You load 16 tons, what do you get?
June 5, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

U.S. workers will leave an average 4 vacation days on the table this year, one more than last year, according to the 6th annual Vacation Deprivation Survey sponsored by Expedia. This despite the fact that at an average of 14 days total, we are already deprived, trailing Australia (17), Canada (19), Great Britain (24), Germany (27), and France (39) in holiday time. Why don't we get more time off? And why aren't we using the time we do get? [Full results (PDF))]
posted by madamjujujive (89 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
we don't get more time off because we're suckers and love working till we drop dead.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 8:33 AM on June 5, 2006


Money.
posted by dazed_one at 8:35 AM on June 5, 2006


In many cases, the answer to both question is a lack of unions.
posted by veggieboy at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2006


There's always some fucker out there who will only take 12 days of vacation and then your job.
posted by pokermonk at 8:37 AM on June 5, 2006


Sounds like 4 days too many to me! Back to work children!
posted by geoff. at 8:38 AM on June 5, 2006


I didn't mean to drop an f-bomb... Sorry. Touchy subject.
posted by pokermonk at 8:39 AM on June 5, 2006


pokermonk: not in other countries apparently. Maybe not even in US, but certainly remaining poor helps this kind of outlook must-steal-job whatever the cost.
posted by elpapacito at 8:39 AM on June 5, 2006


As an American, there's a part of me that finds this statistic revolting.
posted by chicobangs at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2006


let's not forget the unwritten rule which states "Sure you have 4 sick days and 2 personal days, but you really shouldn't use them if you expect that promotion, raise, good evaluation...
posted by Gungho at 8:42 AM on June 5, 2006


Most of the papers I've read attribute this to different work / life balance between European and Americans. I think the expression is something like "Americans live to work, Europeans work to live".

As an American who moved to England in 1998, my first reaction to getting 25 days annual leave (and another ten or so of public holidays) was what the hell am I gonna do with all that time off? The first few years I didn't even use it all.

Now I relish the time off, and ever year try to take at least one break of three weeks minimum.
posted by Mutant at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2006



In many cases, the answer to both question is a lack of unions.


My sister is in a prominent union and gets well below the U.S. average of vacation days.
posted by pokermonk at 8:44 AM on June 5, 2006


In my working life, I've yet to leave a single vacation day on the table. I've been lucky to have employers/bosses that realize that all work and no play make me a very unhappy and unproductive boy. I'm lucky and hope that I can continue to have above average vacation time per year and the ability to actually take it.

I also make it pretty damn clear that when I'm on vacation, that means I'm not calling the office, checking voicemail or email. I know some people who, even when "on vacation" are still working several hours a day.

I only fear things will get worse in the US as employees will have little leverage in negotiating vacations and employers can always find the fuckers out there willing to work w/o vacation for less that pokermonk talks about.
posted by birdherder at 8:44 AM on June 5, 2006


I've been in the IT workforce since 1981. My vacation time went from two weeks with a week at Xmas for plant shutdown, to three weeks + a week in 1990. Since then, it's been bouncing from one failing company to another, and I'm now down to 10 days per year. So yes ... as a software developer with 25 years experience I get less vacation now than I did as a fresh graduate.

US companies do not offer tons of vacation time because they consider it a waste. Big ones are in high competition; small companies have that PLUS owners who are often workaholics who think you should be, too.

I have resolved that one of the questions I will always ask during an interview is: "How much of YOUR vacation do you actually take?" If a manager or the Big Boss tells me they do not take all their vacation, then I don't want to work there.
posted by Mur at 8:45 AM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


My sister is in a prominent union and gets well below the U.S. average of vacation days.

And it will never increase? If that's the case, sounds like a crappy union.

Look, I recognize that not all unions are going to be great. And they create some problems while they solve others. But from my perspective, one of the problems they often solve is this one.
posted by veggieboy at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2006


birdherder, you raise the issue of whether technology frees us for more leisure time or tightens the shackles. The first time I saw that msft ad about a guy sitting on a beach with a computer, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. For many, technology just means that the thin line between work and personal life has attenuated further.

I now work for myself, so I am now willing to accept some blurring of the lines, but when I worked for "the man," there was strong pressure to check in while on vacation - "just keep in touch with your email and voice mail in case there is an emergency." No thank you.

