Separating work and private life seems to be a recurrent subject in my conversations with young Germans. It seems like many of them suffer under the imposed expectations of always having a higher income in the year to come, regardless of how much of their own personality they need to give up to stay tuned with their ambitions. Hence today`s question for some young people from G?ttingen: What`s your preferred way relax?
The last time I wrote about `doing nothing` was in Slovakia, where the reputation of idleness was not too good. Blank agendas also make bad impressions in The Netherlands where they are quickly confused with social isolation. Germans also seem to be eager to fill up their agenda. Duties are held in high esteem, and having a lot of obligations ? preferably professional ones ? are almost synonymous with being successful. Working means improving skills, abilities, efficiency, effectiveness and expertise, while doing nothing is thought of as achieving the exact opposite. And even worse: somebody engaging in the activity of doing nothing will easily be labeled `lazy`, or even worse: `disorganised`.
`I don`t find it easy to spend my time without any task at hand`
Jan (24) thinks doing nothing is acceptable, as long as it doesn`t imply that other people need to work for you. His idea makes a nice contrast with the Cypriot attitude where having nothing to do because others do the actual work stands for having reached the highest echelons of society. Franziska (23) likes to fill up time reading books, swimming or jogging.
Jule (24, photo) finds it difficult to allow herself to do nothing. `I am a bit hyperactive and I always find myself something to work on. I can watch empty TV programs and enjoy it, but I will still feel bad about it afterwards. It feels like such a waste of time. Also, I like to plan carefully. I work in a scientific lab and there is always something to do. If it isn`t the work itself, it will be preparations for the next day. I like running a lot, but I also consider that to be an activity rather than a relaxation strategy. I guess that I only have two real relaxation strategies. One is to go to a big swimming pool or wellness centre and spend the entire day there. There will be nothing to do, so I have no choice. Otherwise, it`s sleeping. Or the less pleasant options of falling ill or making it through rainy days on the countryside.`
Agnes (23) thinks that the German working ethics are to blame for the bad reputation of passiveness. `People spend a lot of time and effort in improving their salaries. Especially people who have no experience can only make slow progress. We are trained to strive for career progress. I am currently in my third year of a work-and-study program. In my first year, I earned 200 euros a month. One year later: 300 euros and now 460 euros. When I complete this year, I can hopefully get a normal contract with maybe three times my current salary. I may also have time to travel somewhere. Having the diploma will give me a bit more of a guarantee to find a suitable job. If I want to do something different, then will be the time. I am thinking of spending a year in Madrid as an au-pair.`
Agnes thinks that the French, the Spanish, the Italians and the British are a not as stressed as the Germans: `Although Germans do not show their emotions, they can easily get angry or offended at work. Only a small thing needs to be wrong to get them irritated. What they show is rigidness rather than anger, but German offices oftentimes have quite pressing atmospheres.`
Verena (27) thinks that the one age group in Germany who has the most spare time consists of elderly people. `Students also have some spare time, but not by far as much as the age group of pensioners. Many German elderly people like to travel. Unfortunately, they are not very involved in the rest of society as old people in other countries. Many of them are lonely, because their family members moved away.`
Verena herself enjoys spending days reading on her balcony in the sun, and playing with her two rabbits. `I also find it relaxing to work on making my apartment look nice, or to go out drinking with friends. Another way to relax is to go traveling. I am originally from Bayern, so you can imagine how much I love spending time in the mountains.`
Johanna (23) likes to go swimming or hanging out with friends. `I also like to spend time in nature. The Harz-region is not very far away from G?ttingen. It`s a nature reserve with beautiful hills. I find silence very relaxing, or just looking at the many different colours of green. I like to be outside, in the light and under the sun. Spending some time outside after a long day of work is a good way to relax, or to recharge batteries.`
Yvonne (25) spends about three or four days a year relaxing on the beach: `On the remaining free days, I enjoy reading books, listening to music. When it comes to sport, I see it as a source of energy rather than a waste.`
Johanna thinks that many people have more destructive ways of relaxing. `I like to go out for a drink, but some people need to take alcohol or other substances to cool down. Many people prefer money over time. In most areas of business, part time workers may be seen as lazy bastards who don`t care about their career. I don`t think people are easily satisfied with what they have. I think I`m a bit different when it comes to that: I don`t see the purpose of spending so much time on working that I won`t have any time left to even spend it.`
Bastian (26) does not have a lot of spare time. He works as a surgeon on the emergency rescue department of the local hospital and spends a lot of his working hours under stress. `When I need to recover from work, I like to spend some time on my own: hearing music and just lying on my bed. Or I go see some friends that I know well. We will then talk about things we did together in the past.`
Out of all the people I speak to, Chris (25) is the only one who admits to really do nothing when he relaxes. `I need to switch off my brain every now and then. I`m more productive afterwards, so I don`t see it as lost time. It`s not laziness either. I work in research and development as an computational engineer. My working hours are limited because the company I work for observes 35 as the maximum. I actually think that 40 hours would be more appropriate for this type of job. I sometimes start becoming more effective as the day progresses, only to realise that it`s already five o`clock and time to go home. Overtime is not encouraged, because my employer is legally forced to compensate it with holidays.`
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