The Dutch understand work-life balance

Dutch people work-life balance

My family took a trip to Holland back in 2015 to visit relatives. While we were there, it seemed that the pace of life was calmer. There just seemed to be more work-life balance. While we were in the Netherlands, we stayed with my husband’s aunt. When it was close to dinner time, our aunt would bike over to the grocery store to pick up the food needed for supper or would send us to pick up the necessities when it was our turn to provide dinner.

A woman from Holland on her way to pick up groceries before supper.

Her fridge was small but somehow always had plenty of space. Meals were decided on from day-to-day and the ingredients were fresh. It was such an interesting change from meal planning and doing groceries just once a week, filling the fridge and freezer to capacity on grocery day. We biked to various locations, regularly visited the nearby park with the kids, had leisurely meals.

Dutch grocery stores are really fresh
Every grocery store seems to have so many fresh items

Upon my return to Ontario, I jumped back into the grind but the thoughts of their enjoyable pace of life still nagged at me. What was it that gave a sense of calm? Was it all of the bike riding? Or the canals everywhere? I knew that it was more than just the sight of my full fridge and freezer that I wanted to change. I started reading articles about the way of life in the Netherlands and came across a 2014 statistic that 76.6% of women and 26.8% of men work less than full-time, regardless of their family status or age. The Netherlands is regularly near the top of the UN World Happiness report. I think that working part-time plays a big part in their ability to enjoy other parts of life.

It is challenging to find the balance between work and life. We are driven to do well in our jobs - to earn acclaim and promotions. We are also driven by the desire to make the most of life, whether it is as simple as personal care or as grand as passionately pursuing hobbies. As a professional, working less than full-time could move us toward achieving both professional and personal goals.

Dutch meal - work life balance
A typical dutch meal, "Soep en broodjes" (Soup and sandwiches).

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