It’s the middle of the Thanksgiving break in the US, while here in Europe everyone (including transplanted Americans) slaves away. As a result, it is an apposite moment to consider one of the most puzzling cultural chasms between the US and Europe: attitudes towards holidays.
In Europe, five or six weeks of vacation is a corporate norm. More is not that unusual in some countries. Four weeks is considered decidedly stingy, and would not be contemplated anywhere other than Britain. In the US, however, four weeks is the height of luxury; two weeks is common.
Here’s the puzzle. The US is in the midst of an extraordinary economic boom (although there are signs of slowing). Skilled workers, in particular, can name their package. No one, it seems, wants more holiday. In Europe, however, just about every person I have ever interviewed for a job makes a pitch for more holiday time.
Some conclude that in Europe, people work to live; in the US they live to work. What’s certain is that if Europe does truly move to a more US-like enterprise culture, it may give up some of the qualities its citizens most value.