from the Prairies have no idea what I’m talking about

          2. whimbrel*

            Halifax has one of those intersections! Not only is there no longer a tree, there isn’t even the restaurant named after the tree anymore. I think now traffic reports just refer to it by its street names.

        2. Kathenus*

          I was in Denmark a couple of years ago getting directions to a particular wildlife area, and a couple stopped during their dog walk, brought me about four blocks out of their way to the edge of a field, and told me to go down the path until I saw the goats, then turn left. It was fantastic.

      3. Hlyssande*

        On the radio this morning, I heard the morning show hosts making a ‘primer’ for out of towners coming in for the Superb Owl.

        It included such gems as “Minnesota Nice to your face!” and “Minnesota nice, sometimes the n is silent.”

      4. Natalie*

        There’s even a lowkey version between Twin Cities folks and outstate Minnesota. Born and raised in Minneapolis I am never completely comfortable outside of the Twin Cities. If you’ve ever seen Drop Dead Gorgeous, it’s obviously exaggerate but that’s what it feels like.

        (The line, in the most Fargo-y accent you’ve ever heard, is “you won’t find any rooms in the back of *our* video stores, unlike the Sin Cities”)

        1. Joielle*

          Ha! Yes. My husband and I live in Minneapolis and are both queer, tattooed hipsters (and my hair is very short and blue), and when we visit his extended family up North it’s like a whole different world. You can tell people on the street are just a liiiiittle suspicious of us.

      5. kb*

        Minnesota is one of the hardest places to break into a friend group as a transplant, in my experience. Part of that, I think, is because a lot of people in Minnesota are from there so they’ll keep the same friend group from hs and college. Cross that with the fact Minnesotans are notoriously private and you get a lot of difficulty breaking the ice between acquaintance and friend. It’s also very much a deck culture, if you’ve heard of the front porch culture vs. back deck culture

      6. PickyD*

        YES! About 6 months after moving to MN, I heard a radio program where the host was interviewing someone who ran welcome events for new residents. The host was CRAZY rude to her, saying, “I think it’s just fine here! Could it be that transplants just don’t want to fit in?” and other gems. After hearing that, I was relieved it wasn’t just happening to me, but it didn’t help me deal with the serious depression I’d fallen into after moving here. It took 3 years to climb out of that, and despite being very talkative and nice to strangers, I have dozens of transplant friends and literally ZERO native MN friends.

        At Lowbrow the other day I saw a woman sitting at the counter with her work badge on and asked her about it. (I was picking up an order of their ridiculous fries.) She happily told me she’d moved here a month before for work. I asked how it was going making friends and she said, “Everyone has been so nice! They’re just really busy!” I felt ***so*** bad for her but didn’t want to break her spirit. I gently said, “You know, I’ve found that my best friends here are fellow transplants. You should look for those!”

        My fries came and I left, but I felt so awful that I’d barely walked outside before I turned around. I grabbed a napkin and wrote down my name, cell phone, and also wrote “Break the Bubble!” which is a Twin Cities newcomer group for young professionals. (No networking, just friend-making, usually at a fun craft brewery.) I said, “Imma be honest here… you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t look for transplants. You’re right — MN are VERY busy because they’ve lived here for generations and have plans for every weekend/holiday/event with their families or best friends from 2nd grade. It’s great for them and I wish I had that myself, but unless you marry someone from here, you are never going to break into a family. Go to one of these events and talk to people and you’ll be SO much happier!”

        I felt bad saying that, but I didn’t want her to fall into the same trap I did, thinking it was just me.

        Wow, I’m a downer lol!

    6. Cajun2core*

      In Alabama and Louisiana, not so much the “ope” but definitely the “sorry” or “excuse me”.

    7. Legal Beagle*

      Ope! is very Midwestern. I just saw a tweet that said “If you don’t say ‘Ope! Let me just sneak right past ya there’ when someone is in your way, are you really from the Midwest?” I couldn’t stop laughing, it’s just so accurate.

      1. Trig*

        Ahahaha, I definitley read the “Let me just sneak right past ya there” in my strongest mental MN accent. Perfect.

    8. Cube Ninja*

      A not insignificant number of Minnesotans are intensely passive aggressive. It’s annoyingly pervasive in office culture in the Twin Cities because you waste a bunch of time dancing around issues rather than just addressing them head on. Thick skin and a polite-but-direct communication style is helpful for avoiding this to an extent.

      Transplants generally retain most of their original tendencies, but pick up things like “ope”, “you betcha” and the occasional “uff da”. I on the other hand picked up on the elongated vowels thing (e.g.: Minnesooota) and went through a very strange period of about 3 months where I could hear my own accent.

    9. Staceysaurus Rex*

      ahhhh ‘Minnesota Nice”…

      There was recently a letter about the coworker who was invited to lunch, went to lunch, and afterward everyone was “why did she come! she should have known! we were being polite!” and my first thought was…i wonder if they are in Minnesota?

      1. MN*

        I’ve lived in 3 different states and they tell that story in all of them. I’m a MN transplant now and I love it. I suppose there is a little passive aggresssion (maybe a lot) but people are genuinely kind and caring. In a five month job hunt, over 99% of people I reached out to were willing to meet with me. People share food, volunteer, give directions to strangers, walk you through the skyway to your destination, give generously. We’re private and self-contained so don’t expect our life story, but if you need something we’re there.

    10. sb*

      Huh, I never noticed I do the “ope” thing. I’d have spelled it (if I was writing fictional dialog or something) as “whoops”, even though both ends of the word aren’t pronounced (it’s more like “hup”, in my dialect, but I’m on the Northern Cities Vowel Shift border).

      1. MJ*

        I’m sitting in front of my computer chanting these different pronunciations, trying to see what feels right, and my husband sticks his head in. “Are you alright?”

    11. Elle*

      I grew up in the south but my family is from the midwest, I say “ope sorry” and had no idea till now that it was a thing. I never even thought about it.

      Also in searching google images for “ope sorry meme” like someone mentioned, I found a meme that has a hobbit saying “Don’t they know about second winter?” which made me laugh out loud. I think the only reason I didn’t get a strange look from coworkers is that they’re mostly out to lunch at the moment.

    12. Hey Nonnie*

      I had always thought that “Ope!” was linguistically descended from Scandinavian immigrants, of which there were many in Minnesota and a huge contingent of Scandi descendants (primarily Norwegian) still living there. This along with Ollie and Lena jokes.

    13. Lissa*

      I’m curious about the social suicide thing! I live in Canada, and we also like to not take the last thing, but generally someone (OK, often me) will do it, and the person is never *actually* looked at badly, it’s kind of recognized as being somewhat ridiculous. Sometimes people will even thank me for doing it so they don’t have to keep looking at it! Would it really make others dislike you in Minnesota to take the last thing?

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Nah. Where I grew up, if someone was able to overcome the social conditioning in the first place (which was questionable!), it was treated as a self-deprecating joke. It’s much the same as the infamous “Minnesota good-bye” (where you have to say good-bye at least three times before you actually stop talking long enough to leave). We acknowledge and laugh at ourselves while doing it (“how many good-byes was that? are we up to two?”), or if we manage to get away with fewer than three, we acknowledge and laugh about that too (“I’m skipping the last good-bye!”). We know we’re ridiculous and laugh at our silly habits a lot. We will probably get some good-natured ribbing (or a lot of it) about “not saving the last piece,” but no one is genuinely mad about it.

        There’s actually a series of YouTube videos based on the book “How to Talk Minnesotan”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdLPJfbLNOM

  13. MAB*

    I work in the PNW is an industry that is both extremely conservative and extremely liberal. In my company you see people with non-natural colored hair, viable tattoos and facial piercings, however we do UAs quarterly (pot is legal in this state), if you wear a low cut shirt you will get a talking to and makeup is not common.

