Almost American raises a timely point in yesterday’s comment.
It’s true that Europe gets billions more holiday time off than the states. And people sort of say it like one of those Facts We All Know. Like socialized healthcare and driving on the left side.
B U T I think it’s worth a stop and a think. What is up with the U.S. (aside from teachers and civil servants)? Where did it evolve in the culture that women should go back to work after three months max of maternity leave and that everyone should spend most of their working lives with two vacation weeks a year (if that)? When you’re living in it, and there is no ability to compare, I suppose we all accept it. After all, three months maternity leave might seem like a lot. And most people can craftily sort out all their vacation needs in 2 weeks.
In my office yesterday, a colleague was telling us how because he had been at the firm 18 years, he had accrued 3 extra vacation days. So instead of the 25 that we all start off with (yep, 25…FIVE WEEKS), he was at 28. And then stories were compared about other UK firms where the days were accrued even earlier. And I looked at them and said, jokingly, “I hope for your sakes you never work in the U.S.” And they looked at me, with dead seriousness, and said, “that’s exactly why we never will.”
So it’s really special for an entire country (America) to have that reputation. Overworking its people, not valuing a healthy balance, stingy on the ability to actually care for a baby (in the UK, you can take up to one year mat leave and still have a job waiting for you)…
According to my very scientific research on the internets, the United States is the only wealthy nation with an advanced economy that does not mandate employers offer paid vacation time or paid sick days to its employees. Even Wikipedia has something to say about all this:
Most countries around the world have labor laws mandating employers give a certain number of paid days of time off per year to be given to a worker. In nearly all Canadian provinces, the legal minimum is two weeks, while in most of Europe the limit is significantly higher. The U.S. does not require employers to give a set mandatory vacation time. However, in the free-market labor system in the United States, many employers offer paid vacation, typically 10 to 20 work days, as an incentive to attract employees.
I am not becoming a Eurolefty. I see the problems in employment in systems over here where the employees have too many rights and feelings of entitlement and exploit them. But the U.S. just isn’t good enough. And I honestly don’t know how I could ever assimilate back in to its work culture. I mean, do you know what five weeks off feels like? It feels like you could have quality time with family, be a happier person, regroup and see places in the world that will re-energize you and possibly even make you want to work hard. It feels like the opposite of prison.
Um, happy Friday?