The Culture of Time

When working with people from the United States, as with people from any other culture, it’s good to have some background information and common reference points. My goal is to help provide some insight into what it is like to work with American business people in regards to time.


One huge difference in expectations between Europe and the USA is the work schedule. From the perspective of the daily schedule, professionals in the USA typically don’t stop working when they are away from the office. Most are checking email and messages in the evenings and on the weekends. If you don’t reply to your boss afterhours you can expect to be questioned the next time you see them. The expectation is that everyone has a smartphone so if you don’t reply then you are choosing to ignore the sender. I personally have had Hungarian business people become upset with me for replying to emails on the weekend and have been slightly punished for working during a break. These are considered the norm in America. The mindset is that if you don’t keep up with everyone else then the company will find someone who will.


The other major difference is holiday or vacation time. In the USA, most people get about ten to fifteen days of “vacation” per year in addition to national holidays, which there are usually about seven observed. Also when it comes to maternity leave, Americans typically take about six to twelve weeks, all of which is unpaid. This is one reason why typical professionals in the USA do not take long trips to Europe.


I have found that this topic is generally safe to discuss with most Americans and you can freely express how unbelievable it is that they work so much, You can certainly make them feel a bit jealous of your annual amount of holiday time.

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