        1. MAB*

          Correct. Most companies I have worked for require it at the start of employment and with cause or injury. This is the first I have encountered that required testing quarterly.

    1. Mike C.*

      This sounds a lot like my industry in the PNW as well. Do you have a really weird mix of blue and white collar workers as well?

      1. MAB*

        We do. Whats even odder is when we have employees with advanced degrees working in pretty medial task jobs.

    2. Manders*

      Yes, I worked in an unusually conservative industry in the PNW for a while, and employees nearly quit over being told they couldn’t wear jeans and had to take out facial piercings.

      Now I’m in a much more liberal field. While there’s no dress code at all, I’ve found that people tend to gravitate toward a particular “uniform” anyway, to the point that I once lost my boss at a conference and followed the wrong person around for an hour because nearly half the attendees were wearing the same blue checked shirt + short beard.

      1. Heather*

        I moved to Seattle from the DC suburbs about 9 years ago, and am still struck by how casual most workplaces are. The boss who interviewed me for my current job wore basketball shorts and a t-shirt to the interview. At my first job here, it was common for coworkers to go to yoga before work, and then wear their yoga clothes all day. That job was an Americorps position, so at the end of my term everyone knew I was job-searching. One day I was wearing dark jeans and a nice top, and multiple coworkers stopped to ask me if I was dressed up for a job interview that day. I was so offended anyone thought I would wear jeans to a job interview!

        I also still can’t get over the casual hugging. I am fine with hugs from people I know and like, but when someone I just met or a coworker I’m not really friends with goes for a hug, I feel so uncomfortable. I never thought of myself as an uptight person until I moved to the Northwest!

        1. Manders*

          Ugh, yes, the hugging is the one thing I don’t think I’ll ever fully adjust to here. People are otherwise very careful about their personal space bubbles, so I don’t know how hugging became so common.

          1. Heather*

            I’ve started trying to say “oh I’m not a hugger!”, at least sometimes, just to set a boundary. It’s not completely true, but it’s true enough. Though people don’t always respond well to that. Once at a networking event a guy was hugging everyone in a group I was with. I said “sorry, I’m not really a hugger!” very cheerfully and offered a handshake instead. He actually turned and walked away from me!

        2. SubbyP*

          I live in the PNW, and it was so bizarre to me to realize that other places don’t consider sweater and slacks appropriate wear for a law firm receptionist and get dressed up to go out to eat. Here “business casual” just means “not jeans/shorts or t-shirts”, “semiformal” means “necktie”, and “formal” means “tie and jacket.”

    3. NW Mossy*

      Yup, definitely a thing in the PNW.

      I’ve also noticed that there’s a huge difference in handling mistakes compared to my previous gigs in Chicago. In Chicago, if someone found a mistake in your work, they’d say “You did this wrong, fix it” and give it back to you. Here, you’d ruin a relationship if you were that direct – instead, you talk about mistakes in the third person and the person who made the mistake will apologize profusely for it. It’s definitely been a big culture shift for me, and putting me in the heretofore unusual position of being among the more assertive people at the company.

  14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    My firm has offices in various parts of the country, and we tend to interact by phone on a daily basis. I call up a certain department and I could be talking to someone in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Chicago, Florida… who knows? It’s very interesting to note because even if the person doesn’t have a regional accent, a lot of times I can pin their location just by how they answer the phone.

    Talking to people from Massachusetts makes me so homesick.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        There’s the tone of course, and there’s also a general sense of… hm. What their expectations are upon greeting. (I’m heavy on empathy, so it can be tough to describe what I’m picking up on with phone conversations. I just hear it.) MA folks are, of course, very businesslike, stereotypical Yankee for the most part — they aren’t impolite, but they definitely sound like they’re being scored on call handle time so they want to get you your answer and be done. Florida and Arizona are the most similar, they both sound like they’ve got all the time in the world (and I have a suspicion that those are the teams that have the largest regional transplants in the office). Also, how they handle putting me on hold to check on something. Some folks will ask if it’s ok to put me on hold, and wait for an answer — others will tell me they need to put me on hold, even politely.

        1. Kaden Lee*

          oh man it’s such a relief to hear somebody describe the same thing I experience on the phone. Not sure why, but I’m very curt and brief on the phone (“you need me to do X? sure, I’ll send that right over!” and hang up, for example) despite being from Florida and now working in Arizona. It’s such a paaaaaaaaaaaaaain. The endless chit chat. How was your weekend, Person I Have Never Met? Mondays, you know how they go! and so on. just uuuuuugh. let me do the thing you need from me and get on with my day.

          1. Snargulfuss*

            Oh my, I HATE when I call up the credit card company and they ask me about my day. I realize you’re trying to be nice, but you don’t need to know about my day. I just wanted to get an issue resolved and then go back to what I’m doing. (I try to be friendly and polite but I don’t like extra chit-chat.)

            I’m from Southern California so you would think I would be really chill, but I’m not. This is probably a big part of the reason I felt so at home in DC.

            1. Theresa Davis*

              Not sure if this makes it better or worse but, they are probably impatiently waiting for their slow computer to load and they’re just trying to fill dead-air.

              If I find myself asking “how’s the weather there?” more than once or twice a day I start asking my manager for a laptop upgrade and complaining mine’s too slow. LOL

          2. CMart*

            Ha! I encounter that via IM with my counterparts in Mexico. In my Chicago office if you’re IMing someone out of the blue there might be a quick “Hey!/Hi!/How are you/good you/ good thanks” before diving into your question or issue, but more often it’s just “Hey! Question: has someone submitted the llama invoice yet?”

            But my Mexican colleagues? I need to warm them up with 5-10 minutes of small chat before getting down to business. It’s kind of nice to get to know them since they’re so far away, but also frustrating because my questions usually take 30 seconds to answer.

        2. SI*

          Lol – I once dealt with a Hawaiian bank on a regular basis while I was working for a bank in Seattle. To say they were on “island time” would be a gross understatement… they’d routinely be late by 2-3 days (for huge commercial lending transactions!! that were accruing daily interest!!)

          After a while, we just took it in stride and built in a few extra days for their deadlines. I wish we could have had that sort of work culture – so envious.

    1. rldk*

      I’m a MA transport to DC and I feel you so hard – whenever I hear a “wicked” or “bubbler” I want to run over and pronounce weird town names with them

      1. KR*

        SAME!! I’m a New England native in Southern CA and whenever I hear a Massachusetts accent I get so incredibly home sick. My friend is also from Mass and sometimes I just love listening to her talk because it feels like home.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        I tried to stamp the New England out of my vocabulary as a kid, because I got weird looks whenever I traveled, but every time I hear ‘bubbler’ I just have this upwelling of internal joy.

        And anytime I need to ask where to get a nice free drink of water, I have to stop and think “okay, wait, what do you call it?”

        1. rldk*

          DC has enough of a MA population that I don’t get weird looks for my New England slang, until it starts mixing with the slang I’ve picked up from the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Virginia/Maryland blend.
          I got some side-eye at “Ugh, it’s wicked hot today, y’all”

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I’m just far enough north (Baltimore County) to have missed that — here, I definitely get the side-eye if I let a ‘wicked’ slip out.

    1. Kramerica Industries*

      To add onto the stereotype, I was super surprised that talking politics at work was super casual and accepted, but hockey is freaking polarizing.

      1. curly sue*

        One office I worked in, one of the operations managers was forever having his photocopier password hacked and changed to “leafssuck.” (He was the only Toronto fan in Habs territory.)

      2. KT*

        My last job, the Monday after the Leafs made the playoffs? I was in early (Exec Asst, weird hours) and everyone who came in after me would announce to the office at large: “DID YOU F*CKING SEE THAT GAME?!” And the office at large would respond back: “F*CK YEAH! GO LEAFS!” It was like watching the weirdest Mass ever.

      3. Penny*

        Haha. If your team is in the playoffs (or if Canada is playing Olympic hockey) it’s not unusual to take a work break to watch the game!

