I love the Europeans’ take on a “coffee break”. While traveling on business in Rome and Paris recently, I’ve discovered the little ‘pauses” of a work day, a refreshing change from the go-go-go work style I’ve been used to in New York.
“Let’s take a coffee break,” said Valeria, my lovely Italian colleague in Rome. I assumed she meant going to the local Starbucks, buying a ridiculously big coffee for take-away and drinking it from my desk. That’s all I’ve known since working in NY for more than a decade.
I soon discovered that was not the case. As we crossed the bustling Via Condotti street packed with tourists, I felt relief to get out of the confines of the office and to get fresh air and enjoy a few minutes of the Rome scene. Only a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, I might add.
We entered a trendy cafe with two baristas working the gigantic espresso machine that stretched across the counter. “Now, we take a coffee,” Valeria said, with a slight clip of an Italian accent.
Luca, my other colleague, bellowed out some orders in Italian, and soon three empty cups plunked in front of us. We bellied up to the bar. Espressos were poured into the cups, as small as shot glasses, and we downed them in a matter of seconds. I loved the buzz. Then we chatted for several minutes about work, life and weekend plans. Other customers hovered around munching on biscottis. Petit sandwiches and palm-sized croissants (and not the monstrously big croissants back in the U.S.) sat in a row on the counter. I noticed whether in Paris, Brussels and Rome, people ate lightly throughout the day. And always a piece of dark chocolate here or there to tie you over to the next meal. Twenty minutes later, we were back in the office, and I felt better, my spirits lifted.
“Why are you eating alone? I will join you now for lunch,” said one co-worker to me earlier that day. I was so used to eating alone, and I welcomed a break to eat and chat. My Rome colleagues gathered around in the boardroom with their lunches and we ate together. They unpacked their salads, proscuitto ham and bread, and the boardroom table transformed into a mini picnic.
“It’s good to take a break,” one colleague said. He had spent some time in the U.S. and commented on how strange it was that Americans would eat their lunch over the keyboard while working. Oh I’ve been guilty of that.
“I guess to be efficient?” I said. He laughed and said, “You have to pause in the day. You feel more refreshed and then you can go back to work. Simple.”
Indeed. I think the Europeans have it right to take short breaks, enjoy an espresso & a small piece of chocolate, before heading back to the grind, a little more rejuvenated to take on the rest of the day.