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Work Culture in US – Why to eat lunch with Colleagues. What to Talk?

Having lunch with colleagues is very important to build a good relationship with your team. It helps you at work and outside of work in a lot of ways.  It is essential for team building and relationship building for success. Let me share some of my experiences and what to talk and how it helps. This article is part of series of Work culture in US – Working hours, Lunch time, Meetings

Why should you eat lunch with Colleagues?

Work Culture in US- Importance of Luch meetingsIt is probably very common for people to eat lunch with colleagues, but some do not  realize the importance of it in corporate world . It is especially very important when you are working in a different country like in USA and in a different work culture. Think about you talking to your colleagues always only about work…it seems just materialistic and too much work oriented. There is no personal relationship unless you share about your personal life and what you do outside of work.  Our goal as an individual is to build that relationship. How do we do it ? Spend some time with them and talk about stuff that is not related to work. To find that free time is hard for anyone and it may be hard for people who have kids to come out for dinner or any other party you throw to talk and spend time. The only place where you get an opportunity to talk to your colleagues about stuff other than work is Lunch time.  It is important to grab that time to talk about out of work stuff and build a relationship.   People do not just function based on rules, you may need a favor outside of rule book at work or outside work. The only way a colleague will be willing to help is if he or she can trust you. TRUST only develops by constant relationship building and conversation on a personal level other than work related stuff.  Bottom line, you should use your lunch time (if you can) to build that relationship. I have so many good friends even today. In fact, I got my second assignment after a break just because of the trust my colleague had in me and it was built by our lunch conversations.

What to talk over Lunch ? Sports ? Movies ? Culture  ? Politics ?

It is very important you find some common ground to have a friendly conversation that is not related to work. Typically people in US follow lot of sports. Depending on the time of year, most of them follow some sports. It can be American Football (NFL), Basket Ball(NBA), World series Base Ball, College Football, Ice Hockey or any other local sport. A good conversation would be discuss about a game that happened last night. If you do not know the game, it is hard. You probably have to learn the rules and may be follow for little bit to be able to have good conversation.  Again, you are not trying to impress someone, do not do it artificially for the sake of benefit. You just have to have the passion for sports and do it naturally.   If your colleagues have kids, they may coach their kids or someone. You can talk about the sports they coach or how the game went.  People do not talk about family directly, because it is very personal and no one shares with colleagues unless they know you well. You do not want to enter someone’s personal space directly. So, do not just jump into personal stuff. Just try to talk about something the other person is passionate about and you also like. I used to talk a lot about sports. Also, you can talk about Movies that were released last week and see what’s good and not. You may talk about social or economic issues. You can talk about cultural topics. Ask about American Culture and know, they will be happy to explain on the same direction, you have to share as they ask. You can talk about politics, but you have to very careful, it can create differences of opinion if you do not know what the person is…avoid any debating subjects. It can be good or may be totally bad for you… People talk about weather a lot in America. Talk about anything that was a news event in recent times. Talk about stock market. There are so many things to talk about. You just need to pick a common ground and talk that is interesting for both of you.

Overall, the whole point is, do not try to impress anyone by just trying to talk artificially for the sake of benefit. It has to come from your heart and you should have the passion to build a good relationship not just for work but also for making good friends. Your work place will be more fun if you work with friends rather than just colleagues. I had so much fun at my work because most of my colleagues were good friends.

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  1. “do not try to impress anyone by just trying to talk artificially for the sake of benefit. It has to come from your heart and you should have the passion to build a good relationship not just for work but also for making good friends” – This is a very good one. Don’t have a fake identity. Be casual and be yourself.

  2. We all knew how shallow americans were. Indians living in americans are even shallow atleast this kumar guy who writes these articles. really shallow
    Sure, building rappot with your colleagues is a good thing. But sucking up to people? again disappointed – this articles should be renamed “How to impress co-workers”

  3. Yet another fantastic topic.

    Myself an American another related topic is any good television shows. People talk about ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Apprentice’ (When it was on) or any related show. Maybe some local news. Watch the local news from the local tv channels. There you will also get the weather report which will expose you to a lot of local conversational ways of talking, idioms, sayings, etc.

    Once you get to know your coworker better, people gossip about office politics. I would avoid doing this in the initial stages of any relationship because as you say, trust is a key factor.

    People do use lunch outings for work meetings or for networking and meeting others in the organization. I never realized the importance of that networking until it was too late. That lunch time networking can help us work our way up the ladder. We need our connections in US to go up the ladder and it is not done ‘just like that’ or because it’s our time, etc.

    But one can talk about how one works their way up in the company or different positions. People love to talk about their professional experience. We can talk about vacations we been on or places we traveled, etc. Another good topic “What did you do last weekend?” or “What are you planning to do this weekend?” In asking these questions it is NOT assumed by the other party that the asker wants to be included. If the other person wants to invite the asker, they would say it straightforwardly.

    Avoid topics on race, sex, and people’s weight.

    I made a video tutorial on “Going out to eat with American coworkers” Maybe it is useful and gives additional information to this. Thank you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUz-TKkCUbM


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