        1. KT*

          We had every Blue Jays World Series game on in the breakroom. And everyone in the office seemed to require coffee at exactly 1.07pm. Funny how that went, lol.

          1. Roz*

            This happened in our kitchen area. everyone set up their laptops and “worked”. It was amazing! All in our Jays gear yelling at the TV.

        2. Kvothe*

          The past Olympics my office set up a viewing room for the gold medal game for hockey and as long as you didn’t have deadlines everybody was allowed to come down and watch and GET PAID FOR IT

          1. Ladybugger*

            During the cup run in 2006, my retail store “closed for inventory” because the boss thought we should obviously all be watching Game 7.

        3. yasmara*

          Oh – this reminds me of working in the UK. I worked for British Telecom & they had a pretty robust employee firewall, restricting access to things like SkySports. Except…the lore went that some EVP freaked out during some football (soccer) playoff & then miraculously all the employees could get their footy scores (this was a long time ago, no streaming yet).

      4. a-no*

        Yes! I am from Edmonton but I currently live in Calgary and hockey is really a thing. I learned in my first office to NEVER mention I am an Oilers fan in the Flames territory as people take it so personally like I kicked their baby or something.

        1. Mielle*

          Ha! I’m in Edmonton and we have one person in our office who is a Flames fan. After they lost last week, somebody photoshopped them with an Oilers jersey!

    2. KT*

      Yesssss. New hire? Timbits. Someone’s leaving? Timbits. Someone’s birthday? Timbits. Someone’s work anniversary? Timbits. Casual Friday? Timbits. Boss is feeling generous? Timbits.

      Those tiny little crackballs are why I put on 25lbs since moving here.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Also it’s not uncommon for me to be sent out in the middle of the workday to go on a Timmy’s coffee and donuts run for everyone.

      1. zora*

        Alternatively, here in downtown San Francisco it is almost impossible to find a donut within 2 miles of my office. I’ve wanted to bring in donuts sometimes just to be super unhealthy, but it’s always too much of a hassle.

    4. Symplicite*

      My sister in the UK asked me to bring over Timbits when I was sent to London for work. I walked Heathrow with the 20 pack box, and was stopped endlessly by people going, “That is such a smart idea!”. I wanted to kill my sister after a while!

      1. Adereterial*

        They’re starting to open in the UK now – Cardiff & Manchester so far. They’re popular, I think they’ll expand.

          1. Curly*

            Say what? I live in Manchester and 4 Tim’s just opened in since Christmas, but there weren’t any before that. There were some kiosks in Spars (like a 7-11), but they really weren’t the same thing. These are full shops. Though the donut and muffin selection is still quite limited.

    5. saby*

      It’s sad how many stereotypes are true. Yes Timbits, yes hockey talk (although less in Toronto than in other cities I’ve lived — in Montreal and Ottawa it was common in business or business-casual dress code places for people to wear hockey jerseys to the office during the playoffs), and also between October and April every conference call with people in other cities starts with everyone talking about what the weather is like where they are. (Good opportunity for us to hate/be jealous of Vancouverites.)

    6. Ladybugger*

      I will add to the Canada thread:
      – no such thing as a “snow day”, although you may be sent home early if a blizzard is in full force by 1 pm
      – always free coffee, literally never worked anywhere without free coffee
      – standard vacation time is 3 weeks per year
      – work treats/baking are very common, often weekly or more
      – no “right to work” or “at-will” employment exists so generally I feel like there are fewer examples of extremely egregious workplace behaviour (excepting small “like a family” businesses which I believe are nightmares on an international level)

      1. Zahra*

        Quebecker here:
        – Since schools have snow days, people will work from home or some companies will be reasonable enough to close the office.
        – Minimum vacation time is 2 weeks, to be used the year after you earn them. However, in STEM companies, you usually get 3 right off the bat, to be used the same year as you earn them.

        I agree to everything else. Including the Timbits and Timmy runs.

  15. Greengirl*

    My dad used to work for a company that did business around the world. He said that when he had teleconferences with Germans it always had to start on time and there was never any chit-chat. When he had teleconferences with his South American colleagues, he said the first half-hour was always devoted to asking about people’s families and it would have been a big deal to not have that chit-chat.

    1. Natalie*

      Oh man, Team Germany for me. The 15 minute period of waiting for people to join and the host awkwardly trying to entertain everyone is always my least favorite part of a conference call. Thank god for mute so I can just keep working until they get to the point!

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        Ahh me too. Right now Germany and Scandinavia are sounding like my ideal places to work!

        1. Blue Bird Yellow*

          I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but the sexism in Germany is not to be underestimated. That’s a huge down-side. I’m getting jealous of the Scandinavian work culture though! If only it wasn’t so cold up there.

          1. voluptuousfire*

            The summers are glorious though. I was in Finland in July and when the weather was gorgeous, it was gorgeous.

            1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

              You were lucky then… last summer in Finland was COLD!!!! Finnish summer weather varies a lot, it can be anything from under 15C to over 30C. Work culture and employment laws are relatively similar to Scandinavian countries. Most offices don’t expect working ridiculously long hours, we have quite generous vacation laws, and we definitely value punctuality. I think we have less sexism than Germany but of course we’re not perfect in that regard either. And xenophobia happens a lot – for very long time there were extremely few foreign people in Finland so this whole diversity and multiculturality thing is pretty new to us.

            2. The Other Katie*

              Finland in July is amazing. Finland in February, not so much. Unless you’re a polar bear.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                Finland in February is still a lot better than Finland in November.

                Incidentally, I don’t think there is a single polar bear in a Finnish zoo these days. And there have never been any outside of zoos. Well, since the last ice age, at least.

              2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

                Maybe I am a polar bear then… but in my opinion February is just amazingly beautiful. So much snow and the light is starting to come back. It’s cold, yes, but mostly not awfully cold and you just need to wear enough clothes. November and, in the southern parts of the country, also December are the bad months. It’s dark when you go to work, dark when you go home, and there are all possible combinations of wet, slippery, rain, snow, stuff between rain and snow, and traffic caos. After that, the “proper winter” is so much better!

            1. Lora*

              Yes. Have seen this in Frankfurt, can confirm. Many people in biergartens wished to discuss Greece at the time (a few years ago, when Germany’s economy propping up that of other EU members was in the news) and whooooooaaaa did they have a lot of opinions about other countries being lazy fkers who sit on the beach all day drinking ouzo or whatever. Also saw a whole mall of white people who were rocking metal band tee shirts seriously freaking out about the two Muslim ladies shopping – not just pointing and making rude comments, but cashiers refusing to accept their debit cards and insisting on cash for purchases even though they took my American debit card just fine.

              You see that in the US in rural areas, but people usually have an idea from TV or whatever that it’s not very nice. I was surprised because Frankfurt is supposed to be a big city.

          2. mooocow*

            Native German here – I’d think that sexism levels in Germany are pretty low compared to most other countries! When I read (here or from friends) about the kind of things that are apparently par for the course in American offices, I’m extremely happy to be living and working in Germany. People judge me by my skills, I get to be as assertive as I want and wear whatever I want and no-one has ever commented my handshake. I’ve encountered some pretty bad sexism (especially back in College), but I can tell my male colleagues about that stuff and they will be horrified and we will have a joint ‘OMG, sexism needs to die!’ moment.

            1. Tau*

              Yeah, also a native German and I was a little puzzled by this remark. I’ve recently returned after thirteen years in the UK, and spent part of my childhood in the US as well, and I haven’t felt Germany is particularly more sexist than either of those places. In some ways, I’ve felt the opposite (beauty standards, forex).

            2. TL -*

              Keep in mind that sexism and racism ate expressed very differently in Europe versus USA – Germany’s rates of working mothers is really, really low, for example, and a lot of that is due to social structures and pressure.

