Collage of the painting "The Creation of Adam", but with modern accessories such as sunglasses, a laptop and a game controller and a cap.
Collage: Philipp Sipos. Images: IMAGO / Pond5 Images / NurPhoto / ABACAPRESS / Westend61 / Everett Collection / Cover-Images 

We Asked NEETs What They Do All Day

"I've worked out a pretty good routine: I wake up around 6AM, do yoga, and then try to work on myself."

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

“Kids these days are lazy. Nobody wants to work anymore.” I bet you heard that a lot at Christmas, particularly after Uncle Nigel got his hands on the eggnog. But while it’s considered normal for a 20-something to work shit jobs and live in a micro-studio flat while figuring out who they want to be, some people have decided to opt out of this enticing lifestyle.


In the UK, 13.8 percent of people aged 18 to 24 are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs), meaning they pretty much “do nothing all day” except be healthy and potentially productive members of society. But what is it actually like to live a life where free time is bountiful? What do you do with your day if you don’t have to work? We spoke to some NEETs to find out.

‘If I keep going like this, my financial cushion will last me five more years’

“After graduating high school, I started a degree in IT and quickly realised it wasn't for me. It wasn’t practical at all, and somehow both too demanding and too boring. During the programme, my father passed away. Thanks to his inheritance, I could afford to take some time to think about everything. 

“That was in 2018, five years ago. Since then, I've been considering which path is right for me. In the meantime, I enjoy my free time and still do some programming, but without any pressure. People have a hard time understanding my decision and often give me unsolicited advice. Sometimes, it bothers me, but I try not to let it get to me too much.

“I’m happy. I don't live in luxury – I’m still at home – and if I continue like this, my financial cushion will last for about five more years. By then, I'll hopefully know how I want to proceed.” – David, 24


‘In my social circle, doing nothing at all isn’t that uncommon’

“I dropped out of school in year ten because I was severely bullied. Since then, I've tried all sorts of jobs: in social media management; training as an animal caregiver; working in gastronomy; as a housecleaner. I was even a postal worker for a while. 

“In all these jobs, I wasn’t treated well as a person, and they weren’t fulfilling either. I felt like a puppet, always having to do what I was told without being able to make decisions. 

“Today, I live with my small dog in a small apartment, and spend about 40 percent of my time working on myself. In the remaining 60 percent, I take online courses. In my social circle, people aren't too concerned about what someone does for a living, and doing nothing at all isn’t that uncommon. I believe people need time to find themselves before entering the workforce. That's why I’ve been staying home for now.

“I currently finance my life through benefits, which I don't particularly enjoy. When I meet new people, I sometimes feel embarrassed about my situation. They tell me about all the cool things they've done and achieved. Then come the questions and I have to justify myself. I think they don't see the emotional reasons behind my decisions, but I certainly won't do nothing forever.” – Leonie, 22


‘I radiate enthusiasm when talking about my life and free time’

“I finished high school and enrolled in university, but I'm not studying. I finance my shared apartment and life with student benefits and other aid. Sometimes, if the money isn't enough, I work a bit. Last year, I had my own stand at the Christmas market selling vegan burgers.

“Thinking about it now, I probably became a NEET because of the German school system – it didn't necessarily foster my strengths. I'm very creative but have dyslexia. Because of the bad experiences I had in school, I didn’t want to start a degree right after graduation. Besides, with my grades, I wouldn't have been able to enrol into any of the programmes I was interested in.

“Studying would’ve given my life structure. Sometimes it's hard for me to manage my day without external appointments. But I've worked out a pretty good routine: I wake up around 6AM, do yoga, and then try to work on myself. 

“My parents aren't big fans of my lifestyle. They've already written me off and think I'll never amount to anything. My friends envy me, though. I always radiate enthusiasm when talking about my life and my free time. Maybe they realise studying isn’t 100 percent fulfilling.” – Celina, 25


‘I was treated like a tool that could easily be replaced’

“I haven't been doing anything for about a year. After graduating high school, I started an apprenticeship in a warehouse of a car manufacturer, but it was so terrible I had to quit. I wasn't treated like a human being there, more like a tool that could be easily replaced.

“When I got sick with COVID during the peak of the pandemic, I had to explain multiple times why I wasn't at work. I just wasn't valued. I was never allowed to take breaks and never got a single thank you.

“I live with my girlfriend on a separate floor in my foster dad’s apartment – that's why I don't have high expenses. In one or two years, I want to start my own business with my him. We want to buy cars from abroad and repair them.

“I think we can be successful, so I'm not too worried about my future. My older relatives often bring up questions about my retirement and tell me about their own professional accomplishments at my age. But my foster dad didn't know what he wanted to do for a long time and understands me because of that.” – ​​Lukas, 21

‘My parents label me as lazy’

“I finished secondary school two years ago, at 16, and have been on a break since then. I still live with my parents, so financially it's manageable. After school, I figured I’d have plenty of time to enter the workforce – free time I’d never be able to have again later on. 

“The people around me didn’t take my decision well, though. My parents label me as lazy and think I confirm the stereotype that Gen Z don’t want to work. That's why I'm a bit embarrassed to admit to others that I currently don't have a job or an apprenticeship. Society doesn't look kindly on that.

“But I'm not really doing 'nothing': I meet friends and work on creative projects. In between, I also look for positions. I don't want to do nothing forever, but the break is good for me right now. I believe more people should take time for themselves and their mental health after school.” – Mathilde, 18