Some companies seem to be moving to "earned time" - lumping vacation, sick, and discretionary holidays in one pot. I've seen that work well. When I worked under this system, I liked it because I rarely used my sick time so I got to use it for other purposes, increasing my leisure time.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2006


I use up my vacation, though usually I end up working at my folks place (manual labour, not tethered to the company firewall) rather than an actual fun vacation. One thing I've noticed since moving to the U.S. is that people seem more worried about keeping up with the Jonses than with enjoying life. Sure, maybe they've got a bleeding ulcer and a nervous twitch but they've got a loaded BMW or SUV and a big boat at a cottage they never visit.
posted by substrate at 9:01 AM on June 5, 2006


Since switching my career field to IT I've found that job hopping is no longer a great sin. That being the case, leveraging my paid time off into terminal pay has worked out to an extra paycheck every other year or so. I've also found that the continuing march of project deadlines set from on high makes organizing anything more than a long weekend nearly impossible—which is how I find myself with a month of PTO at the end of a job in the first place. both places worked on the lumped together vacation/sick hours plan which explains why I could accummulate so much time in a relatively brief period

I do remember from my time being stationed in Germany that the combination of state and regional holidays worked out to ~54 paid holidays a year which I thought was a clever way to get a de facto four day work week.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2006


Bah, I get 19 paid vacation days per year, plus 12 sick. In the past year I've used maybe five vacation days (and three sick days). Why am I not using them all? Other than the fact that I can bank them (and not lose them), once I get to a certain point I can sell back my days at my current rate. So while I was earning the days at my lower wage, I can sell them back at the (higher) wage I make now.
posted by SirOmega at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2006


Also, I'd never work for a union. While I might get more vacation and slightly better benefits I'd rather get promotions based on my competence rather than my length of service. It's bad enough without a union.
posted by substrate at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2006


I don't have a problem with the number of days I get. I always end up with days left around Christmas, so that's about right.

OTOH, I do have some issues with how much resistance there is to taking it consecutively in the US. One week is nothing. Two weeks is a concern. Three weeks is a major problem that needs approval. And I want to take three weeks in a row, every so often.
posted by smackfu at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2006


I'm in a small business, and always have been associated with them my whole life. I've never really taken 'vacation' and truth be told, for me, work and leisure have always blurred just because I like what I do and it never really seems like an imposition to do something for work while I am 'on vacation'.

Vacations bore me most of the time and I tend to get antsy after a few days of no work. But that's just me.
posted by tgrundke at 9:04 AM on June 5, 2006


Noone else questions the fact that a vacation website is finding that many Americans have unused vacation days?

Seems a little, I dunno, suspect to me...
posted by Cycloptichorn at 9:05 AM on June 5, 2006


I'd rather get promotions based on my competence rather than my length of service

That makes sense to me , problem is competence doesn't increase in a linear fashion nor is the evaluation of competence standardized ; in other words, you don't have enough experience so you don't get the job, you are too experienced for this job and we can't pay you for your experience.
posted by elpapacito at 9:11 AM on June 5, 2006


Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.
Conversely:
Take a lousy vacation and you'll wish you were back at work.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:17 AM on June 5, 2006


One thing I've noticed since moving to the U.S. is that people seem more worried about keeping up with the Jonses than with enjoying life.

Where in the world is that not the case? Point me there. Sounds like it'd be a nice place to live if it existed.
posted by blucevalo at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2006


Some companies seem to be moving to "earned time" - lumping vacation, sick, and discretionary holidays in one pot.
They also call it "PTO time". Personal Time Off. It's great if you are a healthy-as-a-horse single. Got kids? Little ones? What as all that PTO time gets eaten away by all the little illnesses and doctor appts. that kids arre prone to. Have to stay home with a sick kid? Got to burn a PTO day.

Where I last worked, they had PTO time. Of course, what they did was set it to the number of vacation days you got under the previous, traditional system. 14 days. Under the previous system, there was a couple of days allowance beyond vacation time for illness or emergency. Under PTO, you are held to the 14 days. You were "empowered" to "take control" of your time and use it as you saw fit. Never mind that the family vacation you had booked months in advance got buggered because the time you had to take for some medical emergency took away from the vacation time you had blocked out. You could buy more days. Of course, then you came under the watchful eyes of managers who had a problem with all the time you are spending away from the office.

