It’s been almost 8 months that I’ve been working on my company. My team is pretty cool, the job is serious and relax at the same time. But we don’t do coffee breaks, or even breaks at all – except for lunch, fortunately. When I think of my last job in Paris, where every occasion was a pretext to open up a bottle of champagne and eat petit-fours with my colleagues-friends, I have to say that time have changed. For sure, once in a while we have some cupcake time or pizza left-overs in the kitchen. But let’s face it: one of my favorite delight, the unique socialite corporate moment: the coffee break with colleagues doesn’t exist for me anymore.
Coffee break is almost an institution in France. Once or twice a day, you gather with your favorite colleagues to drink a coffee, chatting about what you did the night before, complaining about the weather or having fun about anything. I thought that it was an international tradition in the corporate world, but I was wrong. Here in my job in the US, even if there’s a coffee machine, nobody gathers ritually in front of it to chat. You just drink your coffee alone in your own cube.
I wanted to export the tradition, and asked to my coworkers if they would be up to. I even set up a “date” on our share calendar to book some time for coffee. But nobody came the first time, nor for the next 2 months. Once though, we all went downstairs across the street to a nice coffee shop, but it didn’t take more than 10 minutes.
I had to admit it: coffee breaks were not popular. Did my profesional credibility was stained by this unconventional request? Was I confirming a stereotype about European people being “slackers”? My colleagues reassured me: “We know you have a different culture, you know how to enjoy life, but well… we don’t do that here.” I was definitely a slacker.
Nobody noticed it but I deleted the coffee break event (there was a cool emoticon on this invit though, not enough to appeal people I guess). I took the habit to drink my London Fog (a hot tea with some milk) alone, either before coming to work or after the lunch break. The memories of fun coffee breaks were fading away, I was eventually integrating to my new North American culture. We never talked about it again. Everything was back to order.
But this very Monday, without any further notice, one of my colleague asked me to go out in the middle of the afternoon to have a tea and a cookie. “I really need a break”.
Victory, success, happiness!