One of the biggest differences I have noticed between working in the US and working in Switzerland is the attitude towards lunch and social time. When I have worked in the US you come to work, put in your 8 hours, usually take a short lunch (often at your desk), then you can leave and have your social life mostly outside of the office.
In my lab at EPFL, lunch is an event. A group goes out to eat just about every day and it is a time for socializing. Conversations can vary from relevant science (such as the latest robot DARPA or MIT has), to the cross cultural (comparing life from the various corners of the globe we all come from), to the type of conversation that is inevitable among a group of lab rat engineers (like how to properly write a publishable paper on proving the number of slices a pizza should be cut into for the best taste).
Immediately following lunch is coffee, where you sit and chat and maybe organize events outside of work for another 30 minutes or so before finally wandering back to lab. Then if you are in the lab past 17h00, don’t be surprised if people start asking who wants a coffee break. While taking part may extend the workday, it is the best way to get to know your coworkers, learn about the area, learn about different cultures, and to get involved in life in Lausanne.
Laura Fleury, Carnegie Mellon University
Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL