Crossing Cultures: Work Ethic

It is the rainy season right now. It has been said that rain to Peruvians is like snow to southerners. They just don’t really know what to do with it and prefer to stay home. It is tough on many families because the homes aren’t made to keep out water, and the flat roofs (left that way so that another floor can be added on later) collect water that then creeps down into the house.

Some homes actually flood and must be swept out almost constantly when it is coming down, and others have been flooded by a backup from the sewage drainage because the water from the street took it over. Driving through lakes where the road dips is common. 

We have been frustrated with attendance to any and all activities of late. People just don’t want to stand out in the rain waiting for a bus. They don’t want to take their kids out. They don’t want to leave their homes just in case they need to address an urgent water problem. It kind of makes sense, so we’ve tried to be gracious. 

But they still go to work. They make it happen, which is interesting. What is the difference? 
It may be the Peruvian work laws, but in a good way. Almost all employees in Peru, with a few exceptions based on contract-type work, are required to have a month of vacation each year. Paid. And we’re not talking cutting a sick day here and there. We’re talking an entire month all at once, if they want it. Or two weeks at a time. One lawyer we know takes every February off and lives in a nearby town on the beach. For a month. Can you imagine? 

No wonder they are committed to keeping their jobs. No wonder they will sacrifice to make that happen. 

As I discussed this with my friend (with my chin on the floor), I explained how many people in the States who do receive big chunks of time to take off are actually less able to do so because their work is integral to the functioning of their company, requiring that they not disappear for lengths of time. A week, maybe two at most, but it would be impossible to receive permission for more, plus the workload that such a trip would generate upon return would make it an intimidating choice. She gave me a quizzical look and said, “But how will those important people be able to do their jobs if they don’t have time to take care of themselves?” 

How indeed? Now, I know that we would all love for US companies to learn from Peru here, but that’s unrealistic. However, her logic struck me. Peruvians have grasped the concept that productivity comes from a place of wellness and have legislated the opportunity for self-care. I like the idea that one who cares about the work must also care for the worker. 

So...want to come work in Peru?