This is a picture of our unusual-looking multipurpose room at work. We use it for meetings and mealtimes but may someday have to use it for more desk space. You can read my earlier post about my office here.
I have no idea what business lunchtime etiquette is in the rest of Sweden but I can tell you what I’ve noticed at my job as a Technical Writer, now that I have been at it nearly four months. That’s approximately 80 lunches so I guess that makes me a lunch expert. Ha ha.
At my office, everyone seems to eat at the same time. Around twelve o’clock, the office empties out. We typically have around 60-70 people (give or take people on business trips, working from home, etc. ) so it’s pretty significant when everyone suddenly vanishes. When I worked for a law firm in the US, people took their lunchbreak at all different times so you didn’t have the sudden evacuation in the same way.
The Stockholm software company that I work for has a lovely large multipurpose room with super high ceilings and skylights. Some co-workers bring their lunch and eat there. Others go out and fetch their lunch but bring it back to eat there. I’ve noticed that people rarely eat out of plastic containers from home or the takeout containers. They transfer the food to plates from the kitchen and use metal cutlery. It’s all rather civilized.
I noticed that it is polite to join a group of diners if they are sitting there when you arrive with your food. At first I sat by myself because I thought it might be rude to just bust in on a group. But then I saw that everyone did that and it was actually stranger to go and sit by yourself.
Despite the fact the median age of my co-workers must be about 30, I’ve noticed very few drink soda at lunch. I see plenty of people drinking soda on the street, on the train, etc. Anyway, I am glad for this because it ensures that I won’t do that either. Thank goodness for bubbly water so I can get some carbonation.
Eating at your desk is just not done where I work. You can have some coffee or tea and maybe some hard bread with cheese, but no one eats in front of their computer. This is another habit to avoid so I am glad of their good example. At my previous job I often did private work on the computer during lunch and so I sat at my desk, multitasking.
Ninety percent of my co-workers are men. This makes me a little shy to suggest lunch together though I do it sometimes. They don’t usually ask me so maybe this is just not done? But I’ve also noticed that you can just tag along with a group of 3 or 4 people that abruptly meets in the lobby without much planning. That’s cool.
The language spoken at my office is Swedish but since I am fairly new and don’t want to misunderstand things, I usually ask for and speak English in meetings. I try to speak Swedish as much as possible and I try to send email in Swedish. But going to lunch with a bunch of co-workers guarantees that there will be lots of Swedish spoken. This is great because I get to practice but not so great because I usually only understand 50% of what’s happening. I’ve noticed that when there is ambient noise (like you find in a restaurant at lunchtime), I find it much harder to understand what people are saying. I think that must be a reflection of the fact that much of human language is tone, timing, and things other than just the words. You don’t notice it so much until it’s missing…