What living in two different countries has taught me about careers.


What living in two different countries has taught me about careers.

It’s a funny thing, a career, if you ask me.

We are brought up to believe that a career can be achieved if you go to university, then straight after you get your first job – which will obviously be one of the best starter jobs you can get – and then you grow within your chosen field. That is how we’re always told a career is started and maintained.

But nothing could be further from the truth. That might be the ‘conventional’ way to do it, but there are so many different paths to take now.

If you’ve ever been to the south of Europe, you’ll have probably noticed that the culture there is very different to northern countries. They have a very mañana mañana mindset and people are usually late, quite the opposite to the north of Europe where we’re so proud to be busy all the time and we keep going until we burn out.

Both not ideal situations I would say.

Having lived both in Spain and in Holland I’ve integrated in both of these cultures and they have definitely both taught me a thing or two about careers and working life in general.



Spain doesn’t pride itself on being busy, “the glorification of busy” is not something they have issues with and if you tell them something like that they would probably look at you very weirdly and walk away.

That doesn’t mean they don’t work though, of course. They have to put food on the table and pay the bills just like everyone else, and so a job that you show up to is most definitely required, but it’s quite different to Holland or the rest of the north of Europe.

From what I have seen and experienced, Spain is very much a country where family is the most important part of someone’s life. Work is mainly something that you have to do every day to make ends meet. Families spend a lot of time together. Parents and kids spend a lot of time together during the weekdays and then the rest of the family (cousins, uncles, aunts, grandma’s, grandpa’s) are all invited to come over during the weekend as well. Family time is what is valued most – even though it’s very often at the expense of other friends.

So pursuing the job you really want, going freelance, starting your own business, becoming an entrepreneur… they’re not exactly typical for Spain. I’m not saying they totally don’t exist, because of course there are plenty of entrepreneurs in Spain as well as anywhere else in the world, they’re just not pursued the same as in other countries.

The culture and the mentality is not set up for strict working, getting higher up in the career ladder or giving your all to your work. If it’s gone 2pm or 9pm (working hours are generally from 9am to 2pm, and then 5pm to 9pm with a break for a siesta and lunch between 2pm and 5pm) people are going home to be with their families and relax. Don’t expect to get a praise if you’ve been there longer than needed.

Of course the heat and ridiculous working hours doesn’t help for productivity either but that’s a post for another day.


Holland, however, is very similar to England - we strive on getting jobs that we enjoy, negotiating our salary, perhaps going freelance and many are also starting their own businesses, with a lot of young workers who haven’t already, considering taking the plunge.

When I was living in Spain, I knew I wanted to move to Holland when I finished high school (before that, it was physically impossible) because people in Holland generally have more initiative.

They don’t sit around waiting until “the perfect moment” to start something they are passionate about. The thing most likely to be holding them back would be the lack of time because they are working so hard on their day job, which is often a career or industry that they are able grow in and climb the ladder – as they say.

Being a freelancer is not something that has to be explained to someone and even if there are slow months here and there, work almost always keeps coming because everyone keeps working and needing other experts.

However, through this process of working so hard it’s become clear that some Dutchies have also lost track of sight of the thing that is probably the most valuable thing of all, family.

What the two cultures can learn from each other One definitely values family over work and vice versa. But both are important.

Work is the thing the average person spends their most time on, so it’s natural and a good thing if you work at something you enjoy without it being a dread to go to work every day, or it simply being a way to pay the bills without actually getting any fulfilment from it whatsoever.

On the other hand, this culture has gotten itself a little too swept up in werk werk werk that it has slightly lost track of the most important thing in life, family.

So, I think a balance of the two is what we all need.

Spend time building your career, chase something that is fulfilling to you and that you enjoy, but at the same time, remember to not lose track of the most important people in your life.

Let’s not glorify being busy all the time, a work life balance – which is different for everyone and will probably fluctuate depending on the week – is definitely something to thrive for.

Disclaimer: these are just my experiences from these two countries, if you’ve lived in both countries as well you might have experienced something different, it obviously really depends on the people you are surrounded with and what part of the countries you were living in.

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Written by: Sarah

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