Europe vs America

This old argument has raised its head again. Andrew Hammel, an American living in Germany, praises how people on this side of the pond live, in celebration of July 4th. He was prompted by Matthew Yglesias writing about how French people live, and this prompted Kevin Drum to jump on the bandwagon. My turn.

Says Hammel, advising Americans on living in Europe:

*Don’t brag to other people about how hard you work. If you go up to someone in Europe and say “I work 10 hours a day, six days a week, 51 weeks a year. Look how much I achieve!” you’ll get the same reaction you would in America if you said “I wash my hands exactly 169 times a day. Look how clean they are! Look! Look!!!”

*Learn your environment. Take into account how much work you can really expect from Europeans. Don’t expect anything to get done in August, don’t expect a response to your email the same day. If you really need to get in touch with someone while they are on vacation, or on the weekend, you won’t be able to. Which means not that they are being irresponsible. It means you don’t really need to get in touch with them.

*Change your standards. Realize that when someone complains about being horribly overworked, even though you know they are working about 40 hours a week, accept it. By their standards, they are working very hard. Helpful thought-experiment: Europeans pay about $5/gallon for gas. Wouldn’t you want them to display compassion for you when you complain about paying $2?

Thoughts on this folks? I honestly think there is more to life to working every hour god sends, we all need time to blog don’t we? I have often had this conversation with cousins in the US, and they always envy the level of vacation time we get here in Ireland. Indeed when they visit it’s almost always for a very short time, because they have to get back to work. While here companies offer so much paid vacation time people sometimes don’t know what to do with it all.

I know it has been discussed at length before on BSD.

One thought on “Europe vs America”

  1. I fortunately am one of the few Americans who has four weeks of vacation a year. (I still wish I had more!) Vacation to me is not lounging around watching tv and doing nothing though; it’s just time I can spend doing projects and studying subjects I don’t have time for at work. I could be making much more money at another job working longer hours with less vacation, but I’ll take my low pay with free time any day over that. Count me as one American who envies the European holiday culture.

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