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?