Want to work in East Timor?

Are you currently tossing up whether to apply for a job in East Timor? Well, look no further; I’ve got some golden information guaranteed to turn your uncertainty into a one way plane ticket to one of the most beautiful tropical islands on this earth. It all whittles down to these simple four words:


From 12pm to 2pm in Timor, work places grind to a halt as staff members go to ‘lunch’. Your old lunch, of grabbing a sandwich and devouring it over your keyboard while checking emails, is set to become:

  • A long drawn out lunch with friends at your favourite restaurant in Dili
  • Zzzzz time- the perfect moment to catch up on some much needed sleep (this is when living close to your work place has its benefits)
  • Email time- use the internet (if you’ve got the patience) to respond to all the emails from your friends and family
  • Literary hour- coffee, cake and a book
  • Study time- an opportunity to practice the local language, Tetum

It’s basically a time where you can do anything you want to do.  It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel when you just get a bit of “me” time. It makes you question why we live the way we do at home, surely every place in the world should embrace two hour lunch breaks!

Why do they need a 2 hours lunch break?

When I asked my workmates why we had such long lunches I got a few different replies, some proved to be wrong:1.  People need to go home and have lunch with their family.
We’ve already covered the importance of rice for East Timorese, but a whole two hours to eat a plate of rice and vegetables,    come-on? My workmate could pick his wife up from work, eat his rice, take his wife back to work and get back to our office    in forty minutes flat. The rest of the staff stayed at work gossiping and eating rice they cooked there in the kitchen.2.  It’s the hottest part of the day, no one should work during these hours
Absolutely. As one of the whitest women in the world, I can sympathise, no one should be anywhere near the suns rays at   midday. But with most offices being indoors and air conditioned, surely the heat isn’t an issue.

3.  As above, it’s hot and we need a siesta
Yep, the heat has a way to lull you into a state of slumber in Timor. I caught this great moment just after lunch at work on camera:

The above points make me sounds like I’m complaining about the long lunches. Let me be perfectly clear, I’m not. I think they are wonderful and should never change.

To lunch or not to lunch?

A friend gave me some great advice before I moved to East Timor. He explained to me, that if I wanted to be respected and fit in with my workmates, I needed to take the two hour lunch break. “No one is going to think you are hardworking if you stay in the office working over lunch” he said. “It’s not the culture. Enjoy your lunches, it’s probably the only time in your life you’ll be able to have such long lunches”. And so I did, I took long lunches and felt absolutely no guilt. I hope you get the chance to do the same too.And just quickie for all the upper echelons in Timor Leste who work with the government, UN etc… I’m sorry your lunches only last for one hour, but really, someone has got to run this country. And you could always go and get a job with a local NGO (Non Government Organisation)…

We hope this post helps you to understand a little bit more about what it’s like living and working in East Timor. If you are planning a big move to Timor, let us know if you need any help. Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Just go!

Top plate image is from: FreeDigitalPhotos.net