The value of vacation around the globe

vacation, cultural difference, usa, germany

The value of vacation around the globe

What does going on vacation mean to you? If you are coming from a different part of the world than me we most likely have different opinions on that topic. In this blog post, I will drill a bit deeper into the different value of vacation in different parts of the world.

Let's start with europe

It’s safe to say that as a German I have some experience here 🙂 I just met another German friend for lunch here in Chicago and we discussed our next vacation plans. We are both living in the States and it is obvious to us that the different value of vacation has something to do with the culture. In Europe, vacation always had a high significance. While the term work-life balance is shaped by millennials, also my parents and grandparents valued vacation as something really important and something to look forward to. Nowadays we might travel more and further away than we did in the past but vacations have always been something we appreciated a lot and something we would only cancel if we are struggling financially. Especially in the workforce, there is a different perception on how to stay connected to work when going away. When someone goes on vacation, the colleagues will cover for you and per se, you are not expected to be reachable and answering your emails.

The daimler work-life balance approach

A couple of years ago the German car company Daimler stopped the email communication during days off as it is not increasing productivity but only reducing the recreation effect of its employees. An article of the times stated back then:

This is no longer a problem for employees at the German company Daimler. The car and truck maker has implemented a new program that allows employees to set their email software to automatically delete incoming emails while they are on vacation. When an email is sent, the program, which is called “Mail on Holiday,” issues a reply to the sender that the person is out of the office and that the email will be deleted, while also offering the contact information of another employee for pressing matters.

Time, 2014

In my experience, especially career-oriented and younger professionals are struggling with balancing work life and private life. It is just so easy to read and answer some emails when it is so reachable. In the end, it all comes back to your personality. However, the interference with work in your leisure time is by far lower than in the States.

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DO GERMANS STILL EXPLORE THE WORLD WHEN HAVING KIDS?

Biene shared her idea of a perfect vacation with me on instagram. I love that exploring the world never stops - even with kids. You just have to prepare:-)
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www.bugsoversea.wordpress.com

Vacation means for us exploring! Now with two little kids it's a way different kind of vacation but still possible. So we recently came back from a trip to Mexico. Everyone around us was like "Whaaaat? With two little ones?! You are brave..." No we are not. We are well prepared! So why should we give up to travel? There is so much out there to see. People, Culture, Food! I love to make lists for everything. So maybe this is a typical German thing. So most likely we are on vacation three times a year. Summer times means camping time for us. But we also love Airbnb.

Biene from Bugsoversea

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What about the value of vacation in the US

Gary, marketing associate for a political party in the US

While writing these lines at a nice spot along the Chicago River I was approached by Gary who is doing some promotion for a local election campaign. I used this chance and asked him about how he values vacation. He said it is most of all time to spend with loved ones. He was shocked to see that we have so many days off in Germany and that our economy is still working. However, he said, he should not be surprised as he heard the rumor that in France everything is shut down for a whole month in summer. He said he is, of course, writing emails during vacation and calls his colleagues regularly. He only stops, when his wife starts to grumble about him being absent. In this case, he said he tries to limit it to a couple of hours a day for the sake of the family’s peace.

 
How Americans perceive the European Lifestyle

Back in our apartment, I talked to Charlene, Arnett, and Bruno. All three are living in Chicago and we had our talk next to the pool while the sun was shining. A truly recreational atmosphere. They told me that the amount of vacation differs each year. They spend roughly 2 weeks each year on vacation, spread throughout the year. They have heard that Europeans have much more days off and Arnett’s comment was: “Europeans know how to appreciate life!” 

The Phenomenon of not taking vacation at all

Using the holidays to unplug is not at all common and more seen as something very spiritual and modern. I also recently talked to a woman who went on her first real vacation within the last 15 years and it was a life changing experience for her. She said this was the first time she actually valued the holidays as something purposeful. She perceived it as being lazy before but now she realized she actually MIGHT do it again :-). 

jo, hairdresser, vacation, usa
Jo, hairdresser at Sine Qua Non in Chicago

I also talked to my new favorite hairdresser about this topic. Her name is Jo, and she is (as most hairdressers in the US) self-employed but working together with other colleagues in a studio. She never in her life had a vacation yet. When she was 9, she went to Disneyland in Anaheim and can’t wait to go back there as a grown up. For her the decision whether to take a vacation is a simple business case:

“Each day I am not working I am not earning money.”

