The Global Grind: Work Peculiarities Around the World

How the World Works: Different Global Work Cultures

In our increasingly interconnected world, understanding the diverse tapestry of work cultures across different countries is crucial for anyone engaged in or aspiring towards international business.

Work culture, often a reflection of broader societal values, encompasses everything from working hours and communication styles to how breaks and vacations are structured. These practices can vary dramatically from one country to another, influenced by historical, economic, and social factors.

This blog deals with several distinct nations, shedding light on how their work culture differences can impact workplace dynamics and expectations.

United States

The work culture in the United States is characterized by a strong focus on achievement and efficiency, often driven by a competitive market environment.

Working Hours: The typical American workweek runs about 40 hours, but it's not uncommon for individuals, especially in managerial or professional roles, to work longer hours to meet deadlines or achieve career advancement.

Breaks: Breaks during the workday are usually brief, with a short lunch period and few other pauses, emphasizing a continuous workflow.

Vacations: The U.S. is notorious for having one of the lowest numbers of vacation days taken per year worldwide. An average US worker is eligible for only 11 days of paid leave per year. This period can be increased to 15 days after five years of service in private sector and to 17 days after ten years.

Hierarchy and Communication: American workplaces value directness and transparency, with a clear emphasis on individual achievement and meritocracy. Decision-making is often swift, aiming to drive results and foster innovation.

Work Etiquettes: For those adjusting to an American work environment, understanding the importance of punctuality, professionalism, and proactive communication is key. This setting rewards those who show initiative and can navigate a fast-paced, results-oriented work environment.


The Japanese work culture is profoundly group-oriented and hierarchical, where the needs of the organization often take precedence over individual preferences. This collective approach is deeply ingrained in Japanese society and is reflected in every aspect of work life.

The emphasis is on harmony, precision, and respect for established protocols and seniority, which guides both professional conduct and business operations. Loyalty and commitment to the company are highly valued, and employees are generally expected to contribute to the welfare of the group by working hard and often, sacrificing personal time.

Working Hours: Employees typically face long working hours, and significant overtime is a common aspect of the job, reflecting a strong dedication to one’s employer and position.

Breaks: In Japan, workplace naps, known as "inemuri," are accepted and even encouraged to boost productivity; other breaks are usually short and efficient.

Vacations: Despite the fact that law grants each Japanese worker 10 days of paid leave per year, employees often use very few of these days, prioritizing work commitments over personal time off.

Hierarchy and Communication: Communication tends to be indirect, with a high respect for authority guiding interactions. Decision-making is usually top-down and can involve several layers of approval.

Work Etiquettes: Showing respect and achieving consensus are vital. Understanding subtle body language and non-verbal cues play a significant role in effective communication and maintaining harmony in the workplace.


Italian work culture features a balanced approach with a clear separation between professional and personal life, emphasizing quality of life alongside work commitments. This culture highly values personal interactions and a relaxed pace of life, which extends into the work environment.

Italians typically integrate a significant amount of personal expression and comfort into their workday, making the atmosphere at work more informal and familial. The focus on maintaining a healthy work-life balance is evident in the structured yet flexible work schedules, which accommodate family life and social activities.

Working Hours: The standard workweek complies with national limits, with most people adhering strictly to these regulations to ensure a good work-life balance.

Breaks: Italians enjoy extended lunch breaks, known as "riposo," which can last up to two hours, allowing time for social interactions and a leisurely meal, reflecting the social nature of Italian culture.

Vacations: Italians enjoy from 22 to 26 days of paid leave each year. They can save as many unused days as they want, but they have to use them by the end of June the following year. Employers must compensate any unused vacation days remaining after June 31. Italy offers generous vacation allowances and observes numerous national holidays, with most employees taking full advantage of this time to relax and spend time with family.

Hierarchy and Communication: Italian businesses often operate like extended families, with somewhat informal but respectful communication. Relationships are highly valued, and networking is seen as essential.

Work Etiquettes: Emphasis is placed on personal relationships and appropriate attire. Dressing well is considered a sign of respect in professional settings, and informal, friendly greetings are common in daily interactions.

How the World Works: Different Global Work Cultures


Chinese work culture places a strong emphasis on diligence and conformity, with a high value placed on discipline and collective success. This culture fosters a highly structured and regimented environment, where adherence to company policies and directives is expected without exception.

The focus on efficiency and productivity is paramount, and employees are often driven by a deep sense of duty and commitment to organizational goals.

Working Hours: The notorious 996 working schedule—9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week—is prevalent in many tech industries, reflecting the extreme dedication expected from employees.

Breaks: Typical breaks include short lunch breaks, with some companies incorporating afternoon naps into their corporate policies to boost productivity and maintain employee health.

Vacations: The Chinese law grants one of the shortest paid vacations in the world. A specialist with less than 10 years of service can expect only 5 vacation days per year. Vacations increase with the years of service: a worker with 10-20 years of experience is eligible to 10 days. More than 20 years of service grants the worker 15 paid vacation days per year. Vacation days are often focused around national holidays. Employees may have less flexibility in choosing when to take their leave, aligning their schedules with official public holidays.

Hierarchy and Communication: The business hierarchy is distinctly top-down, with a strong emphasis on respect for authority. Communication tends to be formal, and deference to senior figures is a fundamental aspect of professional interaction.

Work Etiquette Tips: Formal greetings are crucial in establishing respect, and conservative business attire is expected. Understanding and adhering to these formalities is important for anyone engaging with Chinese businesses.


Brazilian work culture is relaxed and highly interpersonal, with a significant emphasis on building relationships and social interaction within the workplace.

This culture prizes personal connections and a warm, friendly atmosphere, where people feel valued and part of a community.

Working Hours: Work hours are generally flexible, with a clear emphasis on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Businesses may offer varying start and end times to accommodate employees' personal lives.

Breaks: Breaks are longer and more social, including extended lunch breaks and casual coffee breaks, which are an integral part of the day for networking and relaxation.

Vacations: Employees in Brazil enjoy extensive vacation time – 30 days - and take full advantage of national holidays, which are celebrated with enthusiasm and joy, often incorporating large social and family gatherings.

Hierarchy and Communication: While there is a hierarchical structure, the approach to communication is open and warm, making the workplace feel more inclusive and supportive. Leadership is often seen as part of the team, rather than as a remote authority.

Work Etiquette Tips: Greetings are friendly, and a casual yet respectful dress code is usually sufficient in most business settings. Embracing the local culture of warmth and openness can significantly enhance professional relationships and workplace satisfaction.

Global Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the trend towards remote work and the use of digital communication tools. Companies around the globe have had to adapt quickly to a digital-first environment, which has transformed traditional work settings and encouraged a more flexible approach to daily work routines.

There is an increasing shift towards more flexible working arrangements, allowing for varied hours and the ability to work from home or other locations.

Additionally, there's a growing recognition of the importance of work-life balance, with companies increasingly acknowledging that employee satisfaction and productivity are linked to well-being outside of work.


Throughout this exploration of work cultures, we've seen a wide range of practices from the rigorous and hierarchical systems in Japan and China to the more relaxed and interpersonal atmospheres in Brazil and Italy. The U.S. stands out for its focus on efficiency and minimal vacation use, while European countries often emphasize a strong separation between work and personal life.

Respecting and embracing these differences can lead to more effective and rewarding international collaborations, fostering a more inclusive and dynamic global workplace.

Here are some other interesting articles: