The International Working Day

February 28, 2010  |  Articles

Morning Folks,

During a Skype conversation with my Friend dD (Doug de Nance) he mentioned that maybe not everyone might be familiar with the way the international business community operates.

Since I have physically worked on 3 continents so far (Asia, Africa & North America) I’m a little familiar with the different ways that the international community approach the work week.

International Work Weeks.. a breakdown

So lets start with what you guys are familiar with:

Work week starts on Monday and ends on Friday.

In Egypt (where I currently reside) the Work week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday.

In Kuwait (where I was born and raised) the work week starts on Saturday and ends on Wednesday.

Lost In Translation

Why this happens is quiet simple. The Holy Days for the 3 main religions are different. For the Muslims it’s Friday so you will notice that the weekends for Egypt (north Africa) and Kuwait (the Arabian peninsula) include Friday as one of their weekend days.

For Egypt it used to be Friday and Sunday (because the 2 main religions in Egypt are Islam and Christianity) but since no one likes a disjointed weekend they included Saturday and made Sunday the first day of the week.  Christians are still given leave to attend Sunday mass without salary deductions.

For North America the two largest religions (statistically) are Christianity and Judaism. That means that the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Christian holy day (Sunday) are both observed… but the Islamic one isn’t.

In the Far east they follow the western model of weekends because they need to synchronize their work days. This maximizes their work efficiency and earning potential.

The Time Zone Conundrum

Dealing with international clients can be frustrating because of several reasons. The least of which is knowing what times you can contact your clients and find them available.

This isn’t much of an issue if you work in your domestic market and do not wish to venture outside it. That’s fine… find your comfort zone and stick to it.

Personally I have to have my hooks in several ponds at the same time … and that means I have to stay aware of where and when my clients are. I know for instance that you guys are still on vacation today which means very few of you will be reading this article because you have other things to do.

But come Monday a good chunk of you will be reading this article because its a week day and as humans we like to goof off…. It kinda makes sense… you want to spend the weekend doing things with your families and come Monday you want to ease into the work week not get slammed with work from the beginning. Simple psychology and hey if that means I get to compare my blog to a comforting cup of morning coffee… why not!

Keeping Track

It’s hectic to tell you the truth. Trying to keep mental note of all the different time zones and when they need work by etc etc. Personally I keep track of timezones using a firefox plugin for my browser… and the timezone utility on my iPhone.

However this whole confusing time zone difference thing is not all bad, it can also work as an advantage for you because it means that in some cases a client in a far off time zone might need something by the next day… except it’s already 5 pm on his clock and he won’t find anyone to do the work for him without paying them extra… since you are in a different time zone anyway you might be able to record, edit and deliver the work before they get into their office… thereby saving their but and coming out on top of the game.

Think about that for a bit.

In the meantime if you have some interesting stories about overseas incidents and time zone debacles (or wins) please leave them in the comment section.

Taji (incidentally Taji is my family name… I use it and my first name interchangeably because most y’all can’t pronounce my first name properly… but Taji is pretty much globally pronounceable).

‘Nuff Said


3 Comments


  1. Very helpful information about “days off from work” in various markets. Of course, I operate on the various time zones, the U.S., Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany, France, so far I’ve not had clients except in U.S., Europe, Canada. The U.S. has four time zones as most of you are aware. But I was not aware of the days businesses close in various countries. Also, we should mention that in some countries, businesses close in the afternoons and then re-open in the late afternoon or early evening. I wish U.S. companies did that. It’s a great idea. Your e newsletter is always interesting and useful.
    Bettye Zoller

    • Back in Kuwait they used to follow the half shift in the morning and half shift in the evening system. My father used to have time to come home and eat lunch with us (we’d be back from school) then take a nap and go back out.

      They don’t have that system in Egypt so that means the days are long, but ultimately with the traffic they have here… it wouldn’t be practical to follow that paradigm.

      I am currently working with clients in Australia… and boy is it hard to keep up with their time zone… sheesh!

  2. How do I find information on the actual business hours of operation in various countries?