Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 235–259 | Cite as

Winding Down the Workday: Zoning the Evening Hours in Paris, Oslo, and San Francisco

  • Jeremy Markham Schulz


This article explores the subtle yet far-reaching ways that cultural environments shape the uses of the evening hours among business professionals in three countries. Drawing on interviews with professional men and women living and working in Paris, Oslo, and San Francisco from a spectrum of professional fields and employers, the article explores their evening routines. Three contrasting patterns are identified. Where the early evening hours between 17:00 and 21:00 are concerned, French, Norwegian, and American professionals traverse different cultural terrains. The French professionals and their employers treat this temporal zone as a status-conferring period. Adhering to a transorganizational cultural convention defining the early evening as work time, they use these hours to distinguish themselves as committed practioners of their métier equipped with status and authority. In Norway, comparable professionals approach this period as nonwork time off limits to their employer. Early departures from the office are encouraged and facilitated in the Norwegian workplace. Among the American professionals far less uniformity prevails among the evening routines of respondents working in different organizations and occupations. This variability is explained by the absence of the higher-level temporal conventions present in the two European contexts. In the American setting two deciding factors come into play: the temporal expectations of the professional’s employer and the bargaining power wielded by the individual professional vis-à-vis this employer. These differences between the evening routines of the three groups reflect important cultural differences across countries with broadly similar postindustrial landscapes.


Work Professionals Cross-national sociology Culture Work-life nexus Temporality 



I wish to acknowledge the financial and logistical support of a number of institutions and programs, including the National Science Foundation, the University of California’s LERF, the FLAS program, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the UC Berkeley Departments of Sociology and Scandinavian Studies, the Cornell Department of Sociology, the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, and the Center for the Sociology of Organizations. The paper has benefited from the feedback, comments, and insights provided by many scholars, including Neil Fligstein, Arlie Hochschild, Mary Blair-Loy, Marion Fourcade, Victor Nee, Trond Petersen, Neil Smelser, Richard Swedberg, Michèle Lamont, Laura Robinson, Jean-Pascal Daloz, Stanley Brandes, Brian Lande, Benjamin Moodie, Jennifer Silva, Sigtona Halrynjo, Karin Widerberg, Odd Frank Vaage, Øyvind Wiborg, Gabe Ignatow, Ofer Sharone, Helene Aarseth, Jen Hook, Victor Chen, Erling R. Larsen, Selma Lyng, Ingjerd Skafle, Heidi Nicolaisen, Abby Larson, Erin York Cornwell, and Benjamin Cornwell. David Smilde is also due thanks for providing valuable advice on the manuscript. Finally, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the interviewees who graciously and generously spent several hours of their precious time sharing details of their busy lives.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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