Working to live, living to work

Cultural Insights — By on August 3, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Reynaldo Ulloa, 19, said his father wanted to return to Cuba, and had spoke of its advantages.  “He says the lifestyle is better,” said Mr. Ulloa, a criminal justice major at Miami-Dade College. “Here you live to work, but there you work to live.”

But Mr. Ulloa said he had little interest in moving to Cuba. … “We live a pretty good life here.”

I saw the above quote in a story this morning.  It certainly emphasizes the point that so many of our cultural perceptions are due to our own personal experiences and conditioning.  The father grew up in Cuba and longs for the more relaxed pace of life there, whereas the son is a product of an American upbringing and is perfectly content with his current life.

It also highlights another basic difference among countries, which cross-cultural specialists describe as a “live to work” versus a “work to live” mentality.  In countries such as the United States and Japan, individuals “live to work,” meaning that work is the source of their identity and a prime motivator in their lives.  In a typical Latin American country, however, such as Cuba, a person “works to live,” meaning that their job is just one aspect of their life and typically lags behind family, community and other personal factors in determining one’s self-identity.

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