              1. mooocow*

                I agree that sexism plays a role in this, and there’s definitely a big issue with this bizarre German mother ideal. One consequence of this ideal is a dramatic lack of adequate daycare which really is a problem (though there has been progress).

                But there are also other reasons why Germany has such a low rate of working mothers, a big one being that incomes are fairly high and the welfare system is pretty good, so there’s less economic pressure for mothers to work, compared to the US. There is also extensive paid parental leave (up to 14 months) which has no equivalent at all in the US.

                I know many mothers who stay with their kids because they value the possibility to stay with their kids and watch them grow up and, crucially, because they can afford it as their families easily get along on one salary. (I also know many couples who split their parental leave with each parent taking 7 months, but that is in no way the norm)

                Also, there are interesting differences between east and west Germany. In the east (where I live) daycare is better due to long-lasting after-effects of the GDR, and it’s normal for mothers to work.

        2. Violet Fox*

          Scandinavia is actually a set of distinct counties with distinct cultures including different work cultures.

            1. Violet Fox*

              Speaking as a Norwegian. Please. Stop. Lumping. Us. Together. There are similarities but there are also cultural differences, language differences, work place difference. We. Are. Not. The. Same. Thing.

    2. Misquoted*

      I’ve found this as well, with colleagues in Switzerland, India, Germany, US (where I live) — varying levels of chit-chat before meetings. Then again, I worked for Orbitz in Chicago for a short time, and there was NO chit-chat. Meetings started and ended on time, which is a bit unusual for Americans, in my experience. But I prefer it, frankly.

    3. the gold digger*

      My husband and I went on a plant tour (of the BMW factory) in Munich. I knew I was in love when the tour guide walked into the room at noon, looked at her watch, said, “It is 12 o’clock. Not everyone is here, but the tour starts at 12, so now we start.”

      At last! People who don’t punish the punctual!

    4. Liza*

      How about the end of the meeting–are they expected to end on time? At my current company (in New England) it seems to be common for meetings to run well past their stated end times. Drives me up the wall.

  16. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    I’m working in a global company now, and have people on my team in the UK, etc. Right now, I’m having a blast learning about different words they use. Calendar = diary, daycare = creche, etc.

    I also am having a really hard time with accents. Phone distortion doesn’t help. And I find it very amusing that everyone says the British speak very precisely. Um, no. Otherwise I wouldn’t be struggling with them mumbling!

    1. Discordia Angel Jones*

      Hmmm… I’m British. We do tend to use both calendar and diary, at least everywhere I’ve worked!

      Calendar tends to mean the Outlook calendar etc, or something like the Outlook calendar but in paper form. Diary we tend to use more generically, like “I’ll diarise that for later” or “I’ll put that in my diary” meaning generic daily/monthly/paper/electronic to do list or appointment book type thing.

      Can confirm that mumbling is a thing, though.

      1. SJPxo*

        Yea I agree with this. Calendar for me is definitely for like outlook and scheduling meetings while I use diary as more of an informal way of saying i’ll remind myself

      2. NoName*

        As an American, to me “diary” means “journal of personal experiences and emotions, kept only for me to read and no one else” rather than “daily to-do list” or anything that could be work related.

      3. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        Well, I have at least 2 coworkers who refer to their “diary” when I would say calendar or schedule.

      4. Me2*

        Oh dear God, my husband is British and the number of times he has been told (by me and many others) that he mumbles. And yet he seems to believe that he does not.

    2. The Senior Wrangler*

      If you’re on the BBC, you speak very precisely. Everyone else is so lazy and we have loads of different regional accents, and you can often tell which part of your county someone is from by the slight difference in accent.

    3. SJPxo*

      Depends on the part of the UK maybe. I am from Cambridge and have a rather ‘posh’ accent and sometimes Americans just do not get it. It’s like I have to try and dial it down somehow to get them to understand me

      1. Discordia Angel Jones*

        TBH I find with my (quite posh, but maybe more Received Pronunciation than anything else) accent, people from other countries understand me more?

        It’s the Geordies that are hard to understand! LOL

        1. DuchessofMuchness*

          Oh my God, when I worked in closed captioning, we once got the job of transcribing something like eight seasons of “Geordie Shore”. With no transcript. It was a nightmare, but by season eight, I’d started actually being able to understand 60% of what they said.

          1. yasmara*

            Or the Scots. Have you seen the comedy video of two Scotsmen trying to get a voice-activated elevator to work? CRY LAUGHING!

        2. HR Expat*

          The Liverpudlians are the hardest for me to understand! Accents vary so much (I live in greater Manchester), but I find that my American friends struggle to hear the difference between any of the regions. I’ve been living here for 2 years, and so far I can say that I’ve gotten good at picking up north vs. south, but not much more than that. Well, except Scottish. And Cardiff.

        3. Another Academic Librarian*

          When I lived in England as a student, international students would sometimes tell me that I was easier to understand than other English people (this was in the south). And I would have to gently explain to them that I am American!

        4. Willow R*

          I have a Northern accent (NOT full-on Geordie) and people from the US or Canada tend to think I’m Scottish.

      2. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

        I’m one of those irritating Americans who struggle with comprehending the British accent. ;) My husband’s great grandmother was British, and I had the hardest time understanding her. This translates over into TV for me. I watched Peaky Blinders and struggled the whole time with understanding what was being said.

      3. Big City Woman*

        I’m an American in NYC and like to borrow DVDs from the library (I don’t have cable or streaming) and lately have been getting into British movies and tv series, but I admit that I often have to turn on the subtitles to really understand any of it. I try to go as long as I can without it, or only turn it on when a particular phrase or word puzzles me, but oftentimes it’s absolutely necessary if I want to follow the story in any way at all! And then I am also surprised by what words actually were said, versus what I heard!

    4. Hobgoblin*

      Oh wow, the creche thing would confuse the heck out of me. I’m Catholic and a creche is a Nativity scene (mostly we say Nativity for the little indoor displays and creche for the large outdoor displays but they’re pretty interchangeable). I’ve never heard it used for a daycare.

      1. Rhoda*

        Creche and daycare are different.
        I wouldn’t use creche for all day childcare. It might be used for during church or meetings. So it’s short childcare for the under fives. The sort of thing you would see on church notices; “There will be a creche provided.” So slightly old fashioned these days.

        1. Amey*

          I’m in the UK with kids in daycare and we’d usually refer to it as ‘nursery’. A crèche is usually temporary care for a short period (like their might be a crèche at the gym where your child can be looked after while you work out.)

    5. Tuesday Next*

      South Africa is very multicultural and many people have English as a second language, so we use a mix of words (e.g. people will say crèche / daycare, or SMS / text message, sometimes interchangeably).

      Some ZA peculiarities:
      Most people say cellphone but people who work in tech may say “mobile phone”
      We say company, never “firm” (firm is a consistency)
      Elevators are called “lifts”
      We have “CVs” not resumes

      Not specific to the work environment:
      We call traffic lights “robots”
      You fill your car’s fuel tank with petrol or diesel
      Gas is the stuff that your stove uses (if you have a fancy stove)
      A stove, btw, is a hob. With or without the oven bit

      We also mix other languages in, for example “ja” (yaah) is yes (from Afrikaans). “Eish” (aysh) from Zulu… is hard to translate – it’s like a verbal cringe, or eye roll. Or it could signify amazement or disapproval.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          Probably yes, as we’re a commonwealth country – although we use *some* US vocab/pronounciations as well – people tend to say “dayta” and not “data” for example.

          1. Bonzer*

            That is the British pronunciation. As far as I know only Australians say “dahta” instead of “dayta” (maybe NZ too?)

    6. Laura*

      Yup. I grew up in the US but my parents are Scottish, so I’ve spent a lot of time in both Britain and the US and my high school English teacher once tried to tell me that all British (English) people spoke very articulately and I was like??? no??? they don’t?? But she genuinely had no idea that not everyone in Britain (or England, which is what she meant by “Britain”) speaks with a received pronunciation accent, which is basically only spoken by educated people in Southeast England.