To answer the question"Why don't Americans use their vacation time?"... Fear. Fear of losing their job because they are seen as not being "dedicated" to the program. Fear that the moment you leave is the moment the big boss comes looking for you for that "mission critical" project. Fear that they will find someone else in the office who will gladly do your job for less pay.
Americans live in fear of every damn thing in their lives anymore. Businesses count on it and use it.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:26 AM on June 5, 2006


My siblings in Ireland find the whole concept of a defined number of sick days hilarious.

Well, that and not having 27 vacation days a year + flexitime . . . .
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2006


Anyone who says that vacations bore them isn't planning very good vacations. One idea: strap on a pack and hike the 11-mile Kalalau Valley Trail through NaPali coast on the Hawai'ian Island of Kauai. Let me know if you're "bored" then.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:31 AM on June 5, 2006


Can we blame companies that are born of American culture? Consider that Americans traditionally greet introductions with, "so what do you do [for work]?" It's not totally fear; it's a cultural expectation.
posted by zennie at 9:32 AM on June 5, 2006


I get 18 days this year - 15 vacation plus 3 personal days. At almost the half way point of the year I've used 4 days, and I really only have plans for about 5 more. That's barely half.

Everybody is focusing on American's working too hard, but I wonder if the over leveraged lifestyle most of us live in has a part too? Even if you are secure enough in your job to take a two week vacation - do you have the extra $5000 it will likely cost you to take the family to the beach for two weeks?
posted by COD at 9:40 AM on June 5, 2006


Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.
Conversely:
Take a lousy vacation and you'll wish you were back at work.


A bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work.
posted by JanetLand at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2006


blucevalo writes "One thing I've noticed since moving to the U.S. is that people seem more worried about keeping up with the Jonses than with enjoying life.

"Where in the world is that not the case? Point me there. Sounds like it'd be a nice place to live if it existed."


Uhm Rome, Italy ? Many don't give a rat about keeping up with your delusions
posted by elpapacito at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2006


See, in America, we think fun, leisure, free time, etc., are bad things. They lead to the Devil.

And there is also greed. We like greed.
posted by c13 at 9:48 AM on June 5, 2006


do you have the extra $5000 it will likely cost you to take the family to the beach for two weeks?

In North America we have so little vacation time I think we feel pressured to use it to go away and have a fabulous experience. My brother (in Ireland) uses a good portion of his 30 or so days off a year for week long DIY projects on his house, or my gran's house. My Dad takes two weeks off every Xmas and spends time at friends and families homes.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2006


I'd rather get promotions based on my competence rather than my length of service

I'd rather get promotions based on my competence rather than my sycophancy, but the only place I ever worked where that applied went out of business. If Wall Street doesn't reward corporations for competence (and it rarely does) and Boards of Directors don't reward CEOs for competence (you've seen the CEO income stats), then why should you expect your personal bosses to? There aren't enough jobs at Google for everyone, and even they are now suspect...
posted by wendell at 9:51 AM on June 5, 2006


Of course I leave vacation days on the table. American vacation days are mythical anyway. No one covers for me while I'm gone. If I take five days of vacation this week, work just piles up in my absence, and I spend an extra 35 hours the following week(s) just catching up. No real net gain.
posted by klarck at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2006


Remind me never to work in the USA.
posted by knapah at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2006


Firstly America does have more of a workaholic / live to work culture. I put this down to a puritan streak that most of Europe lacks.

Secondly America is more materialistic. When the great productivity leap after the second world war took place, Europeans said "Cool we can take longer holidays" and Americans said "Cool, we can buy more stuff."

The second, particularly has become self-perpetuating. In America wealth = social standing. Of course, it affects social standing in Europe to, but to nothing like the same degree.

I'm not saying either's right or wrong: you can see yanks as greedheads or the French as lazy. But that's pretty much all there is to it.
posted by rhymer at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2006


Work for yourself and you are in charge of your own life
posted by Mick at 10:09 AM on June 5, 2006


I'm not a very good boss, even for myself.
posted by smackfu at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2006


well I hate to rub it in, but its yet another national hiloday in Norway today.

I left the US 10 years ago and had difficulties adjusting to the holiday time and different methods of working. However the mantra is work to live, not live to work soon replaced worrying about my TPS reports.

Also - I do find this quite amusing. 60 minutes had a program a while ago about how Americans are enjoying working more than 60 hours a week, which to me is crazy, but stupid is as stupid does.

