In the United States, there is a very large emphasis on hard work and productivity. There is a widely held notion that if one works hard enough, they will be successful. They can pull themself up by their own bootstraps. People say things like “you get what you work for” and refer to hard work in a glamorous way, as the “hustle” or the “grind.” For this reason, working hard is seen as moral and the right thing to do whereas laziness is looked down upon. People in the U.S. may work two jobs and upwards of 40 to 60 hours a week. This aspect of American culture comes from the founding of the United States where many other essential American values like freedom were established.
After meeting a new friend at Rollins, I remember asking what her dream job would be. She said that she doesn’t really dream of work. For her, work wouldn’t be the center of her life. I think for a lot of Americans, we are taught from a young age that our work is part of who we are. But it doesn’t need to be. We don’t need to dedicate our lives to our work. In my generation, I am seeing more and more young people value a healthy work-life balance. I think that this is important, but also dependent on the person. It’s okay to do either, but there should not be a pressure to work crazy hours to be successful. I tend to associate my worth with my productivity. It was a good day, and I was a good person if I completed my tasks or even went above and beyond. With that, on days that I don’t do much, I get hard on myself. There are so many posts on social media about how to be more productive and how to work harder, but at the same time, more and more people have been posting about how it is okay to simply exist some days. For me, that has been incredibly relieving to hear. I envy countries that value rest just as much as work, like countries where siestas are common.
I think someone from a different country might view this emphasis on work in a negative way. They may see it as an obstacle to other important cultural values like family and celebration. Others may view it in an admirable way. The reason that many see the U.S. as the land of opportunity is because of this very emphasis on hard work. Finally, some may view it as normal or reasonable. Many countries also highly emphasize hard work and some to an even greater extent than the U.S. It’s no secret that in China, hard work is a key component of their culture.
I believe this exercise is helpful for my time abroad because it will allow me to observe other cultures from an objective standpoint. Before making my own judgement, I may consider how aspects of my own culture may also be viewed as odd. Neither is better, only different.