The Netherlands is eminently a performance society. It starts right after you are born. Every child should learn certain skills at a certain time and if you are a little late, well that means you get a label (slow!) right away. During childhood you have to enjoy your childhood, you have to do well at school, you have to play an instrument and you definitely should do a sport (and please be good at it!). Otherwise you get the label lazy or incompetent. This is just from the child perspective, but think of the parents who are working their asses off to earn enough money to provide everything their child needs to prevent it from being negatively labled. Well then you grow up and go to highschool and a 6 (on a scale from 1-10) is not acceptable anymore.They prefer to see their children succeed with high marks. Oh and don’t forget you still have your instrument, your sport and a social life. When you go to college you have to maintain everything and start to work, because otherwise you won’t get a decent job when you graduate. Just high marks? Not enough! When you start your carreer (because you need a carreer instead of a job) you have to get married if you haven’t already and have children right away because that is the perfect picture. The average Dutch person is a professional juggler. Oh and always be afraid of the label you are about to receive for just taking a little bit of time for yourself.
Well this is of course exaggerated, but all jokes aside: we know multiple people who live their lives exactly like this. Maybe it sounds surprising: but we don’t want to for ourselfs. We don’t want to race through our lives constantly worrying about what others may think of us. Well a lot of people call us crazy already, but that is the difference: we don’t care. We love our jobs (or carreers if you like) but we don’t want to feel this constant pressure everyday from ‘the society’.
Of course there is a great side of this performance society. Many people are trained and skilled, a large part of the population is high educated compared to other countries. Our society runs like a oiled machine. But then again, at what costs? It is not just a coincidence that in the practice where Melanie works Burnout is one of the most common complaints.
In South Africa we are still psychologist and lawyer, but when it is time for spare time it is spare time. There is nothing wrong with just enjoying life and live without stress and anxiety. In South Africa it is very important to work, but when you are off you enjoy your free time. It is frowned upon when you work outside of working hours. Do what you want to do, do what you are good at, enjoy your work and enjoy your spare time. For some it works just fine in the Netherlands, but we feel like the way of live in South Africa is much more appealing to us.
Wiebe & Melanie