America keeps working more and more, sacrifing personal lives, families and friends for a good review --- however studies consistantly prove across the board European and Asian workers are more productive. I have witnessed it first hand across Europe and Scandinavia.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 10:12 AM on June 5, 2006


Many don't give a rat about keeping up with your delusions

No delusions here. I was just genuinely curious. I do agree with rhymer's point though. The US does have a materialistic/workaholic streak that's maybe not as pervalent in Europe.

Rome seemed chock-a-block with traffic, pollution, dirt, and noise when I was last there, a sure sign of competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome.
posted by blucevalo at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2006


Of course I leave vacation days on the table. American vacation days are mythical anyway. No one covers for me while I'm gone. If I take five days of vacation this week, work just piles up in my absence, and I spend an extra 35 hours the following week(s) just catching up. No real net gain.

Exactly.

I took a month of paternity leave off after the daughter was born. When I came back, not only did I have a month of work, but my cow orkers had taken everything off the shelves above my desk and put it on my desk. There had been a water leak, so they thought to pull all the years-old archived books off the shelf to spare them from the water, but then they expected me to put them all back.

And they didn't do jack to stop everything else on my desk from getting wet.

So, I'm always a little skittish about leaving for more than a few days, because it's pretty clear what my cow orkers value.

I still work there because I get 20 vacation days + 12 sick days. If I went anywhere else, I'd get 10 days of PTO a year. And with a daughter in daycare, I'd burn that in the first two months.
posted by dw at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2006


After 10 years I am at about 6 weeks vacation, 2 1/2 weeks sick (sick time rolls over from year to year so I could actually be sick for... um... just over 3 months right now). I use the vacation time, even if it means hanging out at home and catching up on things to do... but then I have gotten out of the habit of defining myself by the work I do. When someone asks "what do you do?" I mention work briefly, but then talk about everything else (music, freelance design, school, art promotion, outdoor stuff... etc) and the better conversations concern those things.

Work to live is the way to go.
Screw the Puritan work ethic. Do what needs to be done and find something interesting to do the rest of the time.
posted by edgeways at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2006


Of note: at least in France, if a public holiday is on a weekend then you don't get a day off on the Friday/Monday to make up for it, unlike the USA/Canada.

One of the reasons I left my last job because people who had been there for five years were still only getting 10 days of vacation a year. Now I work for a Canadian company that offers 35 hour work weeks and 5 weeks of vacation time after the first year. If you look hard enough you can find opportunities like this too. And be sure to make "lack of holiday time" a point on your exit interview.
posted by furtive at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2006


Good post madam - and a bit unusual for you.

25 days vacation and the encouragement to actually take them is 25 of the 100 reasons why this American prefers to live in Europe. The 365 days of paid maternity/paternity leave here in Sweden is another. Funny how these Godless, socialist countries focus so much on the family.

Europeans and Scandinavians more productive at work? Very doubtful, but they are certainly productive at home as they actually get to spend some time there. Of course the taxes are high and wages are lower, but there are actually more important things in life than money.
posted by three blind mice at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2006


do you have the extra $5000 it will likely cost you to take the family to the beach for two weeks?

Wow. Is that seriously the normal figure for a two-week in holiday within the US?
posted by funambulist at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2006


Remind me never to work in the USA....Me too!
....wait...... Dammit!


Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

I love my job but still can't wait for vacation. I second "if your vacations bore you then you need to take better vacations" from above. Or, maybe, develope more of a personal life. I seem to be immune to this American Live-to-Work bug I keep hearing about. I've yet to take a vacation that wasn't worth the week or so catch-up time required of me when I get back. And some of those vacations have been "staying home and doing next to nothing" vacations.
posted by srw12 at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2006


I just had to chime in with a few obvious, but essential, bon mots.

This one is stolen, but as the saying goes, if you win the rat race, you're still a rat. And for those who said, "Well, work piles up when I'm gone on vacation, and it's not worth it!"

<sarcasm>Yeah, that's the right way to think. </sarcasm>

There will always be work for you at your current job until you're talking with the HR director about how they have a lovely, paid 2-day severance package for you, hand over everything that the company provided you with, and buh-bye.

Work all your life if you want to without vacation time. Personally, I wouldn't work a day if I could get away with it. But there's this need to avoid starvation and homelessness that drives me (and lots of other people).

But I don't worry any more whether there will be work for me at the office when I return.

It's the office. There's work there to be done, or the HR director and I will have a quick little meeting about how I'll be departing post haste.

