Leisure time: luxury or necessity?
The thing that used to amaze me the most me when I first came to Holland (well, right after how genuinely excited Dutch people get about food) was that starting from Thursday afternoon everyone was wishing you a good weekend. I had a couple of awkward moments before when I started telling the story of my life in answer to “Hi! How are you?”. So, at first I thought it was just a matter of courtesy. I mean, it’s not that strange, of nicely brought up people to say nice things.
But then I realized why I was so struck every time. The almost child-like glistening in the eyes and voice full of anticipation that accompanied those wishes felt really foreign to me. The thing is that in Russia, where I come from, weekend is a sort of extension of the working week. And if you are lucky enough that you don’t have to work, you will usually clean up the apartment and deal with the pile of laundry that had been menacingly accumulating during the week while you were coming back exhausted and just wanted to throw yourself into bed.
Most Russians just don’t even conceive the idea of taking rest. But even if you are willing to enjoy your weekend, it’s simply too darn cold to do anything outside most of the year. Your only option is to move by small rushes from home to metro, from metro to café, and then back – at that point feeling almost annihilated. And when the summer comes, with it comes the curse of the majority of Russian families, dacha. It is not a nice summer cottage in the countryside where you come to unwind and chill out. Instead, you are expected to weed your garden and pamper your eggplants.
To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t apply to all Russian people. It is true for adults and especially the elderly, but more and more youngsters now spend their free time having just as much fun as Europeans. For one, Moscow during the weekend is full of hipsters, exploring museums, hanging out in trendy cafes or flocking around concept stores.
Even so, the mentality has not fully changed yet. It is engraved on the back of our heads: once you start, you never stop.
Kate Sytnik is the editor-in-chief of the BUG, the student magazine of the Erasmus University College. As a fearless 18-year-old Russian, she ventured into the quest for herself and others as student of ‘Liberal Arts and Sciences’ at EUC.