However, she is dreaming of a great vacation within the next two years. Her expectations are so high that she can’t decide yet on a destination. Maybe she will leave the US for the first time in her life.

“I might go to Santorini in Greece one day! I loved the scenery!”

My dear Jo, I wish you see the world someday!

Asia: The value of vacation in taiwan

To include an example from Asia I remembered my time in Taiwan. I recently traveled back for a quick short trip of 2 days of traveling back and forth and 2 days of actually staying in Taipeh to visit my old friends. I know this might sound crazy to some of you but sometimes I just have this urge to discover the world so I just booked in last minute and while it was, of course, exhausting, it was totally worth it. I had two of my best days in Taipeh! Most of all thanks to my dear Taiwanese friends who took a 2-days vacation without telling me and driving me around the island, showing me places and spending such nice quality time with me.
Little did I know back then that you have on average 7 days of vacation in Taiwan and that my dear friends just took a huge part out of it to spend time with me and to fulfill the typical Taiwanese hospitality. For Taiwanese people, vacation is also a lot about family and most of all, vacation days are spend for Chinese New Year and the celebration with the family. 

career or happiness?
I also remember clearly a train ride with one of my Taiwanese friends. We just graduated university all our professional career was ahead of us. She looked out of the window while we were passing lush green landscape. She turned to me and asked:   “What should I do? Enter an ambitious career path, work long days and no rest or should I aim to be happy?” I looked at her and said: “Can’t you have both?”   Often when I observe tired people in public transport coming back from work, I remind myself of this conversation and wonder whether for some of us it is indeed a decision of either work or happiness.
interview, start-up, get a job, job hunt
So I am curious! Which culture has it all figured out? I remember a study which states that there is a correlation between the number of vacation days and economic well being of a country. The thesis was that the better a country is doing, the more vacation days its population has by law. Holidays are not only a form of luxury but also a sign of prosperity of an economy. Personally, I am a strong believer that there are only that many hours a day/a week that you can be productive. Of course, I am speaking from my former management career perspective. I can’t speak for other professions. However, in the typical office jobs quality comes before quantity and we are adding no real value to the company by just showing presence. I guess I have been the most productive after my vacations when my battery was fully charged and my brain had time to rest and started to think outside the box.

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life
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2 thoughts on “The value of vacation around the globe”

  • Hi! This is a drum I bang constantly with my fellow Americans! Since moving to Germany, I have become a BIG believer in 5-6 weeks per year of vacation (although , growing up in my family, vacation was always valued highly. We were weirdos!) I cannot emphasize enough how important time away–real time away–from the work environment is.
    What I also have to say is that the German work environment is much more intense and focused than most work environments in the USA, which is why the vacation time in Germany does not translate to decreased productivity.
    I honestly hope Americans catch on soon.

    • Hi Michelle, funny to hear that from an American! The last US company I talked to told me I can have a two-week sabbatical if I am staying at the company for more than 2 weeks. It was hilarious considering that taking 3 weeks off is quite common in Europe. When we plan sabbaticals we are talking about months not weeks 🙂 So interesting to see the different perspectives on vacation. Glad you liked the blog post.

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2 thoughts on “The value of vacation around the globe”

  • Hi! This is a drum I bang constantly with my fellow Americans! Since moving to Germany, I have become a BIG believer in 5-6 weeks per year of vacation (although , growing up in my family, vacation was always valued highly. We were weirdos!) I cannot emphasize enough how important time away–real time away–from the work environment is.
    What I also have to say is that the German work environment is much more intense and focused than most work environments in the USA, which is why the vacation time in Germany does not translate to decreased productivity.
    I honestly hope Americans catch on soon.

    • Hi Michelle, funny to hear that from an American! The last US company I talked to told me I can have a two-week sabbatical if I am staying at the company for more than 2 weeks. It was hilarious considering that taking 3 weeks off is quite common in Europe. When we plan sabbaticals we are talking about months not weeks 🙂 So interesting to see the different perspectives on vacation. Glad you liked the blog post.

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