There's so much I want to read and so little time to do it.

Is it okay to use my commuting time for reading and not for socializing with co-worker(s) that sometimes share the same transport?

I politely explained my reasons lately to one of them and it went well. Is such behaviour acceptable in the international business setting?

  • 7
    "Is such behavior acceptable in the international business setting?" There is no single "international business setting", so there is no answer to this question. Aug 2, 2021 at 7:32
  • 3
    You can do that but I feel you are missing a great opportunity. Informal relation are very powerful. You can learn some unofficial events happened in your organization, it is a chance to exchange perception of some work situation, increase bounding, may be this co-worker will left for another organization that you would like to join later.
    – Tom Sawyer
    Aug 3, 2021 at 16:50
  • 2
    Sometimes I'll commute to my work via bus, which takes longer, but is much better on my nerves because I hate stalled traffic when driving. When people ask if it doesn't bother me that I'm on the bus, and the longer time, I tell them that I get to get all my web browsing and stuff out of the way while listening to music and not worrying about the trip. It's part of WHY I don't mind commuting. If you have earbuds in and bury your face in the device screen, magazine or book, it won't be taken as a snub. It's more normal, nowadays. Aug 3, 2021 at 19:24
  • 1
    It can be a great opportunity talking to someone on the bus, but equally it could mean listening to a really boring person talking about something that has nothing to do with work and doesn't interest you. Being bored may be OK if it gets you in with someone senior who can help you, but not all public transport interactions are useful for your career. There's a compromise, which is to say hello, exchange pleasantries, and then return to your book/tablet.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 4, 2021 at 14:58
  • 1
    If you "politely explained your reasons" it is unlikely that anyone would answer back negatively or challenge you no matter what they think, because it would be aggressive and rude. So, lack of a response is not a confirmation that they agree. Often you will never know what people actually think or feel, particularly about someone else's behavior. Aug 6, 2021 at 1:33

4 Answers 4


It is perfectly fine for you to excuse yourself and go about your own stuff after you have greeted your coworker and maybe exchanged a few sentences of chit-chat. This doesn't have to be long. Especially if it is only one coworker. If you are on a bus/train that lots of coworkers use you may get away with a slight nod or hello or if you are already deeply emerged in your reading no reaction at all might be ok too. Then you should acknowledge them however once your reading is done. It all depends on your coworkers though and the social norms of the country your are in, you don't need to be the one to initiate contact but you should be friendly and at least exchange a few words of banter when someone starts a conversation with you.

Reading your question brings up another issue though. You seem very eager to tell us all the smart things you read even though it has zero relevance to your question. And you flex a lot of your interests to us. For this question it doesn't matter at all if you want to read the latest on the job news or Jane Austen novels. You definitively come across as arrogant to me in this question and this will likely also transfer to conversations with your coworkers.

It might be the case that your coworkers already perceive you as arrogant and rude. If this is the case you should definitively invest some time in building up better relationships. Small talk on the train/bus and in recesses could be very helpful in building better relationships. And every job is not only about your technical knowledge but also a lot about working good in teams. Good personal relations will do wonders for you in your jobs and for your career. You can forget your dream of creating a start up if you don't build up important networks and learn to build relationships.

  • 6
    @TomR I'm not saying that talking about AI in itself is in any way arrogant. I'm just saying that the OPs post contains a lot of unnecessary information about what OP is reading and likes doing. The fact that they all are in fields that are ambitious/buss words make it sound like bragging. And this is what seems arrogant to me albeit arrogant may be to harsh a word.
    – seg
    Aug 2, 2021 at 11:26
  • 7
    Your relationships with your co-workers will be much more affected by an aggressively competitive attitude than the minutae of what you do on the train. Aug 2, 2021 at 11:28
  • 5
    You read my mind. As I was reading this post, I'm wondering what the hell is all this humble brag "I read PhD theses on my way to work" bullshit?
    – Jack
    Aug 3, 2021 at 10:20
  • 4
    @TomR Perhaps that is what you think of yourself. But as others have pointed out, you come of as arrogant to hide your insecurities. Perhaps you need to introspect whether your idea of aggressiveness and competitiveness is working against you in your professional relationship because others don't perceive it as such.
    – sfxedit
    Aug 3, 2021 at 18:32
  • 4
    @TomR - Do you feel you are rebutting that bit of an aside from the answerer with your comments, or are you reinforcing it? The fact that I'm asking should probably give you a hint to how it's looking to an outsider. Aug 3, 2021 at 19:21

Is such behavior acceptable in the international business setting?

If you completely ignore your coworkers sitting next to you in public transportation, this will seems odd to me.

The question is the balance.

You don't have to chat with them all the time on the ride. You can say few hellos, ask them how their day is going and at some point say

Please excuse me, I like to read/count birds/watch/...

If you prefer reading books/news/looking at the window it is perfectly fine, but make sure you will not end up as "the strange person from floor 5 who doesn't say hello to his coworkers in the bus"

  • Are you assuming that they get on at the same place? If so they could say hello before entering the bus / carriage. If not are you expecting them to move to sit together?
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 2, 2021 at 8:01

Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to make the normal pleasantries and then put headphones on or read for the duration.

Quite possibly your colleagues are already doing the same, just doing the social formalities with no real interest in anything else.

  • Some people enjoy social interaction of almost any kind, even if they are 'introverted'. Others do not, but they learn to fake it to get by. Being too different in social behavior simply doesn't end well. Aug 6, 2021 at 1:40

How about this: Every other day, talk to your coworker about some of the stuff you have read the day before. This will help you process the information better, kind of like Rubber duck debugging.

  • This is a great suggestion for improving learning, if that is truly want one wants to do. And any replies will help even more (than talking to a rubber duck). Aug 6, 2021 at 1:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .