It’s a rallying call to a nation of workers, a sign that the long week is over, the weekend has begun and for at least 48 hours, we are all free to just do and be. Get smashed, hang with your family, hit the clubs, mow the lawn, see a flick, take some X, shop for shoes, have a long brunch, make minor infringements on the law. Whatever’s your poison, from Friday night on it’s release-the-hounds time.
In the last 20 years I’ve had the pleasure of working all over the world and though we in the States have a very firm idea of what Friday afternoon means, it’s not necessarily the same thing in every corner of the globe.
Sydney has a very sunny attitude to weekends. When you hit 6pm on a Friday, it’s pens down and time to get out there and enjoy yourselves. In fact, in Australia, we spend most of our week thinking about this day. Five days of work in a week is more like an interruption to our socialist birthright of doing as little as possible. We’re not lazy, but we are leisure masters.
Singapore was same same but different. Singaporeans approach work hours from a contractual point of view. If you have two weeks sick leave every year, then that’s yours to take. You’re entitled to it. “MC” aka Medical Certificate was a little two lettered word that was bandied about the office to explain absences as commonly as saying that someone was in a meeting. I’m not saying that Singaporean are hypocondriacs, just that they have a professional approach to their leave.
So when Friday 6pm ticked round, any minute longer spent at work was a contractual infringement. God help you if you were standing anywhere near the front door at the Golden Hour, the Running of the Bulls doesn’t just happen in Pamplona.
South Africa was a completely different thing again. Friday afternoon would come by and people would start to roll joints up on their desks. Really. The weekend was welcomed happily and warmly, like a friend you hadn’t seen in 5 days. There was no guilt, no battling against the man, no resentment of the week that was. It was just simply Friday, “my bru”. Time to get a little bit crazy.
The weekends in Berlin were approached with as much purpose as the work week. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have a job. When the weekend comes you have a list and you need to get through it. Whether it’s getting to that new club, hitting a farmer’s market, home improvement, a walk in the forest, a picnic, staying out all night, every single event has a timetable, a meeting point, a probable finishing time and an evaluation at the end of it. Friday 6pm, work week is done. Tick.
When Friday 6pm comes around in Tokyo, there is a communal sense of guilt that radiates through the office. Everyone can leave right now. But no one will. No one dares to leave their desk till the boss has gone home. So they will sit there, duty bound until their next-in-command calls it a day.
But even then, when the coast is clear and everyone’s left the building the Japanese spend the weekend racked with guilt over the fact that they really should be doing something about the work week coming up. I’ve often thought that there’s a huge sense of relief when Monday morning comes around. Back in the office, everything is as it should be. TGIM.
But of all of the above, the one I have to say that I’m enjoying the most is the Californian Friday afternoon. I’ve been freelancing at TBWA here in LA and the first week that I was there, a fire alarm went off at 4pm Friday.
Shit, I thought, as the survival instincts kicked in and I began looking for the nearest exit. Then straight after the airhorn goes off, people start applauding and cheering all over the building. There are 600 people there, it’s loud. I look around stupidly.
Finally a cheering soul clues me in; it’s the weekend. The airhorn is so everyone knows.
How can you not smile about that? Apparently the tradition was started by a guy who worked there and even though he’s left, they keep it alive. And from about 4pm on, people just start exiting the building, driving into the sun down the freeways to the two days of fun that await. Two and a half really, since you get that extra time on the Friday in.
From the country that gave us TGIF, I can safely say from all I’ve seen that the tradition is alive and well. Hang on, why am I writing a blog on Sunday morning? Where’s my airhorn?