New Zealand

Everyone’s at the Beach

I may have mentioned before that, in New Zealand, people take a different approach to work-life balance.

In the US, the prevailing attitude seems to be “Live to Work”.  In New Zealand, it’s much more along the lines of “Work to Live”.

I’ve seen this attitude in practice over here on a couple of occasions.  Like when my boss told me “no worries” in response to my request to drop down to part-time, and then told me that I needed to take care of myself first and foremost.

Um, what?  Let me clean out my ears for a second… did an ER manager just tell me that dropping to part-time was no problem, and that taking care of myself was a priority?  What planet am I on again?

Or when I saw nurses planning out their 2 month holidays: a week in Australia, 2 weeks in Bali, a week in Singapore… or perhaps a tour of Europe.  This, compared to feeling lucky to get 1 week off back in the States, let alone 2 months.

Now that it’s summertime in New Zealand, I’m presented with another opportunity to see more of the Kiwi approach to work-life balance.  A few examples…

The post shop {post office} stops delivering mail for a total of 8 days.  No mail gets delivered in the entire country.  Our local branch is closed from December 24th – January 4th.

Restaurants sometimes shut down for 2 weeks or more.  One spot that I pass by each week had posted a sign stating that they will be closed from December 15th – January 14th.  My little Korean Pancake shop?  Closed for 2 1/2 weeks!

Restaurants aren’t the only ones who shutter up for the summer holiday.  Several boutiques and businesses take a week off or more while owners and employees head to the beach.  I stopped counting after I reached 20 shops in 3 blocks.  Our local library branch closes for a week {not including 3 days around Christmas}.  And the private hospitals in New Zealand?  Some of them close for Christmas + the whole month of January.  Can you imagine?  A whole hospital shut down.  Granted, the government-run public hospitals are open 24/7, but those that only accept private pay or private insurance can simply choose to not accept patients or schedule any procedures for 4 – 6 weeks.  The ORs shut down, the wards shut down, the offices shut down… just a big, empty hospital where everyone’s on holiday.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it does have a few hindrances.  Like the fact that the package that my mother-in-law sent with gifts that are for me, only me! for us is languishing on a shelf somewhere in the post shop.  I know it’s there – I got a card – but I can’t get to it!  Or the fact that it’s been over 2 weeks and our broken intercom buzzer is still, well, broken.  When I asked our building manager when it would be fixed, his response was, “Well, you know, it’s summer and the holidays… it’ll probably be a little while before I hear from anyone.”


But there are pluses, too.  It’s much quieter in our neighborhood.  Traffic noise has gone down by a few decibels.  I don’t have to yell at the kids who smoke around our fountain and talk loudly till 1am, because they’re all at the beach.  It’s easier for me to waddle my pregnant self walk down the sidewalk because there are fewer pedestrians.  I’m not tempted to buy a Korean pancake because they’re closed.

People seem to be in a happier mood.  And that puts me in a happier mood, too 🙂

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14 thoughts on “Everyone’s at the Beach

  1. Considering I got my ass chewed for taking a half day off of work the day my husband left for war, I think I’d like to move to New Zealand now. Ugh! I am dreading asking for a full day off when he gets home. Isn’t that awful?!!?

  2. Same here in Australia! I think the 4-weeks of vacation is such a good way to live, but still can’t help but feel that we’re “getting away with something,” coming from the U.S.!
    It’s going to be a tough adjustment to “live to work” when we go back someday.

  3. This has taken a lot of getting used to for me too. I need a part for my bicycle – forget it. Need to mail some stuff to my mom – nope. I have friends looking for a flat – ha! Nothing even advertised! It’s truly frustrating at times. All that said, however, I prefer it. The streets are quiet, everyone gets time off that they need physically, mentally and spiritually. And yes, that puts everyone in a healthier, happier state!

  4. Okay that makes me never want to work full-time in the US (even if i could) ha. I love our Work to Live approach lifestyle here, its great 🙂 wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  5. Its 4 weeks annual leave for everyone here, but if you’ve worked at a place for like 8-10 years they will thrown in an extra week’s leave 🙂

  6. I know what you mean! When I moved back to the States my friends in NZ didn’t understand the whole the-USA-is-obsessed-with-working thing. When I had to fly back for a friend’s wedding and was only on the ground in ChCh for a single week, no one could get why I couldn’t take more leave. Because I only have a week off of course! 🙂 And that includes traveling around Christmas! I’m jealous of their 6 weeks average annual leave. 🙂

  7. I have to agree…having all of that time off and relaxed way of life would be wonderful but waiting on a Christmas package would freak me out!!! Hopefully it arrives soon!!! In the mean time head to the beach. 🙂 XOXO

  8. I was always envious of how much time off people in other countries can get. I certainly try not to live to work. I work to live! 🙂

  9. I’m more of a “live to work” girl and wish that the US would adopt some of these beliefs as well. I think we all would be a little less stressed.

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