Expat Learnings

Things I’ve learned as an American expat in the UKoGBaNI #7

Being a workaholic is not worth it, regardless of whatever it is you believe are workaholicing towards.

There is more to life than being considered a “hard worker” or “overachiever” or “driven.” I, like all of my friends, was totally career-focused. Working a lot of hours, wanting to advance, wanting to get paid more, wanting to be considered successful, wanting, wanting, wanting.

I think it was Peter’s ex-colleague, Sergey who once said, “Europeans work to live and Americans live to work.” Meaning, Europeans view work as a means to earn income to pay for necessities and things they enjoy doing. Work = money = living and enjoying life.

Americans view work in the reverse. Americans live to work, forgoing things like taking days off and instead getting paid-out for their unused vacation at the end of the year.

Taking two years off from work and seeing how Europeans live has completely changed my perception of employment. Getting two weeks of vacation a year – a standard in the US – is a joke. The standard in the UK, including government holidays is five weeks. New mothers in the UK can take up to one year off after childbirth and many companies pay 100% of the first six months of that year. Some companies pay 100% of the first six months plus 50% for the three months following that period. And in Germany, virtually no work is done outside of normal business hours.

In corporate America, an employee is expected to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And if that employee sets Germanic boundaries to their work life, then they are considered “difficult” or only willing to do the minimum and this will likely hurt them with advancement in the long-run. This is sad.

And what is it with Americans and working while on vacation or on a day they purposely took off? What is so important that you would be willing to bend over backwards for your employer that you would offer up your personal time? Is that employer going to reimburse you for PTO taken but instead worked? No. Is your employer going to give you a raise or bonus for spending a few hours of your vacation answering emails? No. Is taking a Friday off only to work half of that day going to get you a promotion or save you from being laid off. No.

So why work on your personal days off and holidays?

For the next learning in my Expat Learnings mini series, go here. Alternatively, go here to read this mini series from the beginning.

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