American Vacation Time/Holidays

In the United States, people live to work while in other areas of the world people work to live. Or at least, this is a common stereotype about Americans and people who live in other parts of the world. The average working American gets two weeks (sometimes three if theyre lucky) of vacation time a year while it isnt uncommon for individuals living in Spain, Italy and other parts of Western Europe to have the entire summer off, which is something that shocks Americans when they visit Madrid or Rome in the middle of the summer. In the news weve heard about workers in Western Europe facing a cut in their social benefits, however, their vacation time is never touched (Geoghegan 2010). Meanwhile, American workers employed during this desperate financial time are not taking their vacations in fear of losing their jobs if they do or of appearing not committed enough (hence replaceable) to their employers. There is something to be said for having a balance between life and work. It can be argued that is an individual isnt well-rested and doesnt feel adequately appreciated and compensated for their work (which includes compensation as vacation time), they wont be as good of workers as they can be. Working too much can also have detrimental effects on a persons health, which is one of the reasons this problem needs to be addressed in the United States. What do other countries do? How are countries like Italy, France and Spain able to offer their employees four, six and sometimes eight weeks of vacation time a year (2010)? This paper will address some of the differences in employee benefits and attitudes in the United States and Western European countries and will examine some of the benefits of offering individuals more vacations and longer holidays. It will also touch on some of the ideological factors involved.

In the CNN article entitled “Why is American the no-vacation nation?,” Pawlowski (2011) states that if you like to take vacations and see the world, dont live in the United States.

While the United States does have a handful of national holidays (e.g., the 4th of July, MLK day, Presidents day, Christmas and New Years), most companies only offer their employees two weeks of paid vacation a year. If one is lucky, they might get three weeks of paid vacation, however, many companies do not like their employees taking off more than one week at a time (2011). Many American companies also expect their employees to be on-call or to check in during their holidays (2011). How does one do that while hiking in the mountains of Peru or relaxing by the sea in Italy? Many employees think of a vacation as a time when you simply work from somewhere else (2011) and they arent wrong in thinking it.

Pawlowski (2011) notes that only 57% of U.S. workers use all of their entitled vacation days while 89% of workers in France use the days they are entitled. In Germany, the average worker gets six weeks of paid vacation a year, plus national holidays; this is considered the norm (2011). Pawlowski (2011) also states that it is typical for Germans to take off three consecutive weeks in August when the country pretty much shuts down. This is not to say that Germans dont work as hard as Americans because they do; however, perhaps they consider their family life just as important as their work life. In American culture, individuals identify themselves by what they do and the longer hours they put in, the more successful they feel as an individual. However, even though our culture prizes the diligent worker, studies show that the worker who does not take adequate time off suffers personally as do their family and even the employer in the long run (Quigley 2011).

One of the main reasons for the discrepancy in vacation in different parts of the world and in the United States is that paid vacation time is often mandated by law in many.

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