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Workaholism in America: A European's Perspective
Coming from Serbia -- a country of six million in Eastern Europe that once belonged to a larger, war-torn entity called socialist Yugoslavia -- I wasn't fully aware of the notion of "career anxiety" when I came to Washington D.C. for my MA degree. Until one evening, that is, at the very onset of the school year. A colleague of mine who was just turning 27 raised his glass and voiced his fear: "Twenty-seven: no serious job and no stable career track."
I was 23 at the time and could not comprehend why anyone would be obliged to have a "career track," let alone a stable one, especially at (what I saw as) the tender age of 27. In fact, I had never entertained the concept the way my American friends were referring to it.
While many Americans move out of their homes when they're 19 to hit college, the East- European model is quite different. Countries are smaller, and if there's any migration it is directed typically towards the capital, so young people continue to live with their families through college. Because of high unemployment rates and poor standard of living, they aren't expected to become financially independent, and many depend on their parents well into their late twenties or even early thirties -- without a sense of shame that such state of affairs entails in the US. These factors reduce the relevance of what Americans often describe as "the treadmill feel" -- an almost compulsive desire for continuous promotions, financial gains, followed by a rise in social status, and an increasing social anxiety.
In societies that are similar to mine, the American model is looked down upon as "harsh capitalistic," "individualistic" and above all "alienated," as American parents are not perceived to provide enough financial and emotional support for their children. In fact my family and friends had observed that I shouldn't have chosen America, since I would probably feel better in Western Europe -- where life is not as fast paced as in the US and capitalism still has a "human face."
For example, Americans still work nine full weeks (350 hours) longer than West Europeans do and paid vacation days across Western Europe are well above the US threshold. The French still have the 35 hour working week, while the hourly productivity is one of the highest in the world. On the other hand, in the US an increasing popularity of employment therapy suggests that a high-paying job still comes first, as job issues "have a huge mental health component," and therapists emphasize the importance of "toxic co-workers and the ramifications of massive layoffs."
Numerous writers have outlined the dangers of isolation and careerism in the American society. In her famous work "Eichmann in Jerusalem," Hannah Arendt equates careerism with a lack of thinking that led to Holocaust: "what for Eichmann was a job, with its daily routine, its ups and downs, was for the Jews quite literally the end of the world. Genocide [...] is work. If it is to be done, people must be hired and paid; if it is to be done well, they must be supervised and promoted."
In Serbia even young and busy corporate-minded career professionals do not have to mark their calendars to meet with close friends. One can always find the time for a spontaneous chat over coffee. Still, this laid back culture is now beginning to change with an increasing development of free market capitalism. I still remember how strange it felt when I first came to DC and had to schedule coffees and lunches with people weeks or even months in advance. I found it odd that people rarely picked up the cell phone (which, granted, could be merely my personal experience, although many Americans confirmed it!) and would often leave the time and date of the call in their voicemails, which implied the other person might not get back to them in a while. I also came to discover that what Americans often referred to as "friends," people from my region would prefer to call "acquaintances." The term "friend" cannot be reserved for someone you meet once in a couple of months and do not know well enough to open up to.
Those experiences bring to mind a memorable line from from "Eat, Pray, Love," a biographical story recently turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Julia Roberts: "You Americans know entertainment but you do not know how to enjoy yourselves." Roberts plays a successful thirty-something American who decides to embark on a soul-searching trip to Italy, India and Bali after realizing her job, husband and newly bought house are not what she really wanted from life. Perhaps that's a superficial take on what many would describe as an equally superficial Californian trend to "do something spiritual," but the above quote shows there's something to the American career frenzy that remains unique to the United States. The opportunity cost for "dolce far niente" or "the joy of doing nothing," runs high.
Reflecting on this, I ran into an interesting take on "Eat Pray Love" by a 23-year old blogger: "We are not sympathetic to spiritual personal crises anymore. If you want to have an emotional breakdown about something, you better have a logical, elaborate and secular reason; otherwise you will be dismissed as whiny, annoying and laughable." I wonder if her comment has to do with the lack of experience or the possibility that the generation entering the work force will not have an adequate justification for its desire to escape the treadmill feel -- amidst all the superficial takes on this complex topic.
