Updated: Dec 25, 2020
In America, we have your typical workaholics and the extreme workaholics, it is normal in American culture to work well over 40 hours and be committed to an abundance of other responsibilities. For instance, in the US you hear of lots of people having multiple jobs, working during holidays because they will earn more, or overtime to climb to that promotion. I am guilty of some of these, I will admit. In college, I worked two jobs at once, had my schooling, and was volunteering too. My priority was school, creating a well-rounded resume, a high dedication to my studies, and to eventually prepare myself for work or Higher Education. I have to say though, somewhere along the way I realized that I didn't fully feel content or satisfied with my future plans. I had this idea to travel and this had been a dream of mine for most of my life. I finally took the leap and then the leap again and have lived now in both Morocco and currently am in Thailand. I have met people from all over now and work culturally has many different styles. In Morocco, I had gotten to experience what work life was like from working in a women's community centre and the work and life balance was vastly different from my upbringing from the States. This experience had made me realize the difference and just how Moroccans prioritize family and social life, way more compared to work. At my first day at the centre I was told to arrive when the centre opened at 9.30 and arrived promptly then, only to discover no one was there and Moroccan time is not on time, it is around thirty minutes to an hour later. At work, I would want to do a lot in a day and had plans for various projects, but found the support from the rest of the Moroccan members to be quite delayed. Instead, I would find myself chatting and being told its time to take a break, it felt like I almost was not working at all (my perception anyways). I would often get invited for tea with the staff or on "Jumea" Fridays, as this is the holy day in Islam; a day for couscous gatherings and going to the mosques. I learned that its okay to relax more, socialize, have tea then a siesta, and not stress about time .. ever. I adjusted pretty quickly to this and felt relieved of letting go of time pressures. You might be thinking, well Moroccans are lazy, but really the priority is just in a different place; and that is your social well being, taking time to rest and enjoy, and quality time with family and friends.
Americans, I am sorry to say, but generally Americans are working way too much. I think this could justify our reputations for travelling inside our own country and feeling that work burnout. I mean it makes sense, we don't get much work leave or long holidays and often its normal to work many side hustles in the States starting really young and into your adult life too. But, I have experienced that in other parts of the world they prioritize family time, holidays, relaxing over lunch, and not taking work too seriously.
Personally as being an American, I have known that its expected of us to work a successful job and this will create a happy life. This is the American dream to work hard and be successful, but travel had opened my eyes that success doesn't come from external things like my job, and in fact it comes from you. There is this pressure in the States to be extremely successful and make a lot of money, but I think much differently now about this and realize that for me I am already a success. I am bold, beautiful, and spreading kindness everywhere I go. I don't need a career to fulfill that yearning for success, my job doesn't solely determine my worth. What makes me feel truly alive is travel. I feel passionate about cultures, languages, social change, and am choosing happiness every day, because I can. I decided a year ago to move to Thailand. I lived in Morocco earlier in that year, and have really got the travel bug now. I feel passionate about travel and immersion in the different cultures I have gotten to explore thus far.
In Thailand, I have been a teacher for one year and teach young learners English. I typically work around nine hours a day and have an extremely low cost of living, but also be able to enjoy the culture and travel around the country. In my teaching day I teach on average four classes per day, but I am not teaching all day long. Also, it is not necessarily all work either, I mean my position is to teach English to young kids, its not going to be all serious business. I get to sing songs, play games, while also doing the more tedious or less fun things, like grading assignments, preparing exams, and disciplining young students. Teaching in Thailand has overall been a very positive experience and I enjoy this lifestyle a lot. I will say that teaching is a long exhausting day and the heat will sure wear you down, if the kids haven't already. In terms of work environment though, the work expectations are vastly different from the States.
Thai professionalism Mai bpen rai --- No problem! This is my motto and when working in a Thai environment just smile and say "no problem". Everything is different in the work place. There is less organization, planning ahead, accountability, timeliness, and the list could go on. It is not bad at all, this is just a cultural difference, and a vast one I might add. It really does takes a lot of adjusting to and its best to go with the flow. I learned time and time again, to leave behind my American directness and bluntness, as that is not the culture here. My adjustment wasn't the easiest, but I will say that Morocco helped prepare me for this and I was more open to differences and the changes I would and still experience in the Thai workplace.
I do get frustrated sometimes with the lack of communication or the unknowing of future events or expectations with my teaching preparation. I mean one time literally all of us foreign English teachers didn't know about a Buddhist offering that the school was doing to bring luck to the school. We weren't told and there was a huge food offering where everyone brought in food and a ceremony hosted by Buddhist monks, a really beautiful thing to witness, but also we had no clue at all. Another time, it was a retirement party and we knew we were invited to the party, but we didn't know when it exactly was. This is what I am talking about with the difference in planning. Morocco prepared me for this and honestly even before that I was always known to be someone late to the party and struggling to clock in on time at work in the States. It is a big difference though when you are used to the extreme planning, timeliness, and extreme diligence that most American workers follow suit due to the culture of the "work grind".
I have learned to really love the lifestyle at the same time despite these vast differences. I came to Thailand for the adventure and to immerse myself in something new and exciting. I have a feeling I will work in other countries abroad and that excites me a lot to think about. People that I have met from around the globe though have made me think about this more, so I will end my article with this. Are you living to work? Or working to live? xx Wandering Worldwide with Liz