The Reason I Envy Europeans

I don’t consider myself an envious person and until recently I never thought I envied anyone.  I feel very privileged to live a life that most people are not fortunate to have.  At the same time I love to travel but so far in order to be able to do a lot of traveling I’ve had to keep a full time job.  Every year I save as much vacation time as possible but it’s just not enough vacation time.   The lack of vacation time we North America is what leads me to envy Europeans.  When it comes to vacation time nobody beats them.

Time poverty in North America is a real crisis. “I need a vacation” is a familiar phrase in North America and with good reason. Canada and the U.S. are no-vacation-nations. If you live in North America you’ll know that the average vacation time is ten to fifteen days and in order to obtain more you really have to negotiate with your employer. Can you believe that the United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day? Europe is very different. Every country in the European Union has at least four weeks of paid vacation. Why is it that we North Americans don’t view vacation as a human right? Is human right not something to envy? Some may argue that it’s because vacation time reduces productivity but I beg to differ. The United States is not doing much better than countries like Germany, or France and these two countries provide their workers with plenty of vacation time. Germany gets 34 days of paid vacation time and France gets 31.

I must admit, Canada’s not doing so well either. We have miserable allowances for paid vacation time among the world’s wealthiest nations. A recent study from the U.S. Center for Economic and Policy Research indicates that Canada is way down the list. Canada is only ahead of two countries when it comes to paid time off. Only Japan and the United States rank lower. How embarrassing! Canada gives its workers a statutory minimum of ten vacation days and has only nine public holidays. If you ask me that’s lousy. Workers in Western Europe and Latin America get far more vacation time than their North American colleagues and to make matters worse, there are even people that feel guilty taking their crummy ten days off.

Europeans got it right. They’ve acknowledged that a healthy and content workforce is a fruitful one. So what can we do to change our situation? Take Back Your Time is an organization that is working on changing this but they need our help so please take some time and visit their website. They have proposed bills in the United States and pressed the case to improve benefits for Canadians, but so far nothing has changed. Why should employers offer more vacation time to employees? The answer is simple: vacation time should be regarded as a basic human right. We have the right to be healthy and happy. We have the right to take back our time and be free.

Do you think North America has a good reason to envy Europe?

 

Here's the reason why I envy europeans:  They can take more vacation time than I do to enjoy places such as the Dominican Republic.

Bahia Principe Resort – Puna Cana, Dominican Republic

9 Responses to The Reason I Envy Europeans

  1. Amen!

    Spirit Strike June 8, 2013 at 2:20 AM Reply
  2. I completely agree! I am incredibly lucky to get five weeks of paid time off a year, and since I rarely call in sick, all of those days can go towards traveling. But I am certainly in the minority in the US.

    katherinebelarmino June 12, 2013 at 3:38 AM Reply
    • Yes you are. This has to change. I don’t know why very little is being done to change this. I used to get 4 weeks but that was because I had been with my employer for 8 years. Now I only get 3 and if I want more I take an unpaid leave.

      I Will Travel June 12, 2013 at 4:58 AM Reply
  3. I so agree! When we lived in New Zealand I got two weeks vacation the first year and three weeks shortly thereafter. My friends who had been there longer had four glorious weeks.
    Then we moved to the States where two weeks are the norm and my first boss told me, “But we don’t expect you to take them!” I think he was serious because a year later I told him I would be wanting my two weeks in May and he said, “What for?”
    I said I was going to Europe and he replied, “We’ll see” and walked away!
    Of course he was the same man who told me I was “such a nice girl” when I asked for a well-deserved raise and promotion. A nice girl of thirty-something with two children, but I had to leave to get that promotion…. sorry I digress ( guess I’m still sore!)

    cindamackinnon June 21, 2013 at 4:31 AM Reply
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  5. Hello Will!! I am not surprised to read this post. I am from Spain, a country know for having more vacation than working days and also worked in Germany, Hungary and the UK:..If you want to add more details to your “envy post” I would tell you that some employees have 3 days a month to call sick without getting a doctor sick certificate or being deducted their salaries. You can also work in one country (let’s say UK) for a while, then leave to another EU country and claim your tax back.
    Many companies in Spain will allow to take 6 months unpaid leave and get you back in your same position afterwards…
    I better stop…I can feel your envy coming to here ;)

    noelfy June 23, 2013 at 5:13 PM Reply
    • Hi Noelfy, it amazes and shames me that North America is so far behind on this. The quality of life would improve so much if only we looked at Europe. I was not aware about all the other benefits you mentioned. I am more envious now than I was before; that’s for sure. :) Thank you for stopping by.

      I Will Travel June 23, 2013 at 6:06 PM Reply
  6. We’ve been living here in the NL almost a year from the US. I agree that they do indeed, have it right. I was talking to someone about this the other day- he works in Germany for the same company as my husband- and is also an expat. He said that it’s all about business. People get their work done. There’s no fooling around, not messing around on Facebook, etc. They have their job, they complete it- and enjoy the time outside of work. Working on the weekends isn’t done because the efficiency is there to have it done during the week. I realize that it’s not like this everywhere- but what a change.

    Farrah (@Momofthreeunder) August 25, 2013 at 7:37 AM Reply
    • Hi Farrah, definitely a change! I wish we adopted that way of thinking here in North America. I think people would enjoy their jobs a lot more and also be able to spend more quality time with their family.

      Will Castillo August 26, 2013 at 7:41 PM Reply

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