Living the life of leisure

Essay by grandtoyHigh School, 12th gradeA, March 2006

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It is no secret that Europeans work less than Americans do. While it used to be the Europeans toiling at work, in the past half a century, they have gradually chosen to work less and take longer vacations. This move has resulted in Europe having the shortest work weeks and longest holidays in the world. The classic story now depicts the Americans as hardworking drones who revere material wealth, placing it on a pedestal so high they are nescient to the backlash and repercussions of their extreme work hours. The Europeans on the other hand, personify and embody the phrase, "La Dolce Vita" - the sweet life - basking in the good life, full of pleasure, indulgence and idle glee. The prevailing critique is that Europe's rate of economic expansion has lagged behind that of the United States. However, as Joaquin Almunia, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs puts it: Economic growth is seen as a tool, not an end in itself.

He says, "We are not in a race with the United States. Our goal is not to grow as fast as the U.S. or anybody else, but to do what we need to protect our economic and social model". And contrary to popular belief, Europe's productivity growth has outpaced that of the U.S. for the past 30 years.

Broadly speaking, with the Europeans, the concept of well-being is less associated with wealth, while for the Americans, they are proud of being busy as their society perceives being idle to be a vice. This has shown in how Americans have been averse to clocking fewer hours, keeping the record virtually unaltered in the past decade despite strong economic growth. In short, it is two completely distinctive mentalities that have shown its impact through various indicators, for...