Work to Live Rather than Live to Work

My informant is my mother. She is 53 years old and is Spanish, Croatian, and Yugoslavian. She was born and raised in Florida, but keeps up many of her ancestors’ traditions from these countries.

My mother really enjoys the culture in Spain. She has traveled there on a few occasions and loves to soak up the culture. She learns a lot about the country every time she goes and she gets to see the places that her ancestors came from. I asked her if she had any Spanish proverbs that she has learned from her parents or her grandparents.

Informant: “I remember one proverb or motto that was brought up many times. It basically goes, “We (Spanish people) work to live, we do not live to work”. Spanish people live much simpler lives than people do in many places in the world, especially the United States. I first heard this saying or proverb from my grandmother. My mother was raised in the United States and although she was raised by my grandmother, my mother has seemingly adopted a much more American view on work and never really used this proverb with me. I can understand why people say it in Spain, but it doesn’t really apply in America. Here it is the exact opposite, everything is a rat race to the top to see who can make the most money and although it isn’t a good thing, if you don’t keep up, you will get left behind”.

Analysis: I thought this proverb was interesting because it says something about an entire country and their views on work ethic. It also shows a nice contrast between America and a country like Spain. The ideals in each country are pretty much the exact opposite. Where in America, “the early bird gets the worm”, and other proverbs like this promote the idea that if you work harder than the guy next to you, then you will succeed past him and make more money. It seems as if every country has proverbs like these. These proverbs not only shift a way of thinking but they tend to shape an entire country’s perspective. People follow these proverbs and they become instilled in the way that they live and guide a way of living for people.