Monday, March 23, 2009

Culture and Life

The other day a friend and I talked a bit about the global economic crisis. She (a full-time mom) lives in Japan with two young kids (she's Indo, her husband is Japanese). She said that nowadays they wouldn't allow her hubby to work overtime. She said it felt weird to have him back home already at 6 pm. Due to that fact, as well, they have to tighten their belt since the family's income is not as much as it used to.

In Finland, I find myself missing hubby when he works overtime. Overtime = when he doesn't come home at 4 pm. I don't think overtime is a common thing here in Finland, which is actually good. That means the hubby has more time with their families (well, hopefully they spend that time with their families).

I must admit, though, that after living here for 2 years, I'm getting used to everything here, so I kinda "forget" what it was like in Indo. Deep down I know how tough it is to live in a culture where working overtime is considered "loyalty", especially if you're high up in the company's ladder.

I know one friend's hubby who worked in Indo who used to go home around 10 pm or even midnight on most days. Sometimes he also had to go to meetings on a Sunday and there was no way he could have said no (and he worked on Saturdays too until 6 pm or even later than that). If he had always come back home on time and he refused to go on meetings, he would probably have gotten sacked right away and there would be MANY others in Indo who would do anything to get his job.

Here in Finland if you work on a Saturday or Sunday, then you'll get even MUCH more money that way...but in Indonesia, I don't think in many companies you'll get a good amount of overtime money (that's IF you get any overtime money at all!). Here in Finland if R2 has done overtime many times, he can take that time to get a short holiday from work, but can Indo people do that? No, Sirrrrrrr...unfortunately not.

Another Indo friend who's now been living in the Netherlands said that people there would think you were weird if you kept on working overtime, since it's just not the culture.

And what about the paid holiday in Finland? In Indonesia I've never heard of such a thing. Plus here in Finland the yearly holiday is MORE than reasonable IMO, because after working full-time in a place for a year, you'll get a some PAID holiday (read the notes section below this paragraph) In Indo, normally a person only gets around 12 days of UNPAID holiday per year.

Notes (I copied it based on Jamppa's comment): Holiday season starts from April and ends in March and you get 2 days for summer holiday per each done month. So if you start work on firm XX on first day on July (e.g 2008), you'll get 18 days holiday on first summer (2009). In this case it starts from July and stops to March. It stops always in March, cause April is first holiday month and in this case next summer holiday is full 2days*12month= 24 days which is full summer holiday (2010).. from April to March.

Other than that, in Indo it's hard to get a long sick leave. Here in Finland I think it's a pretty common and acceptable thing. At least I know one person who took a sick leave for at least 6 months and she still has her job. In Indo, if you're sick for more than a month, I think there's a fat chance that you're going to be able to continue working there.

I also see a similar trend of cultural differences in terms of education. Since education in Indonesia isn't really standardized, so if you don't go to good schools, it's going to be hard for you to get a good job. Also a friend told me that she felt that the curriculum in many schools in Indo are now too stressful for kids, 'coz they try to teach the kids SO MANY subjects already since a young age. And if you go to a good private school, then you'll get tough homework, as well.

The bad thing about having such a stressful curriculum is that the kids will lose their playtime after school 'coz they must have private or group lessons so that they can catch up with the other kids. I remember that one student of mine used to complain about having to go to many different kinds of private lessons: English, Chinese, Swimming, Math. These type of lessons are sometimes done twice a week for an hour per session, so can you imagine how busy they are?

Here in Finland kids go to school at the age of 7. I once read an article that they want to let kids to play first and enjoy their childhood before they study at a real school. Another friend from my Finnish classes (who goes to a High School here) told me that in her opinion, the education system in Finland isn't too difficult or stressful. I don't know about that, but at least I've never heard of any private tutors here in Finland, unlike those in Indo (private tutors in Indo can earn really good money due to the high demands of them, especially these days as the school curriculum is getting more and more difficult).

It's very interesting to talk about this topic. One Indo friend (a mother of two kids) once joked to me, "Hey, look at us! We didn't go to any international schools and our monthly school fee was pretty low back then and we only started learning English when we were in Junior High School (as opposed to these days where English is taught in some preschools and most elementary schools) , but don't you think we've turned out quite okay?"

I laughed.

Such is life. To succumb or not to succumb to society's pressure, that is the question. I think it's pretty tough to fight the "mainstream, the-what's-acceptable-according-to-public". But dunno...what do YOU think, readers???

P.S. I find that some of the things that I used to find "common/normal/accepted" have changed ever since I moved to Finland.


  1. children go to school when their age is 7??? wajib sekolahnya usia 7 th berarti, Amel???

    Di sini wajib sekolahnya usia 4th.