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Wonderful! Truthful as it can be! Serbians are very close to my own culture, same religion - Eastern Orthodox Christian, same food and family traditions. He is SPOT ON!
When I lived in Ukraine, relationship and friendship was placed above all! Every big boss will make time for a coffee with a close friend, even if there is tons of work to do. Why? Because "friend" is not an empty word Americans use for acquaintances, it actually means a strong tie, sometimes even stronger than a family tie for many Americans.
Not picking up cell phone is another thing I totally agree. I just could not figure out why people don't pick up their phones in America. After living here for so long I always pick up my cell phone. If I am busy, I will say so and promise to call back because I see value in friendship.
Great article Winston! Keep them coming.
'Not picking up cell phone is another thing I totally agree. I just could not figure out why people don't pick up their phones in America.'
This is another amazing observation..
These days they are more likely to get on facebook and send you message then pick up the phone and call you or answer the phone when you call them.
I agree with all you guys. Social interaction, even among people who know each other is very bad here in America.
Americans don't have any genuine comradery or solidary with each other regardless of all the idiotic flag waving.
I believe it starts at an early age when children are left in the care of strangers (i.e, daycare, grade school) by their callous overachieving parents which then forces isolation on children.
For example, it's so bad now, I know of young women who drop their new born BABIES off at the daycare center because they have to be at work all day, where as, back in the old days it took a woman months to recover from having a baby and she took that time to bond with the child.
So as a result, you have children who don't develop any strong bonds with anybody (not even each other really) and they grow up into adults who are indifferent, cold, and some who are ruthlessly competitive towards each other.
These same people also grow into hyper-materialistic consumers because they have learned that consuming things is a way to artificially make yourself feel better and make up for what they're not getting from American society via REAL relationships. These are the kind of people who brag that they don't need anybody because they have all the money to supposedly make up for being alone.
It's really just sad, I have met hundreds of Americans in my life from grade school all the way to collage and the only people who I have formed REAL bonds with were the foreigners from other countries (i.e., India, Mexico, Korea, Bulgaria,Philippines)). I had one real long lasting relationship with another American guy, but after a decade of friendship, he went his own way to start the life of amercian degeneracy (i.e, hard drugs, alcohol, parties) and so I had to walk away because I did not want to go down that road with him.
Conversely, my relationships with foreigners were a different feeling as I didn't feel that they are competing with me, trying to 'one up' me all the time, or tying to be judgmental about my life; they accepted me for who I was, and the relationship was more casual, less strained and we didn't have to go anywhere or plan anything just to talk. For example, deep conversation was spontaneous and I did not need to reserve a time slot with them just to drop by and talk.
One other point, my relationships with Americans were always contingent on work, school, or some other type of common gathering (i.e.,sports team) but once it was disband, people graduated, or were promoted, people moved on and forgot you like you didn't even mean anything to them in the first place.
It was very heartbreaking for me, spending, for example, 2-4 years training hard with various members of my sports team in collage, and going though all the highs and lows that sports can take you, and going through all the personal problems in your life and sharing that stuff with your teammates; then, after the season is over, and you graduate, you bump into your former team members, or you try and contact them, and they don't even have 2 seconds to talk and break bread with you; this also occurs with classmates, old friends, old neighbors, and former coworkers.
solidary = f**k no.
solidarity = hell to the yeah.
Fixed. Damn, dude. I don't mean to put you on blast. LOL
However, I do wholeheartedly agree with the gist of your post.
"I appreciate the opportunities I have in America. Opportunities that allow me to live abroad." **Smiles** - Have2Fly@H.A. (2013)
"The only way to overcome that is to go abroad to get a broad."
