What Team Lunches Look Like Globally
By Alexa Jill
Communal eating has many benefits. Among them, is improved mental and psychological states, as well as increased social bonding and overall wellbeing.
In fact, a study conducted by the University of Oxford titled ‘Breaking Bread: The Function of Social Eating’, found that people who eat socially feel better about themselves. Additionally, they have a wider collective network capable of providing social and emotional support. The conclusion? Social networks are crucial for combating mental and physical illnesses.
If you needed more proof, the foundation of our society is based on connections. Maryville University, in their evaluation of what creates a better society, detail how connections are the building blocks of the human experience. Simply put, we are happier and healthier when we are in a social setting, even more so when we eat together with others.
Eating together in a social setting can even boost productivity in the workplace. Employees who enjoy a healthy meal for lunch are 150% more productive and 46% more focused throughout the day. As a result, more companies are looking to keep their employees working at maximum efficiency, by providing subsidized lunches. In our post ‘6 Reasons Why Food is a Powerful Work Benefit’, we mentioned that a social place for lunch increases the likelihood of employee engagement by 1.5x because it allows people to bond, which in-turn boosts collaboration and teamwork.
In the US, we know how the hustle and bustle of everyday work doesn’t always allow for social interactions over meals, and it’s certainly not the social event that it is in other countries. So, how do others around the world take their lunches? Let’s take a culinary trip around the world to see what office lunches look like.
Image credit: Jan Harenburg
Spanish lunchtime meals are often eaten together and referred to as “la comida,” which literally translates to “food”. This multi-course meal is generally served between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and is often the largest of the meals they eat throughout the day. It starts with soup or salad, followed by a meat or fish course like their traditional paella. While many office workers respect the lunchtime break, with the pace of modern life having changed much of the traditional lifestyle, siestas are not very common any longer, as many cannot afford to take a long break from work.
Image credit: mailer_diablo
Best known for its hawker markets, or the communal “food courts,” Singapore’s workers flock to these centers packed with food stalls selling inexpensive local and other Asian cuisines like chicken and beef with rice, noodle dishes, and dumplings. Individuals from all manner of work, be it office suits to construction workers, congregate together in an eclectic mix, perched on tiny stools eating their lunch.
Image credit: Steve Evans
India’s lunchtime delivery service is over 100 years old and involves an army of 5,000 people, known as dabbawalas or “lunchbox person,” delivering over 200,000 hot meals to office workers and college students (Incidentally, this is what inspired EAT Club’s business). The whole operation is run by the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust cooperative, which relies heavily on the rail service. Food is home-cooked by a mother, grandmother, aunt, or another woman-driven workforce, which includes widows, and underprivileged women. The whole operation of delivery is so efficient that incredibly only one in every six million meals misses its destination.
Image credit:Keiichi Yasu
While the Japanese work long hours, lunchtime is taken very seriously and businessmen will often fill the “hole in the wall” noodle shops, which can be found on every street corner. Most of these shops have square bar counters where patrons can sit while watching the chef work their magic. The layout provides a more interactive solo experience as they often strike up a conversation with other patrons or the chef over a bottle of sake.
Image credit: Jason Lam
Jamaica’s lunchtime favorite is a soft, sweet bread made from coconut milk. Split down the middle, it’s stuffed with a Jamaican patty, which is a savory pastry filled with meat, cheese, and veggies (a bread within a bread!). It’s golden hue usually comes from turmeric or brushed egg yolk. Jamaican lunches are a huge social deal and you can bet your sweet bun they last more than an hour.
Image credit: Gerbis
Like other Europeans, mealtime in Germany is a very social affair and is taken very seriously, Germans like to take what’s called a “Mittagspause” or midday break for their lunch and enjoy it with their workmates at a restaurant. Lunches are heavy meat and potato affairs, which include sausages, schnitzel, fries, and beer. Yes, beer, like in Japan, alcohol in Europe isn’t the taboo subject it is in the US, and beer over lunch can be enjoyed even if you’re not taking a client out.
Image credit: Dina Said
Like Germany, the main meal of the day is lunchtime, with the national dish being Koshari; a concoction of rice, macaroni, and lentils. It’s usually topped with spicy tomato sauce and zaatar spice. Lunch is generally followed by a friendly game of backgammon, or as it’s known there, tawla.
Image credit: Minh Nguyen
If you don’t find phở (highly doubtful as it’s served in every restaurant and street food cart around the country), the traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup chock full of herbs and meat, you’ll definitely find a bánh mi sandwich for lunch. With French cuisine having influenced Vietnamese cuisine since the French occupation, these sandwiches are a delicious baguette stuffed with pickled veggies, grilled meat, pate, and fresh herbs.
Image credit: stu_spivack
Argentina’s empanadas are a leftover of the Spanish rule and have inspired cuisines in Latin America and the Philippines. These are savory pastries stuffed with, chicken, beef and veggies. Depending on the region, fillings can vary and they are often either baked or fried. Lunch in Argentina is also a big deal and it’s taken early in the afternoon as Argentinians don’t eat dinner until usually around 9 p.m.
Image credit: Gilabrand at en.wikipedia
A favorite all over Israel is the traditional falafel, or deep-fried chickpea balls, stuffed in pita bread with tahini (sesame) sauce and Israeli veggie salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, and lemon juice. These delicious pita pockets are sold in hole in the wall shops or by street vendors. For a meaty lunch, shawarma meat (chicken, lamb or beef) is substituted for the falafel.
About the author
Alexa Jill is a keen foodie and traveler. Alexa has been backpacking around the world for the last two years. She’s a digital nomad who loves the life she lives as she gets to manage her own work hours. Her favorite country is Spain, and she one day hopes to go on a safari.