Work to live or live to work?
When comparing the two cultures of the United Kingdom and the United States, the biggest difference that leaps out to me is the work/life balance and ethics.
I feel that in the UK, we tend to live to work. This of course is a generalisation and an observation from my own perspective but it was highlighted to me on a recent visit to San Diego.
Due to my body clock being all over the place, I was up even earlier than normal. This gave me the opportunity to get a workout done really early, often before the sun rose. As I was running around the hills of SoCal in the darkness thinking I must be crazy, I was surprised to see so many people out doing the same thing.
Over the period of a week, I observed the rituals of the locals and the majority of them were up early, hitting the gym, out running, or catching the next wave. Once they had completed their morning fitness/leisure routine, they could be found in the local restaurants having a communal breakfast with friends or family before hitting the office for a full day of work.
Once the working day was over, a lot of people would spend time having dinner with loved ones, neighbours and friends before heading home for the night. Everything seemed more sociable.
Whether people went out to eat or stayed at home, more often than not, friends or relatives would be there to join in on the nightly fun.
These observations got me thinking and contrasting against the lives of those of us who live in the UK. Granted, they do have the most terrific weather in SoCal throughout the year which does help, but what makes our cultures so different with our approaches to life and work?
Discussions with both American and British friends throughout the week surrounding my observations did not provide any real answers. To my American friends, it was just a way of life. My British friends and I were left bemused. Neither groups observed were particularly different, neither out work each other, both have similar incomes, families and responsibilities. So why is it so different?
I still don’t have the answer. What I do have is a different perspective on life after just one week immersed observing the wonderful people of San Diego. We must all strive to live life for life itself. Work will come and go, you must try to enjoy yourself on your way. Happiness is far more important.