Here’s a cool trick for blowing any American’s mind. Tell us that in France, so many boulangeries shut down for vacation every summer that it can be tough to snag a baguette. Bakers aren’t the only ones who get time off. In August, up to half of the country’s salaried employees have been known to take at least a full week off from work. Half!
Americans are good at lots of different things, but going on vacation is not one of them. Every year in parts of Europe, summer turns into a mini-sabbatical. In Norway, during the tradition of fellesferie, the nation simply shuts down for a few weeks of July fun. In Italy, so many people take the last two weeks of August off that Rome’s transit system runs on a reduced “festivi” schedule. Meanwhile, guess which industrialized country is the only one that doesn’t guarantee time off to its workers? Guess which country left 768 million vacation days on the table in 2018? Guess which country … arghhhhhhhh.
The pandemic has not been great for America’s vacation malaise. When there are few new places to go and few new things to do, what’s the point of asking for time off? Yes, many Americans who have made it through without losing their jobs have taken a break to discover nature or their apartment balconies, but largely, we do not seem to be PTO-ing our way through this god-awful year. In February, time-off requests on the HR platform Zenefits were down 26 percent from the year before, a spokesperson told me, in line with what the company has seen since July.