For those workers out there, this clip from Real Time with Bill Maher, is for you. I understand that as a political comedian, Bill Maher can sometimes turn people off. In fact he’s been doing it for at least two decade now, since his show Politically Incorrect aired from 1993 to 2002 on Comedy Central. Now, Maher’s television home is HBO (Home Box Office) and every Friday night he is discussing politics with notable critics from Washington (D.C) and elsewhere. Maher is an outspoken “practicalist” among other self-described titles, who has given considerably to support the Obama 2012 campaign for re-election.
At the end of his most recent episode (s.10 ep.20), Maher’s final words were about vacations. Specifically, that Americans are afraid to take their two weeks of vacation that isn’t legally required to be given to them because they are often afraid to lose their job (and thus their health care), while 138 nations including England, Europeans, Sri Lankans, and others throughout the world can and do take their vacations because theyare required by law to have time off and that time off usually involves more than two weeks vacation.
The section on ‘vacations’ begins around 2:37 and goes until the end.
For transcripts, you can head over to the DailyKos.
I have to admit that most of the Germans that I speak to about cultural differences don’t understand how a) Americans don’t have health care for everyone, and b) that Americans only get two weeks off a year and rare use it. “Is that really true?!” They ask me in disbelief and I say, to the best of my knowledge, which admittedly is rather narrow ( I don’t know everyone in America) yes. At least as far as the circle of friends and family that I have, it is true. I think most Americans would be happier taking an extended weekend (read four-day-weekend) than two full weeks off at once. Also, many of the people I know back home, don’t have jobs that would allow them to afford to take two weeks off to ‘travel’ to some amazing place.
I also think it is interesting that Maher brings up traveling to Europe in the summertime, “You show up at noon and wonder where everyone went.” This is true because the first time I went to Europe, landing in London and then going to France, Belgium and The Netherlands it did strike me as so odd that people took time off in the afternoon and absolutely everything was closed. It was odd, only because I wasn’t used to it and honestly, I became a little bored.
It was however, my first time in Europe and I was 19 with enough energy to bounce off the walls for countless hours. Even when I came to Germany, the idea of having quiet Sundays where everything is closed, with the exception of four times a year seemed ludicrous. As I just explained most Americans that I know would gladly take extended weekends over a straight two-week vacation period because they often use those three to four days to fix up their homes or do other DIY projects because all the shops are open seven days a week. It sure beats having to plan out exactly what you need for your project days in advance and then trek to the DIY shop or supermarket and hope that you didn’t forget something because if you did you will have to go back or put off the project for yet another week!
At this point, however my husband and I love them. In the winter, we call them “Pajama Sundays” and spend the time baking, reading, watching films, and simply relaxing. In the summer, we use the time to take trips around the region or go hiking. We don’t care that shops are closed as we don’t generally need more stuff. More often then not, the cultural and historical locations are still open on Sundays so it doesn’t make a difference.
As Maher says in the clip, “the Declaration of Independence says life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not work, consumerism and the pursuit of profits for Mitt Romney’s investors.” Really, in my opinion it could be really any big business’s investors, I don’t think the name in their necessarily matters, what matters is that Americans work harder and longer, but for what. As Maher also states in the clip, “most Americans get two weeks unpaid vacations which they don’t take because they are afraid their job won’t be there when they get back […] because they work scared, because they don’t want to seem less valuable to their boss.” To a certain degree, I believe this because isn’t it better to have a job – any job rather than no job, especially now since they have seemed so very hard to come by since 2008.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this though, agree or disagree.