      1. only acting normal*

        The RP accent is more of a signifier of class than geography – basically spoken by “upper class” people from all over (mainly England, some Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), or those who went to the poshest of posh private schools. It can also be learned. A lot of UK actors use it whether it’s their real accent or not. Once upon a time it was a prerequisite for getting theatre work (class prejudice was and still is a thing in the UK).
        E.g. Patrick Stewart’s accent is not his native Yorkshire accent. I can’t find it on Google, but he did an interview once where he said “To boldly go where no-one has gone before” in ‘Yorkshire-ese’ – approximately “T’ bawldly gaw whur’ nae buggers gawn bifoor” :D

  17. IrishCailin*

    Irish/British citizen, grew up in Ireland and working in NYC. General observations I’ve noticed
    – It’s a lot more common at home to go for a drink at lunch or several after work, a glass of wine with lunch seemed shocking in a previous job.
    – The work day runs later at home, 8am would be an early start but in my last US office it was seen as standard to do a 7-3 day.
    – We tend to be fairly late in Ireland, the first time I had a coworker apologise for lateness due to arriving at 11.03 for an 11 meeting I was quite confused.
    – Swearing is a lot more common at home, even at work. Humour in general is a lot more insult based in Ireland.
    – A standard 9-5 day will generally involve lunch and two tea breaks in an Irish office.
    – St Patrick’s Day is a LOT more muted at home than it is in the USA.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I read that second-to-last line as “two lunches and two tea breaks” and I thought, sign me up! I’d love to eat that often…even if it is just one lunch and two tea breaks!

    2. Turtlewings*

      I’ve definitely heard that in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a “go to church and have family dinner at Grandma’s” holiday rather than “drink green beer and partaaaay” like it is here in the U.S. That must be pretty strange for you, since it’s supposed to be “your” holiday, not ours!

      1. Liane*

        Remember that letter about the Irish employee who quit on the spot because she was being bullied and pinched on the holiday after telling her colleagues she didn’t want to be involved at all?

      2. Hannah*

        To be honest I don’t think many even go to mass anymore. There has been a huge move away from the church. It is quite community based with every small town having a parade but its mostly local schools, dance teams and sport clubs. From what I see on the news I think the American city parades are much more spectacular than ours :) The only thing some Irish get annoyed at really is that over here we never ever refer to it as ‘St Patty’s’ day – its St Patricks day or Paddy’s Day, and we don’t really know where Patty comes into it

        1. Frank Doyle*

          Because it seems to make logical sense to shorten “Patrick” to “Patty” because there’s a T in there. I understand that that’s NOT how you shorten “Patrick,” but it’s pretty easy to understand the confusion, no?

        2. Bridget*

          Patty and paddy are pronounced basically the same in American English, so it’s basically a spelling mistake. People don’t realize that while Pat is a nickname for Patrick, Patty is not.

          1. Merula*

            Agree, spelling mistake. Also like how every spring I see signs for Marty Gras in the northern US.

          2. bonkerballs*

            Well…Patty might not be a nickname for Patrick in Ireland, but it certainly can be in the US.

          3. Elizabeth H.*

            (American) Guys with the name Patrick will sometimes go by the nickname Pat or much less frequently (sometimes just used affectionately) Patty, but spelled like that. I have never, ever met an American guy whose full name was Patrick but was sometimes nicknamed “Paddy” with that spelling.

        3. IrishCailin*

          Having experienced a few North American St Patrick’s Day I generally shrug off most of the things we don’t do – e.g. everyone dress up in green – but absolutely loathe the use of patty’s day

      3. grievous grim*

        St. Patrick’s Day evolved in the US as an immigrant pride thing. Catholics were often maligned by the dominant Protestant culture, so the holiday became an opportunity for Irish Catholics (and their descendants) to claim the streets and celebrate as a group. And they were not generally known as temperance advocates. Hence how it all got going.

      4. Irishgal*

        Lol. No, Paddy’s Day definitely not a go to church and visit granny day. Usually it’s down to the nearest town to see the parade (local youth groups, local fire engine, maybe a marching band and usually a lot of vintage tractors). If you are young adult it tends to be a day in the pub. Then you graduate away down that to just enjoying the day off work!

    3. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      – Swearing is a lot more common at home, even at work. Humour in general is a lot more insult based in Ireland.

      My husband wants to move to Ireland so badly. He hates when I swear but I love to and look for opportunities to do more if it. This news just got me on board with the idea of moving. :)

    4. Hrovitnir*

      “A standard 9-5 day will generally involve lunch and two tea breaks in an Irish office.”

      Yes – I was asking a coworker from the US what you’d call “afternoon tea” and he was like “yeah, you only take a lunch break in the US. You might take smoke breaks if you smoke.” (Of course, “morning/afternoon tea” is used outside of work/school, but it’s probably the most common usage.) I mean, I’m not surprised I guess, but I hadn’t realised. (We also have two paid tea breaks and an unpaid lunch break in an 8 hour shift in NZ.)

    5. Typhon Worker Bee*

      “– Swearing is a lot more common at home, even at work. Humour in general is a lot more insult based in Ireland.”

      I found the same thing when I moved from Glasgow to Canada. I was considered relatively quiet and polite in my old lab (I’d moved to Glasgow from England, so I didn’t swear quite as much as the natives), but my new colleagues found my swearing quite startling when I first showed up! I had to consciously tone myself down before they got too appalled.

      Luckily, in all my Canadian jobs so far I’ve almost always had at least one British, Irish, Australian, or New Zealand friend at work for mutual insulting purposes. (Not sure why this aspect of Commonwealth culture never took hold in Canada to the same extent – I speculate that is somehow rugby-related. Luckily my husband’s from a British family and Gets It). At my last job, our Canadian colleagues were quite shocked at some of the things my Scottish work friend and I would say to each other. We had to explain “this means we really really like each other. If we hated each other, we’d be speaking to each other extreeeeemely politely right now”.

      I really really miss those big friendly shared tea breaks though. My first Canadian job, I asked when people usually took their collective break and they looked at me like I had two heads. I hadn’t even used an f-bomb that time. Sigh.

    6. socrescentfresh*

      Oh, those tea breaks were the highlight of my day when I worked in Dublin a decade ago. I was a temp and only had one direct coworker, but she introduced me to her tea break buddies and they made me feel right at home. I would have been so lonely at work if not for morning and afternoon tea.

  18. SNS*

    While studying abroad in London, I did an internship at a non-profit and my fellow interns were a British student and a Russian student so we were constantly comparing cultural norms and teasing each other about our pronunciation.

    Biggest difference had to be the amount of tea consumed though, and the amount of time spent drinking tea.

    1. curly sue*

      My better half is British, and on lazy home weekends the kettle could get put on the stove four, five times a day, easily. Six if we’ve done a lot of snow shovelling.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I grew up in the UK and moved to the US in college.

        Even 20 years later, I’m drink at least two cups a day, and days I’m at home? Easily 4-6.

      2. Trig*

        A Brit I know explained it thus:

        Anytime you change states, you have a cuppa. Moved from one room to another? Cuppa. Finished eating a meal? Cuppa. Finished a meeting? Cuppa. Switched to a new task? Cuppa.

        As a transition motivator, I quite like it! But that much caffeine wouldn’t agree with me.

    2. Turtlewings*

      I’ve always thought that being British and not being able to drink tea for whatever reason (I can’t for religious reasons, for instance) would have to be almost unlivable! Would everyone in the country treat you like a pariah?

      1. SJPxo*

        English here; I don’t drink tea… and when you get asked if you’d like one and say you no thank you and that you don’t drink tea you always get the slightly insulted and the ‘how can you not’ look!

