Monday, February 22

Little Difference #20

Little Difference #20 - Vacations

What's the difference you ask? Europeans take them. Americans don't. Well, not in the same way. Let me explain. When Europeans go "on holiday" aka take a vacation they go for a week or more. Not only do they go for a generous amount of time, they do this multiple times a year - Christmas, February, and August. Possibly springtime too? They also tend to go to the same places each year, like skiing in February and the beach in August. These holidays are just that, holidays. Strictly for leisure and pleasure, they are not traveling.

You may be tempted to explain this simply by the number of vacation days Europeans have. Which is around 6 weeks a year, not counting the large handful of bank holidays. But I believe it is more than just time allowed. It is a different way of living. Vacationing is an expected part of the culture here. Regular vacationing.

If you are American, think back to the last time you vacationed for a week or more. Do you do this annually? Do you do this more than once a year? I'm willing to bet you don't. Americans take vacations once in a while and typically only once a year. We fritter our vacation days away creating long weekends or going to our cousins' weddings across the country. We do it differently. I bet many of you use your vacation days to stay around the house to complete home improvements. It's different. Are you getting it?

Last week we embraced our temporary identity as Europeans and migrated to the Alps to go skiing for a week because that is what you do here in February. We shared the road with thousands of other station wagons, complete with rented rocket boxes just like ours, from the UK, France and Belgium. We had a magnificent time. Ah, when in Rome . . .

~~Does this resonate with you? Tell me about vacationing where you live~~

Read about all of the Little Differences here.

15 comments:

jojoebi said...

a week off! that will be the day. In Japan EVERYONE takes their holiday at the same time, Obon, New year and Golden week (which is actually 3 days) IF the calendar works for you you might just get a week off, if the national holidays fall in just the right place. Last year we had a silver week in September because of that reason but it only happens every 10 years or so! It is one thing in Japan that drives me insane.

Jill said...

What about the differences between "appropriate behavior" in the lift lines in Europe and the US/Canada... I couldn't believe the pushing and shoving the first time I skiied in Europe! But the views are incredible - and the holiday times keep everyone happy!

Sewing-Chick said...

I know what you mean! Most years we only take one vacation, however back in 2007 (the summer I met my husband), we took THREE vacations! He had never been to the ocean, and so we went three times that year. First over spring break to Philadelphia, PA and Manasquan, NJ. Second to Hilton Head, SC. Third on our honeymoon to the Virgin Islands!!

Emily said...

here in switzerland (my husband is on a local contract), it is required by law that at least once a year two weeks of vacation is taken simultaneously.

Dana said...

Again. . .true, here. However, Italians generally reserve their vacations for the month of August -- at times the entire month of August in the mountains or at the beach. My husband, who has been here over 20 years, says that he has seen the trend change a bit over the years, but it's still the most common time. Many of my neighbors, who don't have much money, stick around and do chores, like us. I feel for them -- chopping wood for the upcoming winter in the heat of August when most of their countrymen are lounging on the beach.

se7en said...

The truth is out!!! I had an Italian lecturer who was always on about our Settimane Bianca, we had no concept of everyone shutting shop for two weeks and a mass exodus to a holiday destination!!! That being said, here in Cape Town, the whole world stops from 16 December to first week in January. All factories, schools and industry stops and it switches totally to tourist season. We never go away (where would you with 8 kids!!!), most people stay home and enjoy the summer. Why leave heaven when you are there already!!!!

likeschocolate said...

Yes, I agree with you on the differences in vacationing. While Americans travel from place to place on a vacation, Europeans tend to stay planted in one location. They might take in a museum, but it is not the none stop going from one place to another. It has caused a little conflict in my marriage because my husband is European. He sees the hotel as the destination where I see all that the city has as the destination. I am lucky though because we do vacation about 3 weeks a year. Next month we are off to Arkansas to go to a hot springs. It should be pretty relaxing or as relaxing as one can have with three children.

Mariana said...

Here in Portugal we usually have 25 working days to spend on vacations. As we are a mediterranean country we take most of the days between Jully and August to go to the beach. And we have the most beautiful Atlantic beach! And sometimes we take some days near christmas and new year. And we like to play in Carnival so we enjoy our national holliday and add some vacation days to it and some people go to Serra da Estrela wich is our biggest mountain and in years like this one it's covered with snow and it's great for skiing!
well i think i couldn't live a complete year without taking at leats a 15 days of work to go somewhere doing absolutely nothing!

AudreyQ said...

Maybe people in the Northwest are a little more European. Last week, we spent a week in a beach village in Mexico, and the place was packed with vacationers from Seattle, Vancouver and Portland. We ran into three of my husband's students and the woman who owns our neighborhood bookstore. Many of the families we spoke with go to this same town every February for a week or longer. I have to admit that I never travelled this way until I had kids. Before, travel was all about adventure and seeing new places. Now I love staying in the same place for a week or two, even if I end up surrounded by people from my own neighborhood.

PatQ said...

We just got back from a a 2 wk vacation in the Italian alps. You can check out my blog for photo's. Anyway when we were there they had lots of weddings during the week. I asked someone why they have them during the week when people are working. She sort of looked at me dumbfounded and just said people's employers just give them days off when they're going to a wedding. We can't do that here. My employer would laugh their heads off.

katy said...

jojoebi - you know I love hearing about your life in Japan. Somehow the lack of vacation there doesn't surprise me.

Jill - ha ha ha. yes, there was a bit of competition at the lift lines.

sewing-chick - it's amazing when you really stop and add up the vacations you've actually taken. I think my last one (not traveling) was to Hawaii when I got engaged.

Emily - Reason number #101 to love Switzerland.

Dana - I get the sense that August is vacation month for lots of European countries. My question is, where do they all go?

se7en - Interesting about S. Africa. I'd love to visit sometime. There are a handful of South Africans living here in Lux.

likeschocolate - 3 vacations a year?!? yay for you!

Mariana - Thanks for chiming in about the Portuguese habits. I hope to visit Portugal before we go home. I'll have to pick your brain about where we should go.

AudreyQ - not surprised at all about Pacific NWesterners. Also not surprised you're one of the enlightened :)

PatQ - Days off for weddings?!? Who knew?? Thanks for the comment!

Juleskis said...

The longest vacation I have ever had was the 15 days I took to visit you! And, lord, knows I wouldn't be able to do that every year! :)
I think I might take longer vacations if I had someone to vacation with, but, alas the single life lends itself towards long weekends in the summer for my own leisure. I wish I was more adventurous and would travel alone, but I much prefer to enjoy a vacation with someone else.

Emily said...

you know, the europeans have got it right! Vacation time is the number one incentive for me at work, and 2 weeks just isn't enough to recharge and to see my friends/family. I keep hoping the US will "evolve" to adopt European approaches to vacation and maternity leave. Sigh. Makes me want to pick up and move right now!

Road Trippers said...

I'm quite certain that "leisure" is a foreign word because I don't know the meaning of it. A true American, I am.

fyi -- go to Albufeira in Portugal.

The Expatresse said...

The Europeans may take longer vacations, but they also all seem to go at the same time (hesitate to book a flight and it will be too late).

Americans go at any time. Try to schedule time off in September (when prices are lower . . . great if you don't have kids in school), and the Europeans will all raise an eyebrow: "But vacation is over now . . . it's back to work time."

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