Friday, July 11, 2008

Other People's Ideas Can Be Good

Traveling around France for a week has got me to thinking about vacations. More specifically, vacation time. As a student finishing up her final research paper, I have a lot of it. But most of my fellow Americans have very little. Two weeks is the normal going rate; a lot of the people I know will take only that or less. As we inch towards the middle of July, we are officially in the midst of vacation season in France. From now until the end of August, people all over this country will go out of town for a little rest and relaxation. I'm not talking a long weekend, here. I'm not even talking 10 days (a sum that most Americans would be thrilled about). No, many people will take a two or even three week vacation. It's the law.

French workers have five weeks of vacation per year that are mandated by law. Many have more than that. I've gotten used to my friends telling me about their upcoming three week stints away from work to visit family, explore a new country, or just hang out at the beach. And they do this every year! What's more, you have to take at least some of you vacation time (generally a minimum of two weeks) in the summer months. If you don't give your boss the dates when you plan to be out of the office, he'll come to you and demand them. I could live with that.

French workers are among the most productive workers in the world. This might have something to do with the fact that they aren't actually there all of the time. When you leave for three consecutive weeks, you really feel like you're getting away from it all. You forget about work; you enjoy life. When you come back to work, you're refreshed. You're not bitter about spending all of you time there and never having time for yourself. You're ready to work. When you need another break, you take your remaining two weeks and enjoy a few national holidays thrown in for good measure. Seriously, the French have this one figured out. Hello, United States? Are you listening?


Nomadic Matt said...

Americans need more vacation time but I wouldnt want to work in france. My friend has to have like a million permits to be a freelance graphic designer. Each system has its pluses.

Tanya said...

True, and when the French work, they work. Most of my friends here don't leave the office until 7 or later every single day. Of course, they stay up later at night and are never in the office before 9 either win some you lose some!

I'd still like to see Americans with more vacation time. There's more to life than the office, and a lot of us haven't figured that out yet.

Anonymous said...

Rather false, really. I think the French are productive compared to Spaniards. Still, Americans have led the world in worker productivity CONSISTENTLY for a century. I don't know how the inefficiency myth began about American workers -- most likely due to our current worldwide unpopularity and the fatness of our non-urban workers. Where did you read that we're less efficient?

Here's an AP excerpt from 2007:

"American workers stay longer in the office, at the factory or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe and most other rich nations, and they produce more per person over the year.

They also get more done per hour than everyone but the Norwegians, according to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report released Monday, which said the United States 'leads the world in labour productivity'."

Tanya said...

If you look closely, I never say that American workers are less productive than French workers. I simply state that French workers are among the most productive in the world, which they are!

Thank you for the AP article. My whole argument is based on my opinion that, to quote the article, "American workers stay longer in the office, at the factory, or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe" is not necessarily a good thing.