      2. Marie*

        What religion means you can’t drink tea? I don’t think any religion that bans tea would take off in the UK. I don’t think anyone would be offended I know British people who don’t drink tea because they dislike it its never an issue.

        I’m a student and the office I work in the summer has official 9am-5pm hours but the first 15 minutes usually involve the admin staff making tea for the whole building (it is a staff of 9 including me and three of the staff have roles that involve a lot of out of office meetings so are rarely there so its not too bad). There is often another round of tea at 11am and 3pm. Though this is a very relaxed office in a rural area I don’t know how common it is in big companies. As an intern making tea is my job when I am there and I reckon I spend about an hour of my workday making (or drinking) tea.

        1. Turtlewings*

          Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS, aka Mormons. It’s my understanding that we actually have quite a presence in the UK; we have a temple there (which is a much bigger deal than a church building). We can’t drink tea, coffee, or alcohol. We can have herbal teas, though, (i.e. not made from the tea plant), and hot chocolate — thank goodness, ’cause I go through a lot of that stuff!

          1. Marie*

            According to google there are 190,000 Mormons in the UK. And there are two temples in the UK one in London and one in Preston and the one in Preston is the largest in Europe as well as 6 missions.

            I thought Mormonism was just an American religion so I learned something new.

            1. Snargulfuss*

              Oh no, there are now more members of the church outside the US than inside, and there are temples and church buildings all over the world.

          2. Marillenbaum*

            My family are LDS, and my sister’s husband is English (and also LDS). They always went in for either herbal tea (especially peppermint) or hot cocoa. So. Much. Cocoa. But then, his mum worked at a Hotel Chocolat at the time, so they had tons of it in the house.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Oh my, definitely no. Tea and coffee are staples in Muslim majority cultures and the coffee/tea house is often the equivalent of the neighborhood bar (for men at least).

            1. Pollygrammer*

              Coffee is very important! In traditional Bedouin culture, the coffee ritual is on the same level as the Japanese tea ceremony.

          2. Natalie*

            That has not been my experience with Muslims! The older Somalian men in my community basically live at Starbucks. :)

      3. Edina Monsoon*

        Honestly, yeah you’d be seen as pretty weird, I’m 33 and I think I’ve only ever met two people who don’t drink tea. I personally started drinking it when I was about 9!

      4. IrishCailin*

        I’m Irish and can confirm that one can take quite a bit of flack for not drinking tea. My grandmother just seems to refuse to accept this and still offers me a cup nearly every time the kettle is on – I’m in my late twenties and have never drank tea.

        1. Misquoted*

          I’m German-American and almost 50. I’ve rarely drunk tea — I’ve tasted several types and just don’t like it. I also don’t drink beer. I’m a Bad German.

      5. Betty*

        Brit here who used to not like tea. Any time anyone refuses a generally-offered cup of tea, one is asked if one is sure. Once or twice, no probs. Soon it becomes a pattern (the ‘tea round’ being done several times a day) and people will eventually ask “Do you…not drink tea?” a bit like they’d enquire after some potentially disfiguring medical condition.

        It’s perfectly acceptable to opt for another hot beverage instead, however, so I got into blackcurrant herbal tea (but OMG NO MILK NO SUGAR PLEASE) so I could join in and that smoothed social relations a lot. (Though I did refuse to give to the tea kitty on the basis that I was only consuming my own tea I brought in from home. People took that in their stride as it was so obviously true.) Mainly, I think, because I could then take a turn at offering to make everyone else a cuppa. So it’s really not that much about tea specifically as it is about the communal ritual of trading small social favours and all doing something together (even though you’re drinking it separately at your desk most of the time).

        When I’m in a one-on-one situation, I now accept a cup of weak tea and use it as a prop. I might drink a few sips. Then when it’s time to go, I’ll exclaim “Oh, look at that! I’ve let my tea get cold!” as if I were planning to drink it all along but just got SO caught up in our conversation I forgot all about it. You have to be subtle, though, or people will notice and make you another one! It’s about letting someone else do a small, low-stakes nice thing for you. I would always recommend finding a way to get in on tea-drinking, even if it doesn’t involve the actual consumption of tea.

      6. only acting normal*

        I’m Welsh, I think my mother got over me not having children faster than she got over me not drinking tea (actually she still hasn’t got over me not drinking tea).

    3. Obelia*

      Several of my workplaces here in the UK have installed wall mounted boilers for instant boiling water simply because such a significant amount of working time was being lost by staff waiting by the kettle.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Obelia, I’m also in one of those offices! I work in a university and today my colleague and my boss had a long and serious discussion about what biscuits to provide with tea at faculty meetings

      2. NeverNicky*

        Now our office has gone from 6 staff to 15 plus volunteers we’ve had to get one of these – called Ernie the Tea Urn!

    4. Blue Anne*

      I lived in Scotland for 9 years. Forget the immigration paperwork – I feel that I was truly British the first time I completely forgot about a cup of tea.

    5. oranges & lemons*

      I love that tea is still such a big thing in the UK. I live in Canada but I grew up with English grandparents and absorbed the tea obsession. Whenever I visit relatives in the UK it is wonderful to have my tea-drinking habits reflected in the wider population.

  19. Sunflower*

    We have a bi-monthly meeting with all the other non-management folks in my dept and about half are in London while the other half are in the US. We did a presentation on concentration at work and someone in the US suggested wearing headphones while working. The reaction we got from London was very bizarre. Apparently in our London office, having headphones in is seen as very rude and stand offish. We suggested having one bud in, one out and even they seemed very hesitant about that.

    1. B.*

      I think that’s specific to the company – I work in higher education in London and loads of people use headphones. It’s only really unacceptable if you’re in a front-facing role (obviously).

    2. gl*

      Concentration at work… with headphones? I think that depends on the person and the job they are doing. I’m a Brit living and working in the U.S., when I was an analyst headphones were acceptable during big data projects. I only wore them though because of the office gossips and loud mouths.

      Now I’m older and more senior my headphones need to be off so I can hear my colleagues and juniors when they need help.

      Headphones are just a way to drown out annoyances and if people can’t concentrate there’s a bigger problem in the office.

  20. ShopLady*

    There is a great list that crops up on various websites from time to time about what Brits say versus what they actually mean. As an American who has only ever worked in a British office I am embarassed by the length of time it took me to figure out that ‘quite good’ was not very good at all!

    Also the tea thing is weird. If you get up to make tea for yourself you are obliged to ask everyone if they want tea (in my last office this was even the case if they were on the phone. You just made the T sign with your hands) and then must make 10 different types for the varying needs of your coworkers. I was crap at this because 1) I can’t stand tea and 2) am allergic to dairy so I had no idea how to make a proper cuppa (everything came out builders from me aka strong!).

    1. SNS*

      Yes! I hated the making tea for everyone thing, I was always afraid I was putting too much sugar in everyone’s because I like mine sweet.

    2. PB*

      I am embarassed by the length of time it took me to figure out that ‘quite good’ was not very good at all!

      I confess, I might never catch on to that one! How confusing!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I actually like the explanation behind it more than anything! In US English, ‘quite’ is an intensifier; in UK English, it’s a softener. So you can read the US ‘quite’ as ‘very,’ and the UK ‘quite’ as ‘sorta,’ to get a more accurate read.

      2. Nico m*

        Nope yous are still wrong. In British English all value judgements are transmitted by tone rather than vocabulary. “Quite Good” can mean “Brilliant”, “Terrible” or “Quite Good”

      3. a-no*

        The one I don’t think I will ever get is “Could do”. My friends from Manchester say it to mean ‘I’d rather not’, but my partner’s grandpa & father from London use it as ‘Lets do that’ and I just end up lost

        1. Story Nurse*

          That’s a tone thing, in my experience; the tone and emphasis and drawing-out of the vowel in “could” clarifies whether the person means “Oooh, I could really get behind doing that if it weren’t a bother to anyone else!” or “Well, I guess I could do that if the alternative were sawing my hand off”.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      There’s a lot I can adapt to, but I don’t think I could adapt to making tea for 10 people. Does this count even if you work in an individual office? Do you walk around to everyone’s desks? It sounds like it would take so LONG. Which is, perhaps, the point.