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Prior to the WWI and WW2, many European immigrants still lived in ethnic ghettos in the US, speaking their native tongues as their first language. However the world wars caused massive population movement and many immigrant families made the decision not to teach or continue teaching their children ethnic languages. For example, German speaking families (excluding Amish) and Japanese speaking families in the US stopped teaching their kids German or Japanese and tried to assimilate as much as possible, due to the WW2 social environment. Many German families also chose to shorten their German family names to make them more "Americanized", for example Messerschmitt => "Metz".
When I immigrated to California in 1982, we still had a rapidly declining Portuguese enclave of mostly older people. One of them was my barber. The young folks had moved on and assimilated.
But no, many European immigrants who came to the US did not speak English, and for couple generations remained in their ethnic enclaves speaking their native tongue. The Amish are one of very few groups remaining that still do. I worked with them in Ohio and, being Asian, it was odd for me to be considered "English" by the German-speaking locals.
Maybe now people can co-exist now that America has been built up, but the beginning of this country was very evil and wicked.
Millions of indigenous Indians were either killed or shipped to Europe to be used as slaves, reports are as high as 100 million Africans were lost during the transatlantic slave trade, the Chinese labor was used to build the rail roads and the Europeans who were living at the time refused to work with them, and we now know that poor Europeans from Britain were shipped to America as well who also suffered in the same conditions as Africans, and in some cases worse.
How can any sane man justify all this death and carnage just to make a profit? Get real!
As far as nobody not getting along because of a lack of common language it's hogwash. You figure, how many people are killed in America over stupid stuff even though they all speak the same language!
Also that Europeans are largely sick of war after roughly 100 years of it (in modern terms)
They didn't support the invasion of Iraq, but many in the UN Security Council and those apart of NATO felt compelled to join the US in its roll after 9/11.
Now almost all want out. Germany is out and France is removing its troops after an attack. The Dutch are leaving where its very unpopular, etc, etc, etc.
Germany is about to pull the plug on all its nuclear power stations over the next decade. They will prove you can run your country on mostly coal and renewable energy until one of the renewables can be use for base power.
Oh yeah America is great, its upside down, ass backward, banana republic. Most just don't see it until they come into contact with law enforcement. If you're quiet little sheep, what is there to be worried about right?
Fine, this is your opinion. However, according to jean Twenge, one of America's leading social psychologists.......
"A corrosion of close relationships and a substitution of fantasy for reality â€“ paint a bleak image of the world. It (America) looks like an upside down birdâ€™s nest: a hollow vessel with an empty interior and a rotting structure (The Narcissism Epidemic, pg 277)
Who should we believe? You or the experts? Case closed.
Gentleman, I failed to mention, however, that women generally have MUCH better social lives in America regardless if they are good looking or not, or regardless if they are rich or poor.
You figure, not only do American women receive constant attention from men (to the point of having to beat men off), but women rarely ever go places or do things alone unless they are forced to.
In fact, I was reading an article once about how women suffer from less depression then men in middle to old age simply because women usually have a core group of women who they can call in a instant to get emotional help and support from, where as, Amercian men tend to have less friends and support and usually deal with life problems all alone.
Really??? You're going to use a hateful piece of human excrement by the name of Tim Wise, (who is posing as white), as an argument against the dehumanizing Judeo-British culture of America (which is also posing as white)? I wonder what this Jewish supremacist's real name is. It's much better for people to be Jew-wise than to listen to Tim Wise.
Minorities of America, don't use your brains, don't make honest observations. Just let radical Jews tell you what to think and who to hate! Nevermind that they were the ones who ran the African slave trade. Nevermind that they were the ones who ran the horrific Opium trade and brought Communism to China. Nevermind that they currently run the Federal Reserve, the media (including book publishing), and the rest of America. "Whites" (like Tim Wise) are the problem.
Here's a quick look into Tim Wise and what he stands for. http://www.ramzpaul.com/2010/11/tim-wis ... eople.html
Someone, (obviously an evil white ) filed false copyright claims for the video above and got youtube to take it down for a while until the author got it restored. This kind of censorship is normal operating procedure for the JIDF (Jewish Internet Defense Force).