american worker slaves, eat your heart out

It is no secret that Americans stereotype and criticize (not criticise) what we view as a “European” work ethic- generally considered lazy and unproductive, and with onerous labor restrictions and more strikes in a week than the U.S. has had in its entire history.

Now, I can’t say I know much about the truth of all that. But I do have a unique vantage point in that out of hundreds of thousands of expats living in London, I am one of the few that has to job search like a local. Plus I meet a lot of people. Plus my husband manages Europeans. So I have learned a thing or two.*

Here goes:

  • Job descriptions will blatantly start out by telling you it’s only a 35 hour work week.
  • Then the job listing will mention there are 25 days off a year.
  • THEN they will actually tell you about the job duties.
  • Many jobs are listed as being for “maternity cover.” They don’t hide this fact, and often the post will be for 6 months or a year. That’s right, women get paid for that much time off.
  • The people Bryan manages ask for a lot of time off, and time off for reasons that any American reading this blog could not even possibly fathom. E.g. Needing 2 weeks off because of a bad break-up. Even when my friend pulled that excuse in law school for why she missed ONE class, I was in awe.
  • Usually a job listing will also dictate that resumes (you know, CVs) will be accepted until one month later, and then interviews will be held in two months. Pretty speedy process you see.
  • The converse of that is that it’s not unusual for Bryan’s company to hire someone and they have to give their previous employer THREE MONTHS notice.
  • It is very very very difficult to fire someone. You have to go through months of procedures and warnings and helpful advice to the lazy-ass you want to get rid of. You also have to give him daily foot massages and a huge bear hug once you do finally get him out the door. If you’re able. He might stay forever. But if he leaves, it will take a while. And then he will sue you.
  • Did I mention 25 days off per year? Apparently that is the minimum by law. MINIMUM. Plus 9 bank holidays. And even then people will call in sick and not use their actual time off.
  • A longtime UK lawyer I spoke to almost fell off his chair when I mentioned my old firm gives about a week off a year. He might have started crying, I can’t remember.
  • “Someone” here I know has an employee (making oh, I don’t know, $150K a year) who wears jeans to work because he said he can’t afford pants. So the company gave him a loan for pants.
  • This is all so bizarre, and yet…
  • Americans are huge suckers.

*Obviously many British people are very hard-working and dedicated to their jobs. Those people blame the EU for the new laws. Many people blame the EU for a lot of things. We’ll leave that for another day.



Filed under bryan, career, london, politics...sike!

7 responses to “american worker slaves, eat your heart out

  1. mira

    I think this sounds awesome. do you guys have room for me in your flat so I can get a “job” there? After all…americans have watches but we don’t have time (saying I learned from friend I made in the ugandan hinterlands). All we do is die in the end so why not have our 25 days off and enjoy it 🙂 Okay…gotta get back to work, I’ve only worked 50 hours this week so far.

  2. Couple of years ago when I was back in the frigid confines of the motherland (DK), a group of unionized workers (can’t remember what group – they are all unionized) was striking because they were not getting enough paid vacation. Currently they were at 5 weeks paid but were striking to get 6 weeks paid.
    Strike worked, and it’s now 6 weks paid, not counting all the other days off! Sigh.

  3. Marlene

    so, i’m currently 5 months pregnant and awaiting my unpaid maternity leave that some a-hole co-workers keep referring to as a vacation. yup, i’m definitely eating my heart out!

  4. Pingback: Don’t be a Sucker « Ken Sharpe

  5. Snosh

    i got my review last week and of course got exceptional feedback, all outstandings, EXCEPT for attendance. i accrue something miserable like 4 hours/month of PTO (vacay and sick time). but i refuse to give up my quality of life and so went on spring break, went to the gynecologist, went on job interviews and was bold enough to take docked time for all of that. now they are withholding any PTO from me for … i don’t know how long. it sucks here. i can’t even get time to go to the dentist … oh did i mention i regularly do about 10- 15 hours of overtime a week? ugh. save us.

  6. Pingback: googlers, come to me « the part where we move to london

  7. Pingback: Don’t be a Sucker | Ken Sharpe

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