      I have a very strong sense of efficiency, so I’d be all about individual electric kettles and tea setups at each person’s desk, but I’d probably get some weird looks.

      1. ShopLady*

        Hahah well the two offices I did this in were open plan with the kitchen as part of one office or upstairs from the other. It was a bit obvious when you disappeared from the second office and returned with a mug. I started to get strategic about it and was always away from my desk around 11am and 3pm…

      2. Snubble*

        I think you’re imagining a different mode of tea drinking than actually exists here. It would be so chaotic to have decentralised tea! In my departent of fourteen we have one kettle, and it lives in the kitchen with the tap (for filling the kettle) and sink (for rinsing the mugs) and fridge (for the milk) and cupboard (for the teabags and sugar) and cutlery drawer (for the spoons). We’re divided into smaller offices, so usually one person will be making tea for two or three at once. It’s efficient!
        Imagine having to take your individual kettle to the kitchen to fill it, and bring it back, and wet the teabag, and then take it back to the kitchen to put the milk in…
        Imagine the noise of fourteen kettles! Plus, it’s an old building. Multiple kettles switched on at once would definitely blow a fuse.

        You only make tea for people you are physically sharing a space with. In an open-plan office, you make tea for your nearest neighbours. It takes a few words – “Anyone else for tea?” “I will, thanks” “Lucy, tea?” “Not right now, thanks” –> take mugs without conversation –> make two cups of tea –> place tea on colleague’s desk –> “One for you.” “Thanks, Snubble.” –> sit down and resume work.
        It’s not really a socialising break. It’s not that everything stops so we can do the collective round of drinks. It’s a different kind of social glue – the bare minimum courtesy you owe to other humans who have to share this room with you for eight hours. And then in the afternoon, they return the courtesy.

        If you gave us all individual kettles, we would still make tea for each other. It’s not impractical for everyone to make their own drinks. It’s just rude.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          In my office (in the US), we have a lot of tea drinkers and one kettle in the break room. Nobody goes around asking if anyone else wants tea. You just make tea for yourself when you want it. And I’m really glad! I don’t want to have to carry a bunch of other people’s tea over to them, even if they return the favor later. I don’t mind adding extra water to the kettle for someone else if they want tea at the same time I do, but I don’t want to mess with putting their tea in their mug and then carrying it over to them.

          It’s great that it’s not a burden for y’all and you have this nice ritual that everyone accepts and doesn’t mind. But I don’t think people saying they wouldn’t want to do this are misunderstanding how it works–we just don’t want to do it.

          1. DuchessofMuchness*

            Yeah, I have fancy loose leaf tea that I keep at work and I don’t want to hand the tin over to someone to make it. It’s expensive and I know exactly how much I like to use for a cup. Keep your paws off it.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I like mine a certain way, too, so I definitely wouldn’t take somebody up on an offer to make mine! But if they want to add extra water to the kettle for me, I would be ok with that.

            2. Cristina in England*

              But if you were part of a tea group you could just hand over your cup with the loaded tea infuser in it already. If you wanted to. Logistical problems can be overcome but if you don’t want to, you don’t want to.

              1. Betty*

                Or “Tea? Yes please! Shall I come and help you?” Obviously only works if they’re making more than, say, three cups at a time, and you can’t do it every time or you’d never get anything done, but it means you can subtly commandeer your own mug and make your own tea while still getting in on the communal joining-in-and-doing-a-nice-thing-for-others aspect. (See my post upthread.)

                +1 that Americans seems to have a warped vision of what UK office tea-drinking is like. It is CONSTANT , so fourteen individual kettles would be a bloody nightmare, but you don’t actually stop doing anything to drink it unless you have a mandated tea break, but that’s only 15 minutes. Most of the time the cup is delivered to your desk and you carry on with whatever you were doing. It’s why communal tea-making is actually so efficient: each person makes tea, say, once a day (and most of that is waiting for the kettle to boil, so making tea for fourteen is only marginally longer than making tea for one), but they are still supplied with CONSTANT tea throughout the day. Also yes, you do have to learn everyone’s individual tea preferences but given that it’s happening multiple times a day every day, you pick it up quickly! People are pretty forgiving the first week or so, and will happily give you feedback!

                1. Y*

                  Also yes, you do have to learn everyone’s individual tea preferences

                  Not in any sensible office, you don’t: anywhere sensible there’s a sheet of paper stuck up somewhere in the kitchen with a list of how everyone likes their tea on it.

          2. Snubble*

            I’m specifically saying that giving everyone a kettle at their desk implies a misunderstanding. Mostly about the milk.

        2. International Woman of Mystery*

          Yes to this! I lived/worked in New Zealand and then Northern Ireland for most of my working life. I am now living in the US and find it slightly appalling that everyone just makes tea for themselves. I get weird looks when I say things like “I’m going to boil the kettle, does anyone else want any hot water” I’m not even offering to make them a drink! Just to boil enough water for them at the same time! It is much more individualistic here.

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            I absolutely don’t mean this to sound harsh, but the actual thought that went through my mind when reading your question example was “If I wanted freaking hot water I would have gotten up and made it myself. What am I going to do? Just sit around wanting something, waiting for someone to offer it up to me? My arms aren’t freaking broken.” I mean, out loud I would just smile and say ‘no, thank you.’

        3. oranges & lemons*

          I wrote in this letter due to my obsession with the tea rituals! As a Canadian who loves tea, I find this fascinating. Is it considered rude if you don’t pull your own weight fetching tea for others?

          1. Demon Llama*

            It kinda depends on the office culture – I’ve worked in offices where yes, if you are always a tea-receiver and never a tea-fetcher, you’re going to get a reputation. But you’d have to get that giving and receiving balance pretty wrong. If you weren’t into tea – or if you are REALLY into tea and you like it a very specific way, then no-one should be annoyed if you never accept and never offer.

            But for context, if you work every day with the same like 5-6 people, in my experience you are kind of expected to learn how each of them likes their tea / if they have a favourite mug / if they actually prefer coffee etc. It’s just part of the team dynamic.

      3. misspiggy*

        Even if you had a kettle on your desk it would be rude not to offer to make a round of tea for everyone. And you have to get several variables right – milk or no milk, sugar or no sugar, how much sugar, how much milk, how strong should the brew be. I have worked in offices where tea preference spreadsheets and charts were involved.

      4. Ruth (UK)*

        AvonLady Barksdale, I work administratively in a university and share an office with one colleague. the office next to us is two more admin staff, and my boss is in an office down the corridor. There are also offices on the same corridor belonging to lecturers or research staff.

        If one of the admin staff (eg. Me) makes tea, we will also offer to make tea for the other admin staff (including my boss down the corridor) but will not knock on the lecturers’ doors and ask them.

        Among the lecturers and research staff, they only coordinate among each other if they do not have a private office, and then only among the people with whom they share.

        There is a tray kept in my office on which to carry the cups. The staff kitchen has a boiling water tap so we don’t need to wait for the kettle to boil.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Thank you for this description, because picturing it does help. Still don’t know if I could do it, though. :) I mean, I would if I were working in an office in the UK, because I try to adjust to norms. But I don’t trust anyone to make my tea the way I want it, especially since “the way I want it” tends to change a lot. Nor do I trust myself carrying a tray.

          1. Ruth (UK)*

            Unless you’re making your tea in a particularly obscure way, most people would be willing to take and follow your instructions on how you like you tea (even if it’s not the same every time) and then adjust how they make it next time based on feedback if it wasn’t right.

