Americans and Vacations

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.

39 Countries with more vacation days than America

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.

4 thoughts on “Americans and Vacations

  1. Another reason I’m not moving back. I once went 5 years without taking more than 1 consecutive day off work. Even when I moved from Portland to LA, I was taking phone calls while driving my moving van.

    I couldn’t go back to that grueling work system.

    • That sounds about right, always working because there might be an extended amount of time that you don’t work. Or even the idea of not working seems frightening. Gotta shore up that money and try to keep that opportunity coming!

      I remember when I came back from my year in AmeriCorps, which I did to both see the country and gain job skills, I couldn’t find a sustainable paying job to save my life. I remember that is how we met, you got me to volunteer with you and then because I couldn’t find work I ended up volunteering like 40+ hours a week. When I did find a job, I worked one night a week for $80 with occassional tips that I had to SHARE with the rest of the staff. All I can say is thankfully I was living with my sister and I could do a whole hell of a lot with a $25 week food budget. I was healthy as hell physically, but the most depressed I think I have ever been at the same time.

      I think too much of our self-worth is tied to our jobs. So that if we can’t find work, it is our faults not that of the industry or the city or region. We are trained to see it as our fault and that is how I felt about it. The trouble was, in the end I think, that I was as qualified if not more qualified than many of the people I was applying to work with. I just kept hearing the line, “We’re looking for someone with a degree.” For a part-time position that I did for free for over a year on the east coast – um OK – even though the whole reason I am applying for the job is because it is part-time because I am trying to get that degree.

  2. When we were in Paris for a vacation two years ago, a local Parisian said to us that the long vacation time and holidays were ridiculously long, etc. I asked, “If so, who are working?”. She said that the immigrants work 365 days and 12 hours a day…

    • How long do the immigrants work in the US, I am sure it is similar. I imagine that until you get a contract or legal working status that is possible. I am sure it is still possible even with legal working status as often visas are tied to jobs which can lead to potential exploitation of the employee. I don’t know if there are rules and regulations against that in the USA. I am freelance so I either am always working or looking to find the balance and I don’t get paid time off, but my husband does. We are happy to find something to do to fill up that time too. Every other year we try to use it to go back to America. Imagine if we only had two weeks off to fly half-way around the world and then be ready to work the next day?! It can take anywhere from one to three days and sometimes longer to recover from jet lag (I know, tough life). I think I would rather have too many than too few or none at all honestly.

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