The top 5 countries with the longest lunch breaks


Unlike in the United States where lunches are often microwaved and eaten quickly at our desks (or, even worse, in our cars), many parts of the world view the lunch break as a valuable part of the workday and a time to relax and reenergize. According to a recent lunch break survey of employees across 27 countries, a few nations clocked longer lunch breaks than the global 35-minute average. Here are the top five countries that relish long lunch breaks.


Brazil: 48 minutes

Employees in Brazil take lunch breaks very seriously. Because it’s often hot in the middle of the day (especially in the northern part of the country), people don’t rush to eat the most social meal of the day. They go out to eat a plate of beans, rice, and meat or fish, followed by a sugary shot of espresso. In some regions, cities all but shut down around midday so that everyone has time to go home and cool off.


Malaysia: 47 minutes 

In Malaysia, an hour-long lunch break is standard, and dining out is inexpensive and convenient. Since most of the workforce in Malaysia consists of salaried employees, an hour is considered an appropriate amount of time to go outside, have a bite to eat, and come back refreshed. Temperatures usually sit around the mid-80s in Malaysia, so as workers grab a roti and curry, nasi lemak (Malay coconut rice), or noodle soup, they enjoy a seat under the mist on a restaurant patio to cool down before heading back to the grind.


Singapore: 47 minutes

In Singapore, lunch is just one small part of a world-renowned food culture that’s as flavorful as it is diverse. While Singaporeans might eat many small meals throughout the day, they also like to take a long lunch away from the office with friends and co-workers. “Lunch is most often a communal activity,” according to an article in Forbes. Singaporean workers use lunch breaks as a time to socialize and choose from an endless array of dishes, from Indian curries and Indonesian satays to Hokkien mee noodles with spicy sambal.


Japan: 46 minutes

Japan often gets a bad rap for working excessive overtime, with the most extreme result being karoshi, or “death by overwork.” But much like the dedication to the job (or maybe because of it?), Japanese people seem to take lunch breaks seriously, too. Workers in Japan take an average of 46 minutes every workday to eat—sometimes at home, sometimes at work—and catch a second wind. If people in Japan aren’t eating a meal packed from home, employees eat at convenient restaurants, cafes, and food courts selling boxed lunches. As Japan moves away from overwork, it will be interesting to see if the culture of the relaxed lunch break stays the same.


Portugal: 44 minutes

Portuguese people do not observe a siesta but do take time for a relaxing lunch break. Having a mix of meat and fish, stews, and rice, workers in Portugal will leave workstations sometime between noon and 2 p.m. to take an average of 44 minutes to eat and unwind. This is well above the 33-minute average break taken by the 10 European nations surveyed and a far cry from 19-minute average reported in Greece.


More countries by average lunch break:

South Korea – 43 min.

France – 39 min.

Ireland – 38 min.

Sweden – 38 min.

Taiwan – 37 min.

United States – 36 min.

Kenya – 35 min.

United Kingdom – 35 min.

Italy – 35 min.

Russia – 35 min.

Canada – 34 min.

South Africa – 31 min.

India – 31 min.

Germany – 31 min.

Australia – 31 min

Ghana – 30 min.

Mexico – 30 min.

New Zealand – 30 min.

Costa Rica – 29 min.

Spain – 28 min.

Poland – 24 min.

Greece – 19 min.

While many countries take longer breaks than folks in the U.S., four out of the six countries with the longest lunch breaks are in Asia: Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore. What could we learn about our habits here in the U.S. by looking at countries where sanctity is placed on a more leisurely lunch?