Dolce Far Niente – The sweetness of doing nothing

We are on holiday in Germany for 2 weeks now and I didn’t get to write my blog post as regular as previously. Holidays are a magnificent invention although it always takes a couple of days to get in the right mood. I always tend to check my email, check the Twitter feed and other work related news and connections.

One thing I believe contributes to this is my German background. When we migrated to New Zealand some 13 years ago I was greeted by a South African saying, “Great! Now we get some discipline and stronger adherence to policies in this place.” He was the quality manager at the time and fought hard for standards and consistency. For me it was strange but it didn’t took long to understand his frustration. Kiwi mentality is different. It is locally called “wire 8” and “she’ll be allright” attitude.

A wonderful approach for everything that needs doing now and calls for flexibility or a quick fix. Kiwi ingenuity stems from this and brilliant inventions and ideas have developed from it. Although in the long term like making items to the same standard and quality every time or building something that lasts it is a hindrance or stronger it’s not working. Hence New Zealand is benefitting from immigrants as much as immigrants learn from Kiwis.

Other cultures are even more different. I have been in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal multiple times but also in Denmark, England and Sweden. There is a profound difference and while the video clip from ‘Eat, Pray, Love” is pretty much a cliche there is a truth in it. All the Southern European countries have a much more relaxed lifestyle. The pace of life is slower and having a longer break is not only acceptable but part of it.

For example, I was in France working for a couple weeks. A 2 hour lunch break was the norm. We always had a 3 course lunch including a glas of red wine and walk around the block. This was unthinkable in Germany while in New Zealand it’s somewhat in between having sandwiches and lunchtime walks. In Spain work starts early and stops during the hot lunch time hours. Try going shopping between 12 and 3pm! But then people are busy til late.

The important aspect is there being a strong personal view on life in these countries. It’s about me. I’m doing what I do because I like it and I want it. And I take a break when I want it because I deserve it. In comparison countries like Germany have the organisation and productivity in the centre. My dad just yesterday said, “You need to go where you get a job.” No, I don’t agree. I’d follow a job if I like it that much and want to be there. I’m much more inclined to change if my family demands go that way. And that’s a fundamental difference in values, personal and what is acceptable in your environment.

I left my well paid job in Germany because it didn’t provide the whole life satisfaction I wanted. The change wasn’t easy but I don’t regret a day that choice. And looking at the company I work for now and compare with my previous employer I don’t see that one is more successful than the other. Many statistics about productivity and innovation show the same thing and even – taking France as the prime example – argue that putting the person in the centre of everything is the better option.

Dolce Far Niente is taking the cake although it is what we all want, isn’t it?


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