  2. Jul: Yes, the legal school age is 7 years old. :-D

  3. Our holiday seasons are pure math, you see. Holiday season starts from April and ends to March and you get 2 days for summerholiday per each done month. So if you start work on firm XX on first day on July (e.g 2008), you'll get 18 days holiday on first summer (2009). Clear?? In this case it starts from July and stops to March. It stops allways to March, cause April is first holiday month and in this case next summer holiday is full 2days*12month= 24days wich is full summer holiday (2010).. from April to March... Kääk... ugh

  4. Jamppa: INTERESTING!!! THANKS for explaining it to me. :-D I didn't know about the holiday season thingie he he he...

  5. Indonesia sounds more like the US. There are lots of places like my law firm that doesn't offer time off to its workers. If you take time off you are paid for those days off. Where MB works, she accumulates vacation time so she'll be paid days off that she takes.
    Finland sounds like a nice place to live. It's probably nicer to have R2 home a little more and not do as much overtime as he would HAVE to do in US or Indo.
    You should feel pretty fortunate b/c Finland sounds like a nicer country.

  6. Uuuuggghh... I have this little vision in my head that I'll never take a high-paying job which would require me to spend pretty much my entire day at work. Maybe that's naive, I dunno, but what would be the point of earning a lot of money if I had no time to enjoy it?

  7. Vince: Yeah, I do feel fortunate to live here. :-))))

    Little Prince's Mummy: Glad you enjoyed the post! ;-D

    Bitter Chocolate: Well, in some cases it's hard to choose, esp. when you have a family to support PLUS your own parents who are dependent on you. But if I have the choice, too, I don't want to do that kind of job he he...

  8. I know what you mean about foegetting. I've been here 6 years now and the other day I was looking at old photos of Africa snd felt... weird. It was like looking at another world. I didn't instantly remember or connect anymore. And I'm forgetting how things were there a lot more now. In some ways it's a relief. The hardest time, I think are the first year/months when you feel like you're in half on two continents/countries.

    I'm also surprised at what doesn't surprise me anymore. First here the "different things" were a shock - like how here medical is virtually free and we pay a set fee for medicine. In South Africa my mom paid about the same as £100 on medicine every month and that was with medical insurance! I had no insurance and it was hard. Like when I had pneumonia in SA I wasn't sent to hospital... because I'd never afford it.

    A lot of your Finland list sounded like Scotland, but here the sick leave is less and people can be forced to work overtime, like Indo, too.

    In Rhodesia/Zimabwe I started school at 5, South Africa it was 6. I have no idea what it is here. :-\

  9. Wow, I like the lifestyle in Finland. I think this is what life should be about. What's the point of slogging so hard throughout our life when the quality of life is so lacking right? You're in the right place Amel!

  10. Michelle: Yeah, maybe in a few more years I'll feel that Indonesia's getting weirder and weirder. You're right that it's not easy when you feel like you're in half on two continents.

    And correct again about things that used to surprise me that I feel "common" these days he he he...Here I also have to pay a set fee to go to the local health centre even if we go there many times a year.

    THANKS SO MUCH for sharing your view. VERY interesting read! ;-D

    Blur Ting: Yeah, but the problem is many people here who don't know what life is out there may take it for granted what they have. It's so easy to do it once you're in a place so long. I mean, even I am starting to "forget" what it's like in Indo and that I mustn't take all the good things I get here for granted. :-))))

  11. Yeah, we hate that when we work overtime and don't get paid. If we're complaining, then probably our jobs are at stake. Like you said, the management will say that there are other people who're willing to replace us... Always happen here in Asia countries. :(

  12. I think the most difficult part of it is the culture pressure. Like, even if a parent does not think that it does any good for her preteen/teen kids to have no time at all to play thanks to the heavy curriculum, the kid will kinda be an outcast in the peer group.
    Same with work, you tend to do what the others in your company do to.
    Indo, IMHO, is way too USA oriented, combine that and the heavy competition of the Asian market, the labor environment is madness.
    Another thing that adds to the toll is that Indo/Chinese people are SO competitive AND consumtive. A laid back happy with what you have kind of life is looked down at. You are what you have, you are what you achieve.
    These reasons are why I always say I'm much more at home here in the Netherlands compared to back home. The culture here makes much more sense to me :P (OK there are other part of the culture that does NOT make sense, but hey, at least I can mix and combine my own little society to be happy with :) - which means, over 50% of my friends are undutchables, haha!)

  13. Choc Mint Girl: Yeah...that's true...but then unfortunately you can't change a thing. :-((((

    Anita: Yep, the culture pressure is so crazy in Indo. It's about brand and what kind of car or house or whatever that you have...even though you don't wanna get sucked into "the game", but still the pressure's there.