By: Anthony Goh and Sarah Burnham
Working internationally can come with challenges of a new language, business processes and business culture. However, an often overlooked consideration when working in a cross-culture environment is the differences between each country’s working hours and holiday breaks.
This Tuesday, April 5 is Qingming Festival–also known as Tomb Sweeping Day– a national holiday in China which is a day set aside to tend to the graves of ancestors and appreciate the coming of spring. As a nationally recognised public holiday, Qingming Festival has implications for businesses. Being aware of the daily and yearly schedule of your host country can help you to plan ahead and be ready to work within a new timetable.
In terms of normal operating hours in China, many offices are open for regular business between the hours of 9:00am to 6:00pm Monday through Friday. Midday, an hour lunch break is given. This usually is scheduled between 12:00 and 1:00pm which means often, it will be difficult to reach anyone during this time. While not every office will follow these exact hours, companies often follow this type of pattern.
China has approximately seven nationally recognised holidays with days off of work. Spread throughout the year, the two longest of these are the Chinese New Year holiday which is a week-long break in late January or early February and National Day holiday which occurs in October. When a holiday falls mid-week, it is customary for the nationally recognised day off to be moved and connected with regularly scheduled days of break. In order to give longer amounts of time off consecutively, working days can sometimes be shifted to the weekends to allow for 3 consecutive days of rest in a row. To give an example, this year, Qingming Festival falls on a Tuesday. The nationally recognised break runs from April 3-5, 2011, which is a Sunday through a Tuesday. As there is only one day of break allotted to the holiday, many employees will work a regular day on Saturday April 1, 2011 to then allow for a three day break to follow.
Take a look at the following chart which lists the national holidays in the coming twelve months:
April 4 or April 5
April 3-5, 2010
May 3, 2010
Dragon Boat Festival
5th day of the 5th lunar month
June 14-16, 2010
15th day of the 8th lunar month
September 22-24, 2010
October 1-7, 2010
2011 New Year’s Day
January 1 of every year
Jan 1-3, 2011
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
Lunar New Year
February 2, 3-8, 2011
It is very common for people to take vacations during the months of July and August and while personal leave can be used throughout the year, the summer months are a popular time for travel and relaxation. This can mean that there are slight slowdowns in business during these months, and some short-term delays may occur. In multi-national companies, December is also a popular time for taking personal time and the same type of slowing of business may occur.
When doing business across cultures, being aware of your counterparts’ holidays and customs can be a useful in planning realistic timeframes for projects and also a helpful way to build mutual understanding between offices.
By Anthony Goh and Sarah Burnham. Mr. Goh is President and Ms. Burnham is Business Development and Communications Associate at US-Pacific Rim International, Inc.(www.us-pacific-rim.net). If you have questions, comments, or would like to learn more about USPRI you can contact Ms. Burnham at [email protected]
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