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A German millennial who moved to NYC left behind a healthy work-life balance to 'hustle' 7 days a week. She has no regrets.

Lena Frechen moved to NYC from her home in Cologne, Germany.
Lena Frechen moved to NYC from her home in Cologne, Germany.Courtesy of Lena Frechen
  • Lena Frechen, 27, moved to NYC from Cologne, Germany, in March 2022.

  • She said it didn't take her long to notice how many New Yorkers embrace hustle culture.

  • Frechen now works seven days a week with only 10 days of PTO, but she has no regrets about moving.

Lena Frechen received numerous warnings about New York before she set foot in Manhattan, but one conversation with a former colleague back home in Cologne, Germany, stood out to her.

The colleague used to live in NYC, so he was happy to dispense words of wisdom when he learned she was moving there in March 2022, she told Business Insider.

"'Oh my God, let's see what you think about New York,'" Frechen, 27, recalled him saying. "'It's not for everyone. Some people just can't make it.'"

Lena Frechen works in social media marketing.
Lena Frechen works in social media marketing.Courtesy of Lena Frechen

The ominous tone of the comments might've been off-putting for some, but she wasn't dissuaded in the slightest.

"I was always motivated to come and to experience it from my own eyes, from my own perspective," she said.

Nearly two years later, you could say Frechen has "made it."

She has a full-time job as a social-media marketer at a real-estate firm, is starting her own business, has friends, is in a long-term relationship, and has no plans to leave NYC anytime soon.

But that doesn't mean that certain aspects of the move didn't take getting used to — including the work culture.

Frechen thinks New Yorkers have little to no work-life balance

Frechen said it didn't take her long to notice how intense NYC's "hustle" culture was compared to Germany's.

Being a social-media native, she started sharing unromanticized aspects of the transition on TikTok. One of her videos comparing working in Germany to working in NYC has over 720,000 views.

Nothing sums up the difference quite like her paid time off (PTO) allowance.

"In Germany, I had 30 days off," she said.

Back home, Frechen worked in TV production. Her former PTO allowance was slightly higher than Germany's minimum requirement of 20 days of paid vacation, but it's still over half the amount she said she has now.

Frechen told BI she only gets 10 days off a year in her current job in New York, which she said is "not much" considering she's "used to so many days off."

Frechen says work-life balance is better in Germany.
Frechen says work-life balance is better in Germany.Courtesy of Lena Frechen

It's not just the lack of time off that threw Frechen for a loop. She said it's also how accustomed people she met in NYC were to the rigorous schedule.

"When I, for instance, mentioned it here to one of my colleagues, I was like, 'I need a vacation, like, I'm tired.' And he was like, 'Oh, but why? We all have only 10 days off.' It's like there was no sympathy,'" she said.

Another element of the work-culture clash was Frechen's realization that New Yorkers seem to be constantly on the job.

"In Germany, I know everybody is like, 'OK, it's 5 or 6 p.m., I'm going to go home, and I'm not going to look at my phone or anything, right?' But here, it's like everybody is always available," she said.

She added that people are always on their phones responding to emails or chipping away at work projects. And they don't seem to be mad about it, which shocked Frechen.

The work also doesn't stop for anything — not even dates.

"I was so often on dates and guys were like, 'Oh, sorry, I have to get back to my boss, I have to check my work email,' at 9 or 10 p.m. on the date. And I was like, 'Hell, what is he doing?'" she said.

But that work-culture shock dissipated when Frechen found herself working well after regular business hours. "I get it now," she said. "I know it makes sense."

NYC work culture isn't for everyone, but it is for 'entrepreneurs,' she says

Frechen only realized she'd adapted to her new work-life balance on her first birthday in NYC. She had a friend visiting from Germany and planned to celebrate her birthday the night before. That all changed when she got a work request from her boss at 10 p.m.

"My best friend was like, 'I can't believe it, we're sitting here, your birthday is in 30 minutes, and you're typing on your laptop,'" she said. "She goes, 'You're so different compared to how you were when you still lived in Germany.'"

NYC has changed Frechen and her approach to work. But in her case, she said it's for the better.

Frechen didn't know she wanted to be a business owner until she moved to NYC.
Frechen didn't know she wanted to be a business owner until she moved to NYC.Courtesy of Lena Frechen

According to Frechen, NYC is perfect for entrepreneurs, which she didn't know she wanted to be until she moved.

"Living in Germany, I never had the idea of actually opening my own company, having my own business, but people here are so inspiring," she said.

Frechen said she now works seven days a week — balancing her full-time job with starting her own social-media business, Lyfsocials.

She also said she's not alone. Most people Frechen knows have two to three jobs, some to afford to live in NYC, others to have an income while creating their own business.

Frechen, who is biracial, also said seeing Black people succeed in the US has been a huge motivator.

"I'm surrounded by way more Black people than I was in Germany," she said. "Especially me living in Brooklyn, there are so many Black-owned businesses, which I really support, it makes me proud."

For now, Frechen is more than happy with her decision to leave behind the work-life balance she had in Germany for the hustle culture of NYC.

But for how long, she doesn't yet know.

"I don't think New York is something for everyone, and maybe also not forever," Frechen said.

Read the original article on Business Insider