August is England’s Silly Season

I walked past a shop on my way to work the other morning and there was a sign on the door saying it was closed from August 3-19 for “holidays”.   I knew that people here in the UK took their holidays seriously, but that was taking it to a new level! I truly had no idea how deserted this country was going to be at this time of year.  My upcoming planned trip to the US (clocking in at 9 days when you include travel time) starts to look very foolish indeed.

Apparently it’s only going to get better for the average UK worker: the BBC has this report on how the UK has to increase its vacation allowance to exclude bank holidays.  At 20 days of proper vacation per year (count that, it’s 4 weeks!) plus the bank holidays the UK looks nuts to an American.    The current UK practice of 8 bank holidays plus 12 days vacation puts their “before” picture as better than at many American companies.

Yet the UK still remains at the bottom of the “league table” for European vacation time. The Danes clock in at 39.5 days per year (that’s 8 weeks!) and France and Germany are mid-pack with vacation time in the mid thirties of days.   When I was in Germany a few weeks ago I actually asked one of the Germans there how they do it.  She told me that the vacation was actually required in her company, there was no option of not taking a full six weeks off each and every year.  They have sufficient redundancy in the company to cover peoples’ job functions and allow them the time off for these remarkable vacations.

Sadly, my job is not like that, there is not much redundancy.  I do recognize that some of my suffering is self-inflicted but I’m not sure how to stop right now.  Even though I’m in the UK where people don’t seem to work weekends and people do seem to take 3 week holidays without blinking, I still feel pressure at this time to keep up with my American peers who take no vacation ever and work more or less 24-7.  I keep saying that it would be very difficult for me to take an extended vacation, especially one sans laptop, although I really am hoping to train myself into the idea of a proper UK-style holiday in the future.  Now I know… August is the time to do it.  This place is currently deserted!

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