            There is an American lecturer in our department and when asked how he wants his yes he says ‘wet, preferably hot’ so people just make it however they like. He doesn’t seem to mind.

            1. Betty*

              It’s very normal to say things like “Could you leave the bag in a bit longer next time, please?” or “Half as much sugar as last time, please”. Not a comment on your value as a human being, just feedback on how they like their tea. It is recognised that individual tea preferences are all valid and all individual, so people are very happy to gradually learn your own individual likes and dislikes.

              1. Elle*

                Yup. I recently joined a new team, and I’m in the process of training them to make my tea the way I like it! I think we’re nearly there!

    4. NoName*

      Yes, the difference in what “quite” means! As an American high schooler in Singapore I got in trouble with this. In the US, “quite” is an emphasizer-modifier – “quite good” means “very good”. In Singapore, “quite” is a de-emphasizer-modifier– “quite good” means “not up to the standard of ‘good’ “. I referred to something in school as “quite good” and got taken to task for it, when I really did mean to compliment it!

    5. Star*

      My current company doesn’t have the “make tea for everyone” culture (though it has a strong “everyone goes to make tea at the same time” culture), but my last one did, and I kind of enjoyed it. It meant I got more tea!

      I was quite good at learning how everyone enjoyed their tea, though, so that didn’t bother me. I did eventually learn to decline when one of my coworkers took his turn though, because his tea-making was… not good.

      I will never, ever remember that “quite” is an intensifier in American English. They’re all even MORE enthusiastic than I thought!

    6. gingerbird*

      I never worked in the UK, but it took me a while to realize that when my British friends texted “U OK?” They were not voicing concern.

      1. B.*

        One thing I still haven’t got used to is that they say “you alright?” to mean “hey, how are you?”. I always think I must look like I’m really upset, and I still haven’t quite figured out the appropriate response. It’s been six years and I’m used to most things (I’ve fully embraced the tea culture!) but that one still throws me.

        1. The Senior Wrangler*

          Correct response is “good, you?” or “I’m fine thanks, and yourself?” or something along those lines. Or when passing an acquaintance in the street:
          Person 1: Alright?
          Person 2: Alright?
          *carry on walking*
          It’s definitely a “You alright? (I’m enquiring about your general state of being)” as opposed to “You alright? (because you don’t look it)”.

          1. ItsOnlyMe*

            Canadian here. I worked in Southern England for many years – it took me ages to get used to “Hi ya, alright?”

            I loved the tea rota in our office. I came in around 9 so I made tea for me and the others who sat nearby, come 11 am, a fresh cuppa magically appeared on my desk. Builders tea :O)

            There was a cake tradition. I am not sure if this was local to our office or not, but for birthdays or last days etc, the person whose birthday it was, or who was leaving, brought in a cake or baked goods to share. No lists, no brown collection envelopes around the office, if you wanted to acknowledge your birthday, you got the cake in.

            And we had a post holiday tradition. Anyone returning from vacation brought in a bag of sweets or biscuits from their destination to leave in the kitchen. I loved that too. Hmmm. looking back, probably a fine reason I gained a lot of weight back then. And I miss it.

            1. Bagpuss*

              We do the cake and sweets/biscuits after holidays in my office. (UK)

              We don’t have a make tea for everyone culture, (making tea for 18-20 people at a time is a bit impractical) but there are definitely tea-clusters, so smaller groups of people who share an office or work closely together will make tea or coffee for each other – so you might have someone making 4 or 5 drinks at a time.

              (reading the recent letter about the OP bringing coffee for their coworker boyfriend, my immediate thought was ‘how rude, not to offer coffee to any one else!’)

            2. Rachel Paterson*

              In Japan, it is very much expected to bring back small (usually edible) souvenirs for your entire office whenever you go on a trip out of the prefecture. I say usually edible because knick-knacks would build up quickly, so snacks are best. Every place you go to in Japan will have its own specific speciality to sell you for souvenirs – mochi, cookies, udon noodles, candies, variations on the local fruit, etc. I have sometimes kept quiet about going somewhere, because I know I won’t be able to afford snacks for everybody! The best one, imo, was a type of langue-du-chat cookies that Sapporo is famous for (name of Shiroi Koibito). They came in fancy metal boxes, that I kept and now use for baking/craft supply storage. The place I bought them mailed them to your home, since they are heavy and bulky, and most people fly into Hokkaido anyway (before the shinkansen opened). Very handy!

              1. Kitty*

                I get omiyage at least twice a week from my colleagues and students, mainly sweets and mochi. My personal favorite is Tokyo Banana. Love sembei, too! And of course, Shiroi Koibito (although actually anything from Hokkaido is good).

                One lady went to the US and brought back candied pecans for everyone. The crowd went wild!

              2. mobiuschic42*

                On not being able to afford omiyage for everyone: I used to bring omiyage everytime I went anywhere, and eventually my coworker told me I could just bring it for my department or for my group of desks in the office…people don’t expect you to bring it for 60 people except when you’re new, you’re leaving, or you went on some big long trip (a week+ abroad or something).
                I actually just got some omiyage from one of my coworkers that was only for the women (because it was cute).

        1. Star*

          “You ok?” is just “how are you/how are things/how’s it going?”

          It’s never occurred to me that this isn’t obvious before!

      2. Blue Anne*

        The one that I never got over was adding “at all” to the end of yes or no questions. It drove me mad.

        Example: Tesco checkout lady would ask “Do you have a clubcard at all?”

        I either have one or I don’t! What am I going to say, oh I have a bit of one? No but I did years ago? Yeesh.

    7. yasmara*

      Oh but you also have to remember how everyone takes their tea! I was always “light, 1 sugar” but I actually like 1.5 sugars and there was this one co-worker who always made me the perfect cup somehow. It was nice because we were a really tiny office – usually only 3-4 people onsite at one time.

    8. Choupet*

      When I temporarily worked in our UK office, they had a print out of how people liked their tea. “Builders”, “White with one (sugar)”, etc. That way if someone was on the phone and signaled they wanted a tea you didn’t have to interrupt them to find out how they take it.

      Temps and Visitors, like me, got to add a post-it note with our tea preference.

  21. Mim*

    When I worked in higher education in Egypt, many of the departments had staff members whose jobs were just to make people coffee. They spent most of their days sitting around chatting. One of them was running a small food business out of a storage closet. The administration was looking for areas to cut the budget and would have loved to end this practice, but there would have been a huge backlash if they had.

    1. Mim*

      There was also always always fresh juice at events and meetings with guests we were trying to impress. The strawberry juice was my surprise favorite, but guava and mango juice were also popular choices.

    2. the gold digger*

      Yes. My first morning in our Dubai office, I was delighted that there was a guy (in Chile, we would have called him the office junior, but this was a grown man, so “junior” seemed insulting to me) whose job appeared to be doing nothing more than fetching cappuccinos for everyone. I must have had four because they were free and because I was so jetlagged.

      1. Anon Today*

        We have that in our India (Chennai) office. I can (and do) get tea or cappuccinos delivered to me all day.

        The clear class boundaries between the tech workers and the service workers in the office make me super uncomfortable though. The boundary seems much stronger than I see in the US between tech workers and service workers.

    3. Tuesday Next*

      At my very first job we had 2 lovely “tea ladies” who also did general office cleaning. They came around twice a day with a trolley, which had a big urn of hot water, mugs, milk and all the rest. They knew exactly how each person liked their tea or coffee. If you wanted a hot drink at any other time, you went to the kitchen and made it yourself.

      This was in South Africa.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        Can someone explain the moderation rules? My post above seems pretty innocuous but it needs to be moderated!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nothing there would have triggered any moderation rules, so it’s just the moderation filter having a temporary blip. It’s inscrutable. (Also, if it’s ever down briefly, it will send every comment during that time to moderation, out of an abundance of caution, I guess.)

      2. Julianne*