It feels like it was yesterday when our small community in Skopje (at the time) discussed a cultural twist to one of our favorite daily routines. One of our communities' unique traditions and perks are healthy and delicious meals prepared by Symphony chefs. Adding a gourmet experience seemed like a natural step in making our daily routine more enjoyable and distinct.
Back in the "old normal," our days started with a healthy smoothie, followed by an even more delicious lunch. Our lunch gatherings were more than a basic meal benefit offered to our team - it was an opportunity for people to bond and chat over lunch breaks while eating a healthy cooked meal in a work environment. The cultural twist meant trying something new - a specialty from different world cuisines and flavors that we haven't tasted before. "Thursdays at Symphony taste so good, especially when you travel the world one flavor at a time!" says Tiana Grosheva, Service Delivery Manager from Skopje. It took us a week to start implementing the International Thursday in Skopje, and we still anticipate every international menu with excitement.
International Tastes at the Hub
Before the pandemic hit our world and changed the way we live, we made a tradition of announcing weekly menus every Friday with a particular focus on Thursday's offer and its flavors. The fun part was the actual voting on the country we plan to visit the following Thursday. We organized various polls each week for our community members, but the voting did not always go as planned, like that time certain bribes took place, in the form of chocolate! Each week we enjoyed the delicious masterpieces of our chef. Our Skopje team reached a consensus: "His Mexican churros were a blast, his Danish cauliflower soup not so much."
In our community, desserts were usually reserved for one day during the week. And naturally, we saved the dessert for its majesty - the International Thursday. That was our cheat day - the rest of the week included healthy smoothies and fruit snacks.
And then, last year’s March kicked in. It seemed like just another month, and at the time, we were preparing for a cocktail party - of course, with internationally recognized recipes. In only 48 hours, we had to adjust to the new normality amid the pandemic. We did it relatively easy like we face every other challenge - we adapted and introduced some new habits.
The Remote Mode Edition
As the pandemic forced us to adapt to the new normal in only 48 hours, we had to adjust one of our favorite traditions as well. Gourmet-related, we aired one season of our Cooking Shows live from all our development centers, and once we realized that we were settling in a fully remote mode for a while, we thought about our best memories from before.
Therefore, we have decided to bring our International Thursday to the remote world as well. Like in the past, we used our democratic right to vote and voted for one cuisine that will mark each Thursday. We delivered the selected gourmet specialty to the home addresses of all our team members in Skopje for a day full of cultural experience (including some playlists, movie and TV show suggestions, and favorite artists).
"I really like that we have this type of day every week, with the opportunity to try a variety of delicious cuisines. I am especially glad that we managed to keep the International Thursday in remote conditions because apart from being a great initiative by itself, it reminds us of the days and gatherings in the office even though we are not all at the same place," shares Ivana Lefkova, Software Engineer from Skopje.
We often shared a meal online in our work-from-home days. Nowadays, few of us share it in the office, but this tradition brings everyone joy and smiles regardless of our location. Tamara Kitanovska, Software Engineer, states that the idea to continue with this tradition in remote mode was great, same as its realization. "I like that we choose food from different cuisines as we have an opportunity to taste something other than the usual."
Filip Simovski, a QA Engineer from our Skopje hub, shares one of our team's favorites - "I loved the famous Havana ribs, the specialty of our Cuban week." Its reruns by popular demand just confirmed Skopje's community taste. The team also looks forward to each burger week, regardless if it is a "traditional American burger or some slow-cooked version with a local twist," Stefani Dimevska and Sanja Djurkovic from our Growth team confirm.
The Value-Adding Twist
Reflecting on our culture of support, besides bringing value to our own community, we strive to support local communities whenever possible. We established or deepened collaborations with micro and small businesses, including restaurants and cafes, that started their business during the pandemic. That was our way of giving back in a way that truly makes a difference.
Nowadays, we tend to incorporate some exciting cooking approaches to spice up our offer. Thanks to our community's recommendations, we include new vendors whose traditional recipes and slow-cooked modern adaptations are superb. We are often their first big purchase or first issued invoice, and we are proud to have the ability to see them grow alongside our community.
Today, our International Thursdays live on. Regardless of the approach, initiatives that bring value and connect our community deserve creativity and agility to become accessible and adjusted to the hybrid future.
Bon appetit from Skopje!