Doc Holiday or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Urlaub*

By the end of July, I’ll have been to Prague, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, and Edinburgh, all within a four month span.  In September I’m visiting Berlin again, and possibly Vienna.  I’m also planning on trying to spend two weeks back in the US much later in the year.

I was talking about my copious travel plans with a friend back in the US, and their next question was “How?  How do you have that much time off?”

The answer to that question is very simple- Europeans just have more vacation than Americans.  Whenever this topic comes up with friends and family, I say more or less the following:  Americans may talk a good game about having a proper work-life balance, but Europeans actually do it.

My benefits at Mr. Company** changed significantly when I moved to Germany.  I am officially “localized” here, which means that my US benefits ceased and I was brought into the same package of benefits that our European office uses.  This means that my 401k got a giant pause button, for example, and my health insurance switched over to a German health insurance plan.  It also means that my available vacation time increased quite a bit.

Germany mandates that employees have four working weeks off, minimum.  Plus public holidays. For a five day work week, that’s twenty days off plus the holidays, and some employers give more time off than the mandated minimum.  In other words, I have significantly more time away from the office here than I did in the US, despite working consistently longer hours.

I keep a list of things that will suck when I leave Germany to return to the US, and having my vacation time revert back to US levels is definitely on that list.

This weekend on Real Time, Bill Maher did a New Rule about this very topic- I’ve included part of the video below.  He mentions in the clip that 138 countries mandate the amount of vacation that employees receive.  The US is not one of them.  Study after study has shown that people who take their vacations come back more focused and more productive, with lower instances of burnout.

And you know what?  It’s all completely true.  I’ve taken the time off now, and I’m a believer.

Here’s Bill Maher to preach the gospel:

*Urlaub is the German word for vacation or holiday.

**Any reference to my employer on this blog will be said as “Mr. Company.”  The opinions expressed in this blog may or may not reflect the views of Mr. Company.  Probably they don’t, because Mr. Company is a multinational corporation and is not, strictly speaking, a sentient entity.