Just something to think about before you're dead. ;)
posted by Nacho Libre at 10:51 AM on June 5, 2006


Productivity per hour is in fact slightly higher in France than the US. But because of the hours worked, the average french worker only produces around 3/4 as much output as their US counterpart.

Interesting forbes piece on it here.
posted by rhymer at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2006


blucevalo, that's more like a sure sign of anarchy and civic disregard than anything... Greed is by far not an American invention or exclusive, but there are different mentalities about work.

There are also positive things about the US approach. A little balance between extremes would not be a bad thing.
posted by funambulist at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2006


The UK is probably the closest to a half way house...but I'm not sure if anyone here is any happier for it. Perhaps we just sit there wishing our vacations were longer and we could buy more stuff.
posted by rhymer at 11:11 AM on June 5, 2006


I have so many vacation days, that I am at the use or lose point.
posted by barbershopdan at 11:26 AM on June 5, 2006


You load 16 tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.
posted by Sibrax at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2006


The US does have a materialistic/workaholic streak that's maybe not as pervalent in Europe.

I think generalization generally suck. There are american who, Romans who etc etc, nothing applies to everybody without discrimination. It could be that most americans are obsessed by wealth or, maybe, that most americans know that if they don't get enough money they are in for a livel of total, utter, unforgiven misery ! God forbid becoming homeless, it's the same as a death sentence only much worse !

Indeed in europe we are resisting this mentality : if the price for not being afraid of being poor is becoming obsessed, is it worth it ? Maybe being less rich, but slighlty happier is the answer.

Rome seemed chock-a-block with traffic, pollution, dirt, and noise when I was last there, a sure sign of competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome.

All of the above true, except dirt. Consider northern italy is all of above, but generally there is more money in circulation and people are crazed about getting their own little house a-la american sprawl. The fact you see all that traffic isn't caused by "keeping up with" rather by the fact italians are CRAZY about cars, exaclty as much as americans. We don't have bicycle routes and we (bikers) suffer immensely and jump on the car to ease our life, only to get stuck in traffic.

Many people favor mass transit, maybe because the weather is gentle and people LOVE to be on the outside..I don't mind if my neighbours rides a Porsche or a Ferrari or a Benz..good for him, just let me live (and don't live on my work)
posted by elpapacito at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2006


My impression is that most countries are slowly spiralling down the American path - less focus on quality of life, more focus on materialism, but the USA is 20 years ahead of the pack.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2006


Work for a non-profit. The pay is usually in the lower bracket for your chosen field, but the benefits are usually good. I take at least one solid week of time off, plus 4/5 day weekends here and there, and I've still got time in the 'bank'. It does help that I'm content with where I am and not really looking to advance up. But I doubt I'd catch shit about it anyways.
posted by ninjew at 11:35 AM on June 5, 2006


There is something to be said for the idea that if you find something you love to do as work, it won't really feel like working.

I'm a nurse. I love my job. My work is so rewarding, so personally fulfilling, and so invigorating that rather than feel demoralized and exhausted at the end of a shift, I feel more alive than I've ever felt before.

Two weeks of vacation and a few personal and sick days are plenty for me. I honestly don't want to be gone from my job for any longer than that. I'd wilt.

Maybe that means I "live to work," but I wouldn't have it any other way.
posted by jesourie at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2006


I think generalization generally suck.

Generalizations generally suck ⇒ Most of metafilter must suck. QED.

Another generalization! I'm on a roll.
posted by blucevalo at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2006


Interesting FPP, seeing as how I just graduated college and am now getting ready to start the hunt for a jobbity-job. (I'm in the US, btw.)

As far as data points go: My father works for the DOD, and he gets every other Friday off, paid(?), and has a basically unlimited number of "personal/sick" days. But then again, he's been busting his ass for several years and is just about ready to retire.
My mother on the other hand, works her ass off at a Japanese pharmaceutical company that gives her shit when she comes in at 4 in the morning and then leaves at 6 in the afternoon. She always ends up leaving a great deal of her vacation time on the table at the end of the year, with no possibility of rolling it over or being paid for it.

Personally, I'm self-employed, and make my own schedule, typically working only one or two weekends a month. (Of course, being out of school means I will probably end up working a helluva lot more.)
posted by sperose at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2006


Also, I'd never work for a union. While I might get more vacation and slightly better benefits I'd rather get promotions based on my competence rather than my length of service. It's bad enough without a union."

