There is a saying that goes, “Americans live to work and Italians work to live”. As I’ve said elsewhere, there is a danger in making generalizations, but there is probably some truth to them as well. Marco has lived in both cultures and he would agree with the sentiment behind that quote. Americans devote more of their energy, psyche, and time to their work lives. A simple example is found in the statistic that Americans work 50% more time than Europeans.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Italians and many Europeans, are known for their “bella vita“, joie de vivre, long luxurious lunches. . . and ample vacation time! Tourists love visiting Italy for the wonderful relaxed lifestyle, warmth of people, and the food!
When Marco first moved to the States, he noticed that one of the first questions asked upon meeting someone new is “what do you do?” This doesn’t happen upon meeting someone in Italy. He noticed that Americans often define themselves by their careers. And, he noticed the reality that we all know. . . Americans have much less vacation time than Italians.
There are economic and cultural explanations for this that are left for other articles. My interest, for the purposes of this blog, is to share what we have learned as we have blended the two cultures. As you know, we almost moved to Italy but decided that we would stay here and try to bring the two cultures together. We made that decision based on this discussion of work life.
Marco and I each have a strong work ethic and can sometimes be called “driven”. I obtained my Doctorate while working full time and am known for producing results at work. Marco, likewise, is an “overachiever” and has recently decided to pursue his Doctorate. We love a project and love the challenge and rewards of a job well done.
The idea of moving to Italy when it grew closer to reality was a depressing one from the perspective of career. Marco, instead of having a Doctorate in nursing, would be confined to entry-level status with few, if any, possibilities of advancement in his field. My career situation was a bureaucratic challenge of credential transfer.
We have many friends in Italy and it is very rare to hear positive stories about work and career. The entrepreneurial spirit that Americans are famous for is sorely lacking in Italy. The current economic situation in Italy with 12.6% unemployment and 43.7% rate for youth is a crisis that needs major attention.
Corporate America is now talking about “work/life balance”. It is in vogue to talk about ways to succeed at work while also caring for ourselves, our families, and our social selves. I mentioned in an earlier blog the issue of “busy”-ness and living in a multi-tasking stressful time. How do we choose balance in our lives?
Over the years, Marco and I have learned much from our Italian culture. We also appreciate America as the “land of opportunity”. Our goal is life balance. We attempt this day-to-day and week to week. Some of the things we try are in past blog posts. Here are a few: eating a sit-down scratch-cooked dinner every evening as a family, choosing jobs that are a challenge but not consuming, low-key weekends, vacation time, moving and exercise throughout the week, electronic free zones, and time with each other and others.
What are some of your tips for this life balance?