By Wendy Davila
Every day I wake up more tired than the day before and it becomes a cycle that takes months for me to break. I could sleep an entire eight hours, eat a wonderful breakfast, and chug my favorite tea yet nothing will cure my sluggish mood until I have a self-care night to myself.
The sad thing is, that most Americans go through this same cycle yet we see it as normal. Our lives are centered around our 40 hour work weeks and the compensation that comes from it rather than spending time with your friends, family, and indulging in hobbies. We work five days a week and while we’re clocked in we dream about traveling to exotic beaches, exploring Europe, and just taking a weekend to breathe. We allow ourselves one day out of the week to unwind and regroup yet in Europe things are quite different when it comes to their wellbeing.
A study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2015 found that many European countries have a longer life expectancy than Americans and it all comes down to how they take care of their wellbeing. Which then begs the question, how are they able to keep sane and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
First thing first, they live their life. It is culturally accepted in Europe to have a slow morning, go to a local coffee shop, and sit down to enjoy their espresso with a pastry. They rarely ever spend their lunchtime glued to a desk chowing away. Better yet, their meals aren’t expected to be 30 minutes long but they sometimes last an hour so they can return home and eat with their loved ones and friends. Work-life balance is crucial to maintain their health, so much so that in Portugal it is common for restaurants and many other businesses to shut down from 12 to 3 p.m. and all day Sunday to go home and enjoy a meal with good company. In Spain, siestas are still common in which people take 15-30 minutes to nap, yet most families take the opportunity to cook a big meal for the entire family to enjoy between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. before going back to work.
In Europe wealth isn’t measured by monetary value but rather by experiences. Their self worth isn’t tied to luxurious items such as expensive cars, big-name brands, and mansions. They pride themselves in their vacation time and if they can enjoy it, which all stems from their self-esteem. Under the European Union Legislation, 28 countries are entitled up to 38 days of paid vacation time and even the countries that aren’t under this legislation can receive a minimum of 22 days of paid vacation leave. They have time to purely enjoy their life and explore what is only hours away and not be connected to their phones having to relay work information when they should be relaxing.
The four B’s - Belgium, Berlin, Barcelona, and Budapest are notorious for their nightlife and entertainment. It’s normal to crowd the restaurants at 9 p.m. and around 1 a.m. start hitting up all the nightclubs. In Lisbon, Portugal there is a street called Barrio Alto packed with art and entertainment that people engage with until dawn. When in need of a more relaxing day spas are popular throughout Europe. Bathhouses and spas date back to the Roman Empire in which they were used not only for cleansing but for socializing as well. They are viewed as a way to not only purify the body but the mind and spirit as well. Another way of destressing is simply by engaging in hobbies, the most common ones are biking, hiking, canyoneering, kayaking, and anything outdoors that keeps the body moving.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to be with family and bond with your newborn child for the first few months and not have to go back to work after six weeks of maternity leave? Europeans say yes! Most American mothers rush back to work and are forced to leave their babies with childcare or family instead of being able to cherish those first moments. The reason they go back is due to money; the maternity leave is usually only set to be paid for those six weeks, anything more goes unpaid. In Europe, it is common to see paternal leave in which parents can take 240 paid days which equals out to eight months. Each country varies with its rules and regulations but the bottom line is that family comes first and that’s a universal understanding. Time is currency, and they’d rather value their family than the gruesome hours having to spend away from a newborn.
Life is worth living and not simply existing in it, and Europeans know that. They take the simple pleasures in life and make it worthwhile with their friends and family to upkeep their overall wellbeing.
Wendy Davila is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things environment, sustainability and arts and culture.