God I hate this chestnut, not every union is like that. The unionized employees here get cost of living raises every year (whee 2% last year) but serious increases come from performance reviews and promotions. No one is promoted unless they can do the job. Yes that means people that have been around for awhile are more likely to move up but that seems like a positive to me. You might actually get some one above you who knows the core business from a hole in the ground.

"I took a month of paternity leave off after the daughter was born."[and work piled up]

Good thing you didn't take the 37 weeks allowed in Canada.

furtive writes "Of note: at least in France, if a public holiday is on a weekend then you don't get a day off on the Friday/Monday to make up for it, unlike the USA/Canada. "

In Alberta you don't get paid for stats that fall on your regular day off.

I get 25 days vacation (20 when I started), 5 days for plant shut down at Christmas, 10 family/sick days and 10 "other" [funerals (including travel to and from), moving, baby delivery etc.] days. They don't roll over. I never leave a vacation day on the table and take most of my sick days even if one or two of those days are "mental health days". I hate guys who come in when they have a cold end up spreading it to the rest of the department.

My vaction days got harvested by family problems this year but I can't wait for my month off next year, I'm hoping to auto camp to the Arctic Ocean.
posted by Mitheral at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2006


I work for a state university in the US and I get 24 personal days, 12 sick days, and 13 holidays. I am by far the most lucky person in my group of friends when it comes to time off. (I also consider myself lucky because I love my job.)

I typically take a long weekend every month or so, depending on how work is going and every few months I'll take a week off at a time to go do something interesting.

I usually try to have some sick days saved up in case of an emergency, but personal days, I only save them if I have a plan for them.

My dad on the other hand worked for the state as well and retired two years early because he'd saved up two years of leave time. He was miserable for his entire career but he could get out early. I'm more of the opinion of enjoy my life while I can. There's no guarantee that the leave time you're saving for retirement will be there, or that you'll be there to use.

Very shortly after I took this job, one of my co-workers decided to work another year before retiring...thinking the money would be helpful. This woman never took a day of sick leave, and only a few days a year for vacation. One weekend she fell into a diabetic coma, and when she recovered two months later decided to retire. She passed away a year after that, and her beneficiaries got the three years of leave time she'd accrued. She never got to enjoy retirement, never got to go any place, never got to do anything for most of her adult life but get up and go to work.

I may be broke when I'm old, I may have to work at Wal-mart to make ends meet when I'm 70; but by god, I'll have lived and done more than just show up to work my whole life.
posted by teleri025 at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2006


sperose writes "My mother on the other hand, works her ass off at a Japanese pharmaceutical company that gives her shit when she comes in at 4 in the morning and then leaves at 6 in the afternoon."

If your Mom has any real experince in the Pharma Industry there is no good reason for her to live like that. My last employer started my with 3 weeks of vacation that became 4 weeks after 1 year. The only reason I left was to work as a contractor and make the added money that comes with the added risk.

Many of the big Pharma houses are European and keep better benefits then most American corps.
posted by BeerGrin at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2006


It used to be that UK academics got ~45 days annually (officially anyway), including xmas and Easter and other holidays, now we get screwed with 'time necessary to carry out allotted tasks' contracts. It's bollocks. And no we don't get the summer off.
posted by biffa at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2006


I'm really not very good at vacationing. I try to take a week off during the summer but I get sort of antsy not being at work. I like my job, I've worked very hard and spent many years in school to get to where I am. I'm interested in my work and I'd like to see my company succeed. I can't really imagine taking a two or three week vacation, I'd probably go nuts.
posted by octothorpe at 1:01 PM on June 5, 2006


On average, Americans each leave four vacation days on the table, whereas other countries do a better job fitting in vacation days.

I believe in California vacation time is a vested interest which cannot be taken away. Meaning it is not a "use it or lose it" scenario.

Due to this many CA employees don't feel the need to take a vacation and instead they just build and build to a ceiling amount before using vacation time.
And also many employees simply cash out when they leave for another job.
posted by Rashomon at 1:52 PM on June 5, 2006


Been working for myself for 25 years. No vacation or sick time allotted. Only work half days; usually the first 12 hours, many pro bono to whatever cause currently attracts my sympathies. Can't remember when I've ever missed dinner with the kids. Been everywhere my whim has pointed and brought the family along when possible. No retirement. No savings to speak of. No regrets.
posted by hal9k at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2006


And why aren't we using the time we do get?

