Summertime blues: How much vacation did you really get?

In many countries, it is time to get back to work / school after the summer break. Depending on where you live, this break will have been of varying lengths.

What shall we do with the kids?

summer holidays.jpg

Spanish children can enjoy lengthy summer holidays.

Well, did you have a good holiday? Refreshed and ready to get back to work? Depending on where you are, this break will have been of a different length. French school children officially get a full two months break. The same goes for children in the United States. Spanish children broke up this year on June 20th and won’t have to pick up their pencil cases until September 12th. British kids are not quite so lucky; only six weeks for them. Unlike their continental counterparts, this will have been unlikely to have seen too much sun either!

All of this free time does not mean however, that they will be spending their time at home. Parents can be quite entrepreneurial at this time of the year. Faced with the prospect of having to watch endless hours of cartoons and find activities that last no more than 20 minutes each, many Western parents discover that summer camps and day care centres can be surprisingly beneficial for the “intellectual development” and the “sociability skills” of their children. Failing that there are always with the grandparents.

You have such a great time there! And Grandma and Granddad are so looking forward to seeing you

Sometimes this can involve negotiating skills of which Ury and Fisher would be proud. Business skills developed throughout the year can be sorely needed at this time.

Annual leave in different countries

Parents might be forgiven for such ingenuity since clearly their annual leave is nowhere near as generous as that given to the prodigies. According to a survey by Mercer, the number of annual public holidays is not in line with popular myth. Japan has 6 more public holidays than France, Germany or the USA. Even China has one more public holiday than these 3 countries.


Vacation by Country

However, when annual leave is calculated the French get back their rightful place with 40 days of vacation. China has caught up to some extent over the past few years and now has only 4 days less vacation than the USA. Perhaps surprisingly though, the Japanese, with their reputation for always being at work have 36 days annual leave. This is as much as their British counterparts and far more than the USA and China.

Technology changing our vacation

Of course, with technology developments the number of days is increasingly becoming hypothetical. In accordance with French law, most pay slips state the number of hours that a person should work per week. This is fine for some jobs, but if you are a knowledge worker of some sort it becomes faintly ludicrous. Should you stop thinking after 40 hours per week?

Work at the beach

50% of Americans work during the summer vacation.

Emails, blackberries, iPads etc. are also having a major impact on the way we work. According to a Regus poll of 5,000 U.S. workers 50% of Americans work during the summer vacation with 66% checking and responding to emails. It is far from uncommon to see people answering emails while lying on the beach.

Given the fact that most people do not rigorously separate private emails from corporate ones, this is increasingly hard to resist. In this context, the famous work-life balance is becoming more and more difficult to measure.

Students: vacation or work experience?

Student reading

In France, 20% of students worked during their studies.

Students too have taken to working during the vacation period. INSEE, the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies reports that 20% of students worked during their studies between 2004 & 2006 compared to only 12.6% in 1992. Half of the jobs were untaken in relationship to the studies the students were undertaking. This seems quite low.

My own survey on French management students showed that 80% of them were working over the summer. Given that this is a compulsory part of their curricula, this is perhaps not surprising. In the UK, it is estimated that about half of the student population now work during the summer. Given the recent increase in fees, this is not surprising. However, the most diligent students of all have to be the Taiwanese. 95% of them work over the summer.

Back to work, if you ever left it!

Whatever you were doing over the summer, it is always a little difficult to get back to work. The first days can be really slow. So, just to get you back into the swing, have a listen to the wonderful Eddie Cochran whose wonderful career was far too short. Like many of you, his “blues” came from “Working all summer just to try to raise a dollar.”

And on a final note, you may also be interested to know that in Ancient Rome 159 public holidays were decreed by the Emperor. Sounds great, doesn’t it, but what would you do with the kids?!

Holidays in Ancient Rome

Citizens enjoyed favourable amount of holidays in Ancient Rome.

Mark Thomas

See also:

Changing symbols of a unified nation

white_house The news last week was dominated by the commemoration of the terrorist attacks on New York & Washington on September 11th 2001. During such difficult moments people often try unite around their nations. In this context, symbols of the nation become important. However, such symbols will vary from country to country. Read more

Sex… Past, Present and Future: Confusing your Xs and your Ys

generation_x_yAcross Europe, Business Schools are now getting in the full swing of the new academic year. Time to deal with subject that is on all business students’ minds and to wonder whether they are really that different to previous generations. Read more…

Best management practices from the French football team… You just have to go back in time a bit!

football_managementA year on from France’s catastrophic display in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, French football could actually give us some best practices in management thinking. You’ll need to go back to 1998 though. Read more…

The Luxury Strategy The Halo Effect SuperFreakonomics
Defines what constitutes a luxury product and how companies develop their strategies to profit from this status. Excellent book that should be read by all managers and business students. “It’s never a good as the first time.” A poor sequel to the excellent Freakonomics.

Grenoble EM

ESC Grenoble




Global Ed

International Affairs in Higher Education

Business School


Filed under Business Schools, China, France, Great Britain, Intercultural, Internships, Management, Technology, USA, Vacation / Holidays

5 responses to “Summertime blues: How much vacation did you really get?

  1. As a Canadian, I can honestly say that our vacation days are very similar to that of the U.S. It is shocking to travel abroad and see how little free time we actually have here in North America!

    I was in France 2 years ago and was so impressed with, well, EVERYTHING, but what stood out to me the most was how many vacation days the French have and how they value their time. There seems to be a strong emphasis on leisure time and time spent with the family. As beautiful as Paris is, perhaps one of the loveliest things that I saw was dozens of families heading to the parks in Lyon for “family time” either at the end of the work day, or a couple of days throughout the week (I’m assuming they were on vacation?).

    North America has put such a strong emphasis on productivity that, at times, we are worked too hard. I certainly think that another few more days a year of vacation would be an incredible benefit to all of those in the workforce and would only inspire and motivate workers even more.

    Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing all of the information.

  2. Mark Thomas

    Thank you for your kind remarks. And yes, we are a lot luckier in France and Europe in general with regard to vacation time, though I’m not sure that everything over here is perfect!

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