Perhaps the most stark contrast between Europe and the US is the issue of quality vs quantity.
I recently returned from a 2 week sojurn in Europe, and was shocked the first time I went into a US grocery store. Shocked at the quantity of it all, and yet, amongst all that quantity, the difficulty of locating reasonably-priced quality foodstuff – like good meats and cheeses.
I’m not here to lambast the American way of life. There are many things I love about it. But one thing that I really hate about it is that we have gone down a path that’s not good for us. It doesn’t help us enjoy life, it’s not good for our environment, it’s not good for our kids: a focus on quantity rather than quality.
Everything is bigger in the US. From stores to streets to cars to houses.
Those things are perhaps ok being bigger (except for Humvee’s, which are just simply gross).
But there’s a more subtle and insidious “biggerness” that has crept into the American psyche, and that is the “biggerness” of our work.
I know way too many people that think working all the time is expected/good/normal.
Europeans don’t work all the time. They take vacations. They often take time off in the middle of the day.
Yes, perhaps their economies aren’t quite as “good” as the US one. But what does that really mean, after all?
Is the US economy really all that good, either? It’s not. It’s been languishing ever since 2008, and it will likely languish more.
It’s because we’ve lost sight of what’s important. Work is important, but “super sizing” our work is killing us… as individuals and as a society.
Two weeks off (max) at most jobs. That means 50 weeks per year devoted to work. Work becomes the whole identity. This is ridiculous! Work should not be one’s sole identity.
But a lot of people sacrifice family relationships, hobbies, and friends in the name of this supersized work.
It’s time to rethink what we’re doing with our careers. It’s time to understand that – just like good food – there’s a “right amount” – and if you go well beyond that amount into excess, it ends up being a negative thing rather than a positive thing.
Careers are not a place for excess. We need to “right-size” our careers to a more sustainable level – one that consumes some portion of our lives – but certainly not all of it.