Here in central Europe, I am required to take 26 days off per year, and I am required to take at least 10 of them consecutively. This is in addition to various sick days, family care days, a dozen or so national holidays, and so on. The government keeps tabs on this shit and fines any employer that tries to get around the rules.

These requirements were created because, of course, all bosses everywhere tend to be bastards when they can get away with it. They might "ask" you if you could postpone your holiday until next week, next month, next year, or to cut it short or be on call, but a request is not a request (like "consensual sex" is not really consensual) when you don't think you can turn it down. With the law behind you, you simply take your vacation (and your boss takes his or hers) because you and your boss know there is no other way. And no poxy office weasel can work without vacation and make you look bad for wanting to live a real life.
posted by pracowity at 2:25 PM on June 5, 2006


I once worked somewhere where the first year you worked there, you got NO vacation or sick days. After your first year you got a weeks vacation and 1 sick day. After 2 years you got 2 weeks and 3 sick days. The sick days capped at that point and if you worked there 7 years, then you would get 3 weeks vacation. Since I've left, they've frozen pension plans and give no annual or holiday bonuses.

I get 3 weeks where I'm at now and it all falls under PTO. I could get mono or I could go to Europe.

The only truly crappy thing about this is telecommuting is completely forbidden unless you take a vacation day to do so. That's like saying you can work for free on Saturday.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:42 PM on June 5, 2006


We must all work harder for more pay to compete for the same overpriced real estate!

Enough with the nonsensical talk of vacations.
posted by sien at 4:01 PM on June 5, 2006


I went from a drab uninspiring job (though working with nice people) that gave me 5 weeks of vacation time per year - I could take 2 in a row - to a great job working with great people on challenging projects where I only get 2 weeks of vacation but never get to take more than two days in a row off, for a 4-day weekend.

And I just had to cancel my vacation plans for next month - which I already paid for - because somehow the production schedule got jacked, all the priorities changed again, and we have to crunch all the way through July, 12-hour days with some Saturdays. Oh boy.

Makes me pretty ambivalent all of a sudden. They did give us a whole week off at Xmas, which was nice.

All in all, I'd rather have the 5 weeks.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:10 PM on June 5, 2006


veggieboy has it.
I've never understood the US aversion to unions - no unions, less work benefits. It's really that simple.
posted by spazzm at 4:11 PM on June 5, 2006


At the end of last year I was told by the HR department in my London law firm to take more holiday as I was below the statutory minimum of 20 days and that for me to work longer was a 'health and safety' risk. Total bollocks, but I wasn't complaining as I marched out the door for an extra week of Christmas holiday...
posted by patricio at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2006


spazzm, the unions here got greedy (and in some cases highly corrupt), and the corporations have been somewhat systematically eliminating them via all sorts of tactics.

One might say that the WTO and NAFTA were partly designed as union-busters - when you can ship union jobs out to other countries where people will work for $1 an hour instead of $32.50, the unions haven't got a chance.

You'll never see an employee union at Wal-Mart. I'm not even sure the people who work there could conceive of starting one, and management sure as hell isn't letting a union in there.

It's sad, because the unions were once very powerful here. Labor has little power in the US these days. Or at least, little will to exercise any.

There's noise in the game biz here and there about forming unions like those in Hollywood, but we have the same problem - there are kids in Bangalore who can code up an engine for 1/10 or less what it costs here. Even things like concept art can be farmed out all over the world. I doubt there can ever be a union in the game biz.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:36 PM on June 5, 2006


Teach.... nice long holidays.
posted by RufusW at 4:47 PM on June 5, 2006


zoogleplex, in Canada they unionized and Walmart closed the store. I tend to think that would happen in the US. Of course, some media outlets did take Walmart's side (video link, Daily Show).
/off topic

A side benefit of starting teaching next year is that I'll have the summer off.
posted by Hactar at 5:41 PM on June 5, 2006


39 for the French? not if they are public school teachers!!

The BREAKDOWN:
200 work days
.....................meaning 165 free days!!!

Not a bad proportion

(circled days and July and August are days off!!)


......not to mention that they work 15 to 18 hour weeks depending on their certification.

And, they practically can't be fired.

But does the quality of education suffer?
- I would argue that it is unlikely. France has one of the strongest education systems in the world. Much more is asked of the students than in countries such as.....oh, I don't know....the US.

