The workaholic's burden

May 24, 2021

Finally I understand why I feel weird about bank holidays. Since I’ve become an entrepreneur, somehow I’ve stopped feeling pleased about some deserved laziness implied in such days as though they are not for me (and for no one else who happens to be in charge of their own business).

In 2011, I decided to take a risk and thanks to my better-half’s encouragement I became my own boss. It felt good; it still does; but it hurts. Since then, there isn’t any public holiday that doesn’t come with a strange feeling of not being entitled to let myself enjoy what I'm supposed to: namely, not working.

Now I realize, after living for more than a year in Amsterdam, that even the ones pulling up a company’s rear here have a natural ability to take advantage of public holidays: it seems they do allow themselves time to cherish a couple of free days.

There are exceptions, however, which vary according to my closest Dutch friend: "It depends if there's a deadline involved or someone's field competitions as well as on ethics or joie de vivre". At the same time, it all comes down, through my personal perception, to the Dutch lifestyle: there's no need to be a workaholic; it's not work that defines a man but the opposite. There's no harm in chilling a little bit. The Dutch work ethic is admirable: they work to live which is quite the opposite of, say, the US where people live to work. The work-life ratio is much more in harmony among the Dutch.

In an attempt to compare this ethos to my home-born country, Brazil, I certainly fail. Especially in financial centers like São Paulo, where I lived for 20 years, I was always under the impression that we were carrying a sort of burden. When it comes to that, owners suffer the most, I believe. Taxes are outrageous and there's no pay back; endeavoring is never encouraged or supported by the system; there's no relying upon the Government and everyone is on their own. It's a never ending toxic circle. I wouldn't blame Brazil's working culture for the way it has been shaped. Brazilian entrepreneurs (by that I also mean the self-employed and freelancers) should be praised and applauded. They are fighters; but their afflictions are really high.

I have been carrying this feeling even after moving to Amsterdam; it seems it is still within me. But I need to change that. Today is not only Whit Monday in the Netherlands but also the last bank holiday of the year, until December 25!. For the first time, I now feel prepared to break the old habit and grant myself permission to embrace what hard workers are supposed to do.


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Mari Vilhena
I feel exactly the same. When I came to Portugal one of the weirdest things for me was some restaurants in the touristic area being closed in August. Like THE month for tourist to come and spend thousands of euros in theirs businesses. I asked a friend and he said - don't they have the same right to enjoy life? Money is not everything. And even in the small daily attitudes this mindset is there - there is no 5-minute-hot dog on the go lunch, they take the time for an afternoon coffee in a coffee shop, and so on. I've learned a lot in these last 4 years of Lisbon, and hope to keep the good new habits :)
Guide Me To
Funny enough I had the same impression as yours last year in August when my only thought was : "aren't they gonna take advantage that the tourism is a little bit back on track now?". Anyways, I'm glad we can both learn a lot from their culture and mind-set. Thank you for sharing, my friend.
Heitor Menotti
With the pandemic came along the opportunity to become a entrepreneur myself and I felt exactly like you regarding the holidays and also weekends. And not just that, I felt that, as I was working from home, I had the obligation to work until late at night. The result was that I got even more stressed than before. For the last couple of months I’ve decided to respect the weekends and holidays and use these days for resting and leisure, and most importantly, work 8 hours per day, tops! My productivity increased and I much happier and calm.
Guide Me To
So good to hear from your personal experience, Hec! I can relate with your feelings, totally, as well as I often caught myself working so much more than before just because my home has become my work and vice versa. There's a fine line here which can be crossed easily if we don't pay attention to it. I'm glad that you found a right balance to your lifestyle!
Maria Vargas
I feel exactly the same!!!
Guide Me To
I knew that you could relate to this, my friend!