Oh my goodness… I always knew there was more than a little bit of European in me; but my conversion to the German Way was more subtle and insidious than I could have imagined.
I, unlike most other red blooded, consumer oriented, individualistic Americans was actually cheering at the German Supreme Court’s ruling prohibiting allowing businesses to stay open regularly on Sundays in Berlin. I don’t even live in Berlin.
But I do live in Germany… way on the other side on the border with Belgium where this part of Germany was once French. Even though it is not popular to admit it, the lifestyle along the Rhine river is heavily influenced, or at least has many things in common with French attitudes. The attitude about separating work and personal life in a strict regimented way is one of those common attitudes.
The conversion of Anglo/American life into a 24 hour track has been going on for years. I lived it while in San Francisco, and took full advantage of it: grocery store shopping at 1am, working until 2am, burritos at 4am, etc. When I was single it was a matter of convenience.
But now I am married with two children and I have really come to appreciate the mainland European attitude that creates a block of family time that all families can share. While I do run my own business and there are no laws that regulate how much I work, I now voluntarily follow the strict Monday-Friday 8 hours or less guidelines. A good friend of mine, who is one of those “new Germans” who would embrace that 24 hour lifestyle that exists in the US if given a chance, also runs his own business but sees his kids only about 2 hours a day. One hour in the morning, one in the evening… on average. What kind of life is that?
With most businesses being closed in the evenings and on Sundays families have a chance to voluntarily spend quality time together. The overall stress level is lower when there is no pressure to get into the office/shop and when the street noises are lower… no large trucks except ones carrying perishable goods are allowed to drive the roadways on these rest days. No lawnmowers or other machines that create so much ruckous. That means fewer loud noises spoiling family picnics in city parks. That means my children can always count on Sundays to play with their cousins. No elaborate scheduling is required.
Other Americans follow the refrain of “let the market decide!” But the point of these laws is that the free market should not dictate our lives to us. We as people in our communities must set our priorities, not the rules of economics. I’ll repeat that in a different way; we should set the rules for how our economies behave, the economies should not set the rules for how we behave. These laws are about creating a package deal for quality of life, not quality of GDP.
Goodness… I have gone native.