What is the trick? Being certified as a teacher is highly competitive and, frankly, quite a feat. Only 3% of those who attempt to be certified in philosophy are accepted. Hence, the respect that is commanded. Litterature is more leniant with an acceptance rate between 30 and 40%. That is to say that one can study a subject for five years and not get a job in the end. Also, a doctorate degree doesn't mean anything without the certification to go with it.
posted by pwedza at 5:48 PM on June 5, 2006


As I sit here pondering a long summer of a slightly tighter belt and a maddening amount of free time, this post has put me in a much better mood. I'm awfully glad that I have the job I have. Maybe one day I'll actually be good at it.
posted by absalom at 6:01 PM on June 5, 2006


"A side benefit of starting teaching next year is that I'll have the summer off."

And what does a thousand-mile-across spaceborne battle computer do on a summer off?

:D (couldn't resist)
posted by zoogleplex at 6:03 PM on June 5, 2006


I'm going to try and not derail in one of my first posting on the blue. I believe that religous worldviews are to blame for the lack of Americans not as much time off as Europeans. I've seen plenty of statistics that state Europe is a more secular area of the world than American, and I'm sure most people here have seen them before.

I believe that the mindview of 'I'm going to heaven when I die, so why bother with vacation now?' is prevalent in some people, but maybe at a near unconscious level.

That being said, I'd imagine that there are quite a few exceptions to this rule, on both sides of the ideological fence. I know that I _always_ use all of my vacation time. =)
posted by triolus at 6:24 PM on June 5, 2006


I've been through a few layoffs or job changes for various reasons, so I like to have at least a couple weeks vacation accrued. Job security is a myth in the US these days. I work at a University now, and have 20 days vaca, and 18 or so days sick time; I'm not sure, except that I've got a month's worth accrued. My boss encourages us to use both as needed.

In California and many other states, they can't take your earned vacation time away, but you may stop accruing more time after a particular threshold.

Unions are only as good as the membership makes them. Statistically, union jobs pay better and have better benefits.
posted by theora55 at 6:30 PM on June 5, 2006


Hm, let me see...I am entitled to 28 days of paid recreation leave and 11 paid public holidays per annum, not to mention 15 days of (accruable) sick leave, plus other handy types of leave as required, such as paternity, bereavement, accident, jury duty, witness duty, popping in to do things at the Industrial Relations Commission, and so on.

The four weeks of rec leave I take religiously in a block, which is extendable through employer policy to six weeks, by tacking on two more weeks without pay. Then I request a few extra weeks without pay for good luck, pop a few trusted travel items into my backpack, and hit the road...*woohoo*!!! (Don't typically bump into too many Americans, I've gotta admit...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:42 PM on June 5, 2006


America keeps working more and more, sacrifing personal lives, families and friends for a good review --- however studies consistantly prove across the board European and Asian workers are more productive. I have witnessed it first hand across Europe and Scandinavia.

Maybe it has something to do with this . . .
posted by flug at 8:56 PM on June 5, 2006


I'm in Australia, and I get 30 days vacation a year, and a dozen or so sick days. That is on a 3-year contract position at a university, and is a pretty good deal.

As for the "I love my work so I don't need vacations" attitude...well, that almost feels like some kind of cop out. Sure you love your work. I love my work. But don't you want to travel? Spend a while sipping colourful coctails on a beach? Take your kids camping (or just spend some quality time with them during school break)? These are the things that keep a human sane, and keep them from burning out at an early age. Restriction of vacation time is a restriction on life - surely we work to earn money in order to live life. 60 hours a week with no real vacation time does't feel too much differently than slavery to me.
posted by Jimbob at 3:29 AM on June 6, 2006


interesting link flug, I had not come across that yet. Thanks
posted by AllesKlar at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2006


I am sure that on my deathbed, I'll look back on my life and say "Damn! I sure wish I hadn't taken that time off! Why, think of all the work I could have done!"

Not.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 PM on June 6, 2006


thanks for the post, mjj
posted by matteo at 10:20 PM on June 8, 2006


if she has a sense of humor: give her a nicely wrapped ball gag with a funny card

if she doesn't: mention politely that the loud lovemaking is cool but in that particular moment was a bit embarrassing for you and your date, ask her to try to put herself in your shoes -- setting boundaries is difficult but not impossible.

good luck.
posted by matteo at 10:29 PM on June 8, 2006


USA: 14 days of loud lovemaking a year. France: 39. No wonder they have the reputation that they do...
posted by five fresh fish at 6:45 AM on June 9, 2006


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