Tuesday, October 29, 2013

differing eating habits - or social habits?

Two to three times a year I go on field trips involving collaborators and students. Sometimes I am the "principal investigator" on these trips, sometimes I just come along as an extra pair of hands. During the last two years we were just women during most of these excursions, before that and just recently there were just 1 or 2 women in a larger group of men. While all the trips were productive and professional there is one thing I've noticed to be different: the group eating habits. And this does not mean that the alcohol and meat consumption in just women groups was lower, but it is about the social aspect of eating.
By now I have worked in several different groups on different continents and I find myself to prefer groups which have some kind of social eating habits, such as going for lunch as a group, having a coffee meeting once a day, having group BBQs every now and then,... . I usually feel a bit lost if everybody brings their own food and eats in front of the computer or just not at all.
On my field trips I've noticed that women seem to pay much more attention to this social aspect of eating. If possible a common breakfast time is arranged and the working shifts will be arranged such that everyone can still make it to the next pub or restaurant before they close. When working with just men this is not necessarily the case. Even if a breakfast time is arranged this can mean that nobody shows up at the designated place and if you meet them 15 min later some of them already had breakfast and some will go later and some are still asleep. If the group has to split to go for dinner it might be that the first group forgets that pubs close at a certain time and the second group then has a dinner consisting of gas station sandwiches and chocolate. Even though I have experienced this already a lot of times, with each new field trip I  forget that the social aspect of eating is not as important for my male colleagues as for me. This then leads to a very rushed breakfast (if at all) on the first 1-2 days until I have adopted to this behavior again. And I would feel very unsocial if I would go by myself directly on the first day - because maybe this group of guys is different. I really wonder where this difference comes from - in the end most people like food as well as company.

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