Work Smarter//

What One Adorable German Word Tells Us About Healthy Work Culture

We can learn a lot from ‘Mahlzeit.’

Photo by Mohammad Saifullah on Unsplash

In lieu of saying “hello,” German workers say Mahlzeit!, which translates directly as “mealtime,” but means so much more.

Germany—one of the most productive societies on Earth, while working some of the fewest hours among wealthy nations—is firm with boundaries around work. This epitomized in how Germans do lunch, Joseph Pearson reports for the BBC. Unlike the Sad Desk Lunches that now populate American offices, Germans fiercely guard lunch from the bosses.

“The act of going to lunch together is still extremely important in Germany,” a middle manager with Volkswagen called “Markus” (he didn’t want to use his last name) told Pearson. Scheduling meetings for lunch time is a no-no: “You are imposing unofficially on their freetime, even if they are getting paid for their lunch hours,” he added. “And Germans care about their free time.”

Mahlzeit may help explain why Germany is Europe’s largest economy, where those productivity levels are coupled with very low unemployment rates. Refreshingly, German workers know how to take breaks: they take more days off, including annual leave and official holidays, than anywhere in Europe.

Pearson also cites a Eurostat report that found Germans are not very satisfied with their jobs, but very satisfied in their lives. That’s an interesting conundrum, which suggests that perhaps the ethos—and emphasis—of demarcating work from not-work has perks in life that don’t translate into the office. It’s hard to say for sure, but we can all take a hint and bring Mahlzeit into our workplaces, wherever we are in the world. The next question is: What’s for lunch?

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


What The Germans Get Right About Productivity

by Caitlin Schiller

My experience abroad and socialy adapting back into my home life

by Anton Urevc

Art & Integration

by Miri Ben-Ari

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.