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August 28, 2019

Labor Day Small Talk: Dos and Don'ts With US Counterparts

Where as most countries in the world commemorate Labour Day (UK Spelling) on May 1, we, in the US commemorate the day on the first Monday of September (In 2019, the date will be Sept. 2). While this day is not really used to historically commemorate the true meaning of the day anymore, many in the US see Labor Day (US Spelling) as the unofficial last weekend of summer (Conversely, Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, is seen as the kickoff of summer holidays.). 

When working on a global team with US Americans, it makes sense to make small talk around some of the hot topics of the season. Some of those topics are listed below. 


Mesa Arch, Canyonlands, at Sunrise (Photo: Krishna Kumar)
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands, at Sunrise (Photo: Krishna Kumar)

Last Summer Hoo-Haa
Hoo-ha is a slang word meaning 'fuss.' In this case, it means the last fun outing of summer. While school and college students across the US have started going back to school since the second week of August, not all schools are back in session  yet. By two or three days after Labor Day, all students across the country should be back to class. So, for some families, this is considered the last summer holiday or long weekend. For those families living in school districts that are starting a few days after Labor Day, they may decide to take a longer vacation, maybe starting the week before. So, some of your colleagues may take an extended holiday this time of the year.

Is it acceptable to talk about holiday plans with Americans?

Sure, if we talk about it in a general way, Americans are happy to talk about their holiday plans. If you're just starting off a relationship with a US counterpart, do not add relationships into questions. Keep questions general. For example:
Don't: Will you be going away for the long weekend with your wife and kids? 
Do: Do you have any plans for the long weekend

Feel free to ask general follow up questions after they return from their vacation.

Don't: How did your kids like the Labor Day weekend trip? (You can ask this IF your colleague started the conversation and talked about his/her children in advance.)
Do: How was the outing last weekend?

Can I ask about prices of things?
In general, we do not talk about prices of things with our US counterparts. However, talking about, or better yet, complaining about, gas prices seems to be something most people talk about. 

Typically, gas prices are high for Labor Day because people tend to be on the roads. However, this year, in 2019, news outlets claim Labor Day weekend gas prices will be lower than usual, but may increase after the holiday depending on how the hurricane season pans out. In the video below, the commentator says the gas prices will be cheaper by about a quarter. A quarter is 25 cents. Learn more about American money and coins here.



Small Talk Do's and Don'ts:
Typically, when it comes to talking about prices of things, as noted earlier, we don't tend to ask directly about it unless we are comfortable with that person. Else, I'd typically wait to see if they broach the topic first, then talk about it generally, maybe in terms of news stories. I wouldn't ask them about gas prices in terms of their personal budget, for example. 

Don't: I heard gas prices can be high for Labor Day weekend. What do you typically budget for gas on your trips?
Do: Earlier, you mentioned about gas prices. Yeah, I heard gas prices can be increased for holiday weekends in the US. What do you think about that?

Traffic and Driving 
If your colleague is driving any distance and leaving from any metro area in the US, it's highly likely they will get caught in a traffic snarl on the way out of town or the way back. While most people look forward to getting to their destination and relaxing or enjoying, not everyone would enjoy the traffic jams on the way out or way back home. We can talk about this with colleagues, or possible routes they may take to avoid those congested areas.

Small Talk Do's and Don'ts: 
Here are a list of questions you CAN ask: 
When do you plan to leave? I heard that traffic can be crazy when leaving big cities on holiday weekends.
I heard that there are usually a lot of traffic jams when people leave on holiday weekends. Do you have any special routes you take to avoid traffic jams?
Oh, you are leaving on Saturday morning instead of Friday night? That sounds good, as I heard that traffic can get back up for hours if leaving the Friday of the long holiday weekend! 
It's nice you will be going out with your family this weekend? Who usually does most of the driving? 


Where to go and what to do 
Of course, if your colleague is going out of town for the weekend, it's completely OK to ask them what they are doing or where they are going in general terms. Here are some pictures of a few things my husband and I have done the last few years during Labor Day weekend in Utah.

In September 2017, when we stayed in Moab, Utah, we stayed in an RV and not a hotel. If you go to Moab, you can find this on Airbnb under FUNSTAYS. We highly recommend them. We have stayed in three different RVs they rent. They are fully furnished, even with kitchenware so you can cook your own meals.



Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US

Author, Jennifer, and husband outside Moab, enjoying the red rocks!


We have made Moab, Utah our go to place for the last few years for Labor Day weekend due to the Moab Music Hike. This is a very unique experience where concert goers meet at the local school in Moab, get on a bus, go to an undisclosed location, take an easy less than mile hike into a desert amphitheater and listen to live classical music. I also recommend this experience. All proceeds to go music education in the area.


Check out the site for the Moab Music Festival. Purchase your tickets as soon as they go on sale in April to secure your spots! 

Moab Music Festival - Music Hike 2017



Moab Music Festival- Music Hike 2018

Note: Some Americans do not want to go anywhere, and just prefer to stay home and do yard work, home improvement projects, or just relax. Some who stay home and just relax may call that a 'staycation.'

Small Talk Do's and Don'ts: 
Don'ts: Where are you going with your family on Labor Day weekend?
Do: Doing anything fun or going anywhere for Labor Day?
Do: What do you normally do on Labor Day?

What do you plan on doing for the Labor Day weekend? What tips do you have to help others with their Labor Day weekend travel planning? 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, has lived in India for about 10 years. She provided coaching and training to your offshore teams to build effective working relationships across global borders. See our programs on virtual meeting management and personal coaching to build consultative and communication skills for English as Second Language speakers working on development teams interacting with native English speakers.


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Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.