Friday, 17 January 2014

12. Lazy Nation

Yesterday afternoon, I listened in on a conversation about how a young City lawyer had recently made Partner after only a few years in practice. The reason for this, I came to understand, was that he worked all of the time. Working hours in the City are notoriously unsociable, and so I was interested to hear that this young lawyer "even worked Saturdays and Sundays... Sometimes he gives himself time off on a Sunday morning but that's about it. But he loves what he does so it makes sense [that he got his promotion]." The conversation ended with other listeners-in branding Newly-Made Partner either "sad" or "crazy".

Before I worked full-time, I didn't understand why people would a) complain about working full-time, b) rejoice at the prospect of a Saturday and Sunday "free" from the stresses and binds of their working life, and c) mourn at the sudden loss of that glorious weekend period each Sunday night. I still hadn't quite wrapped my head around it during my first few weeks of full-time membership; co-workers would always talk of holidays and travelling and the "dream" of being able to take six months off. When I opted to take only one day off during the Christmas period, my colleagues thought me to be insane, misguided, sadistic even. Now, comfortably in the full-time swing, I often find myself slipping into what seems to be the normal reaction to one's working week:

(Tuesday morning) "I actually can't wait until the weekend..."

(Friday morning) "YES! Thank goodness it's Friday!"

(Sunday afternoon) "I've got to go back to work tomorrow...whyyy?" *groans*

My question is this: are we a nation of lazies?

Why is it that many of the British public views work as a weekly prison sentence, liberated each Friday evening only to be ushered back into their cells by Monday morning? Why do we long for Christmas and New Years' holidays when (for the most part), we are entitled to 104 Saturdays and Sundays off, an extra three to four weeks off per annum and around 12 to 16 hours each day for basic necessities such as sleep, eating and leisure?

Should everyone have the same positive attitude to what they do for a living as the Newly-Made Partner? Or is his case the anomaly? How does the distinction between people with "jobs" and those with "careers" affect each group's attitude to their daily grind? In terms of whether the British public (and indeed the majority of the Western world, to an extent) either works to live or lives to work, I'm sure the answer would easily be the former, but I still wonder whether a life of complete leisure is really the answer.

That said, I'm off to revel in my (partial) annual leave next week - woohoo!


  1. Great post! Very real right now! However, I think our mentality is because of the 17 years or so of full time education. We go to nursery, primary & secondary school, college/sixth form and then university and throughout all those years we have those long holidays, going up to 8-10 weeks, ready to do whatever we wanted. After that we are thrown straight into adult/full time working life and all those long holidays are gone...forever! That crazy shock gives us the mentality that we need that time off, more than just once in a while, so we pray for Fridays and those week long holidays to get away from the work we have to do.

    That young Partner has done very well for himself! Congratulations to him!

    1. Interesting point Larry. I still think that the general mentality of the nation is, by and large, relaxed. There's no sense of urgency to do that which need not necesasrily be done (work weekends, spend one's free time developing further knowledge/skills and not binge-drinking/pub-crawling). Why is it that in many cases the Far Eastern or African young person will have no problem with stretching themselves to their limits work-wise, whilst their English counterparts will not bother if they don't have to? This may be a generalisation but I've experienced this first hand.

      Do you remember when this report came out a few months ago?

      The general counter-argument from British reporters was that those Far Eastern students "work too hard" and "it's making their kids depressed whereas British kids are happy". Depressed my back foot. Cultivate a hard work-ethich from a young age instead of encouraging Sports Day events where even the worst kid gets a trophy.

    2. I agree with you on that as well. The British mentality is very relaxed, at times even lazy, maybe because we 'think' we have everything available to us. People in Africa and the Far East, probably, see poverty everyday in their daily surroundings, whilst we see McDonalds & Wetherspoons.
      For us we think/know that we are comfortable, whilst those in "Third World" Countries know where they don't want to be, so they press on at every possible moment to read, educate and develop any and everything they have in life. Since we see these 'luxuries' everyday we tend to take it for granted, instead of being grateful and striving to go to that next level.

      That counter-argument is understandable but just shows the level that the British want to be at, that they are very comfortable in their First World surroundings, thinking that nothing can really go wrong for them. In our African culture it is very different because our parents and older relatives know how far education can take you! Reading and developing great understanding of things take you a long way. They have literally lived both lives and know what works best, whilst British people have always lived in Britain in their First World surroundings and don't know the other side.

      Obviously this is generalisation and not every British person is like this nor is every African or Asian like that either.