Posted by: faultlessfinish | November 8, 2010

Chill Out

As grateful as I am to live in Canada, this beautiful, free country, I often think we could learn a few things from our friends across the ocean. Many of my friends have travelled to Asia and Europe (hopefully I will too very soon!) and most of them say the same thing: “We are so overworked in North America.”

I can’t remember where I read this, but one author pointed out how advertisers often entice you to buy something by saying you deserve it. “Take a vacation to such and such destination – you’ve earned it.” In Europe, however, people know that they deserve it. And they don’t wait until they’ve worked themselves to the bone and are on the brink of a meltdown to take time for themselves. Similarly, a friend of mine travelled to Thailand. She said that when she returned to Canada, she couldn’t believe how frantically we run around. She missed the leisurely pace so much that she went back a few months later.

Again, I’m not saying Canada isn’t one of the best places to live in the world – I wouldn’t live anywhere else, personally. But I think we need to take a step back and focus on what is most important – leisure time with family and friends. On a similar note, the other day, my creative energy hit a wall. I stared at my computer screen for half an hour before deciding to take a nap and then a walk to recharge. Because most people don’t have this luxury in their day-to-day occupations, I felt guilty the entire time.

Once I sat back down at my desk, fully energized and ready to work, I gave my head a shake for feeling so guilty. We don’t deserve breaks – we need them to function effectively and put forward our best work. Show yourself some love 🙂



  1. Great advice! It took living abroad, and in a completely different culture, to teach me how to slow down. I learned the very valuable virtue of patience, and often think that everyone in North America could do with a period of time living within a different culture to realize there are more important things in life than working ourselves into a nervous breakdown.

  2. First of all, I should mention how much I enjoyed reading your last few blog posts! Really insightful! I can’t count how many times I have had similar conversations with my friends and family about all these topics.

    I felt compelled to comment on this particular blog because I have been to Europe 3 times in my life. Most recently, I flew over for my best friends wedding in Switzerland. What I began to notice as I was touring throughout Europe is the differences in the conversations people were having and the lives they were leading.

    From my observations and conversations in Europe, it seems as though they value life experiences, family and friends more then we do. They spend more time together talking about what they did and less about what they have. To them it’s more important to spend time socializing and with family and friends in the morning then it is to make sure you punch the clock at exactly 8am as you get to work. Granted, they do value hard work, but they balance it out with leisure time. People in Europe really appreciate quality more then speed, especially when it comes to food. Eating a meal in your car as you drive to work frantically is not an option for them.

    I think the problem we have in North America is this Idea of the perfect life: The nice house with the white picket fence, three and a half kids, a dog and two cars. I think we are so worried about attaining this vision we burn ourselves out trying to acquire all these things. We lose focus of the beautiful subtleties of life, how it feels to laugh, the smell of fresh air, how it feels to be loved, to give love and the beauty of the world around us. We are so focused on earning more, acquiring more, being more in the eyes of others that we can never slow down. It’s a fear that we won’t be significant. So we stop enjoying the moments, we take jobs we don’t want and we always worry about what we don’t have.

    We have lost our gratitude!

    When we die I am positive we will not be flashing back on the moment we bought that 2001 chevy malibu or made that really large pay check. I think the last things we will think of are the times we laughed hard, saw something amazing, experienced true love and had fun.

    Food for Thought


  3. Hi J.P.,

    Thanks so much for your insights. I totally agree with you. This past year I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what really matters, and we definitely seem to place way too much emphasis on work and regret it when we’re older.

    I love what you said about how Europeans enjoy food so much more as well. I’ve heard that they put a lot of time and effort into the preparation of meals and actually sit down and appreciate it with their families. I want to live a life like this.

    Thanks so much for reading.



  4. Rachel, this post has inspired me to share some of my experience living and working in Europe. I completely agree with you.

    J.P. I think you touch on some very salient points especially in the notion of how we as Canadians are pursuing the “Canadian/American dream” which results in us having less time to develop those social connections and relationships that you recognize immediately if you spend some time in Europe.

    It really hit me how we as Canadians are more individualistic than many European countries when I was casually teasing a German friend the other day. After I jokingly teased her about some German stereotype, she responded also jokingly about how our relationships are often superficial. Now I tried not to take offence to this but after thinking about it, I realized she is right. I think back to many of the social connections that I have lost since university and some were inevitable because of distance, travelling, etc. However, many European cultures are very collectivistic for a variety of reasons.

    Let’s use Spain as an example. I choose this country because I have lived and worked there, have close Spanish friends, and I currently have my hands on a Spanish book that talks a lot about the culture. One of the first articles in the book reads (I apologize if the translation is not 100% correct), “Another component of our society that has resisted change is that in Spain there are around 150,000 bars, a larger quantity of bars than of all the other countries in the EU (data 2003)…Behind this “going out for drinks” is a way of life and a social choice. It results in that Spaniards, along with Swedes, are the Europeans that dedicate the most time to social relationships and being with friends: at least two and a half hours per day. Along with spending a lot of time in bars/restaurants with friends, Spaniards watch a lot of TV and essentially centre their existence in family. In fact, it is what 83% of Spaniards indicate is most important in life.”

    I could continue to quote the text but I think this is an interesting look into their lifestyle. What is also important to note is that many Spaniards prefer to not travel, live or work abroad for great lengths of time. Why? Because family and friends are too important to them and they would be too homesick.

    One thing I also love about Spanish culture is “tapas”. I am not sure if the origin of this idea is Spanish/Latin but the way that friends share their meals is great. It’s a more collective process when you order your food, you share and taste food together, you start and finish eating at the same time, etc. What will blow you away is that these meals can start at any time of the day…sometimes supper is at 1030pm. This took some getting used to for me along with the all night party (more to socialize than to get drunk as well).

    I have spent approximately 16 months living abroad since I graduated from university in 2006 and sometimes I feel guilty when I think about the people I lose touch with and the quality family time that I can’t be a part of. I do it for my own growth as a professional and as a person so in this sense I don’t regret it. However, I do think we as Canadians are far more apt to seek career-advancing opportunities abroad and exhibit individualistic-society traits than many European cultures.

    Living in Europe provides me with new experiences that I can’t get in Canada such as new ways of thinking, experiences, languages, history, etc. It could be an interesting argument to say that Europeans are able to experience all of these things much more frequently as the continent is very diverse.

    In the end, I think that it’s still too soon for me to truly throw out a blanket statement that Europeans live life better than Canadians but so far I’m under the impression that they build long-lasting relationships more frequently than we do.

    I’d be interested to hear what you guys think. Apologies for the random thoughts…please no editing. 😉

  5. So great to hear from you Gareth. Thanks so much for your post – I would never dream of editing it 🙂

    “However, I do think we as Canadians are far more apt to seek career-advancing opportunities abroad and exhibit individualistic-society traits than many European cultures.” This statement really struck a chord with me. There is a huge part of me that wants to travel and experience other cultures, but my life here, my friends and family, is so important to me. I’ve always felt some guilt for not travelling enough, but relationships will always come first for me.

    I went to a restaurant with some friends the other day that served food tapas style. It felt odd at first to share everything, but it turned out to be an amazing social experience.

    I am still adjusting to life as a freelancer, and I often feel guilty when I take time during the day to have coffee or lunch with friends. It is so incredibly liberating though. When I look back on my life, I want to know that I spent as much time as possible building lasting relationships and working at a career that I was passionate about but that didn’t take up every second of my day.

    Thanks so much for reading, Gareth! Talk to you soon!

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