Skip to comments.'I Can't Cope With All These Vacation Days in France '
Posted on 06/21/2014 11:25:52 AM PDT by nickcarraway
Since coming to France from the United States The Local's Joshua Melvin has struggled to adapt to one aspect of French working culture - all the extra paid holidays compared to back home. Before we all ridicule him, let's at least hear him out.
I have too many vacation days.
Just because I live and work in France I get five weeks paid vacation, ten public holidays in 2014 plus scores of other days that Im apparently entitled to because of the countrys 35-hour work week.
This weekend I tried to explain my problem to a French friend, who thinking I was joking, just laughed and said, Well, youll get used to it.
I know this sounds like the sort of divorced-from-reality thought that turned people off to Gwyneth Paltrow, but I persisted: Im not trying to say there is anything wrong with all this time off, but seriously what do you do with it?
My French friend, obviously stunned by my question, just gave a marvelous Gallic shrug and said: Nothing.
That was of little help.
If I were storing my vacation hours around the house theyd be leaking from under the closet door like a dirty secret. At night, I imagine them staring angrily at me like unused exercise equipment.
I guess the problem is that Im American and have always had just two weeks vacation. And because Im a reporter working even on Christmas Day was just part of life.
Ive generally taken a week in the summer and one around the holidays and its always been enough. But since arriving in France I feel like Im off all the time and these days are turning into a burden, not least financially.
I just spent a couple of hundred euros for a long-weekend train trip to visit my in-laws. Then there are the hundreds more I spent on a trip to Sardinia in May. Not to mention the Moby Dick of French vacation season: August. I'll be left penniless.
In the US most people take short and infrequent trips, so they dont get too concerned if theyre a little expensive. Its a special occasion and a moment to splurge. In French terms, its a shot glass full of espresso, to the watery bowl of American coffee.
It seems like my wife and I spend an outsize amount of time trying to figure out where to go. Its a conversation thats on the bottom of the to-do list of unpleasant domestic tasks like tax paperwork and washing the bathroom floor.
But in the back of my head I know if I dont figure out our travel plans, everything will be booked up or too expensive. Or worse Ill end up at home on a sort of unintended staycation that is good for organizing closets.
And then there's the stress that comes with deciding where to go for each holiday or extended weekend called a "pont". Its already provoked fights in our house.
All that trauma just to decide which beach we are going to lie on. I mean it's not a decision that will affect the future of our kids.
These vacation days are lots of work too. Lets say you take the cheapest option, a simple long weekend at a low-cost municipal campground. Youve still got to pack your bags, get yourself there somehow and then proceed with the effort generated by living in a way our ancestors moved indoors to avoid.
The simplicity of the mere two weeks I had in the US now feels akin to some kind of post-modern exercise in streamlined living, like people who are perfectly happy to have only one piece of furniture.
Dont get me wrong, the time off is nice. Its great to have a break, especially with the stresses of moving to France and the daily combat of taking the Metro and RER and so on. And now all these countries' capital cities like Rome and Stockholm are less than a two-hour plane ride away.
A two-hour drive in the United States is not enough to get anywhere, I mean some hardcore commuters are in the car that long just to get to work everyday. But maybe Ill just hold on to my quickly multiplying vacation days and cash them out someday and give the money to somebody who really needs it.
My French friend who listened to me whine this weekend thinks I just need to change, adapt to my new surroundings. The American lifestyle is unhealthy. People are overweight, they work too much and for what?, he noted. He's right, but feeling that I was bordering on one of those "whose country is better" discussions, I decided to just let this one go.
Have you come to France from the US? Can you sympathise with Joshua Melvin? Is there a downside to too much vacation?
IT sounds like he needs to learn how to travel on the cheap.
Right here in good ole USA, I got 5 weeks paid vacation on the 1st day I started. OK so it was a government job. Not only that, I could accumulate almost 9 weeks of vacation if I did not use all my vacation days. It was horrible I tell you :-) It costs lot of money to entertain yourself when not stuck in office 8 hours a day.
Read more books. Really I had let my vacation run into the cap, so I wound up taking a week off every other month to not lose time and burn a little. Then we got bought by a company that has a vacation policy of use it, no or, so in order to burn through my bank and my earned time in that first year (their demand) I took off a week every month. It was great, spent a lot of time on the bike trails, in the pool, read a ton of books. I learned then I was emotionally prepared to retire the minute I have enough money. That first year back to normal 4 week vacation SUCKED.
All those restaurants like Rainforest Cafe and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and Hard Rock Cafe to go to with the overpriced drinks and loud music. The constant din of children saying "I'm bored" and "I want to ride Space Mountain". Then you wait for two hours at Space Mountain and when you finally get to the end of the line, the child gets scared and doesn't want to go on the ride after all. Now he just wants to go get ice cream. Another line.
On one vacation, my station wagon broke down in the middle of nowhere, just like Chevy Chase, and we spent two days at some West Virginia motel sitting around the dirty pool, eating at Waffle House and constantly feeding the kids money to go play games at the video arcade in the nearby strip mall. Now that was comparatively relaxing, I got to actually read a book or two.
Mr. Mercat and I are stressing out (only mildly) because being retired, we could travel almost anytime we want anywhere. The fact is, after working hard for decades, I want to hang out at home. Maybe it’s because I have a nice home. Plenty of room, I have Amazon Prime so lots of really good TV to watch. A kindle with lots of really good books to read. We don’t want to spend lots of money traveling so we would end up without a lot of luxuries we have here. So my goals are to travel to see the one kid who doesn’t live here, and we have a few friends who have wanted us to visit for years.
Actually, many retirees now own motor homes towing a small car (for travel in a local town). And that’s the mean to travel across the USA.
That's it. Obviously, many or most retirees will not be able to or will not want to travel all the time when they're retired. I retired two and one half years ago. There's not one day I wish I was back at my job. I have plenty of things to occupy me at home. Health is a lot more important than money at this stage.
I moved to Germany in 1999 and my first full-time job was a 35 hour / week contract. So my first thought was I can go and get another for my regular “American” experience of working a long week.
Sorry pal, not allowed. Then I learned that the 30 days of vacation only applied to work days. Not like when I was in the Navy with 30 paid days off which included Saturday and Sunday plus holidays.
And living and working in Munich at the time we got 13 instead of the normal 10 holidays.
It took me a few years to get used to working only 35 hours a week and taking a lot of time off, but, it being a tough thing to do, I rose to the occasion and managed to adjust.
My current job is a 38 hour / week contract, with 30 days vacation but only 10 holidays. I feel cheated.
A former co-worker had a similar frustration after taking an assignment in France. The pace is so slow he had difficult staying motivated, and wasn’t allowed to get a 2nd job. When his co-workers found that he was working on things at home during his “off time”, he was ridiculed.
Learn to be lazy and unproductive, I guess.
I would write a novel or do some painting. Or work on genealogy. Or sew. Or cook. I have tons of projects to keep me busy that don’t involve going to airports. Plus, I did the airport & hotel thing for ten years as a flight attendant and no longer find it appealing. At all.
Old saying in the South:
“Why should I travel? I’m already here!”
We go to Hilton Head Island a week at a time, not expensive outside of high season (when the temperatures are highest), several times a year. Then we went to a colleague’s wedding in Ottawa, easy two day drive one way and we knew we were in a foreign country. U.S. Customs searched our vehicle & made us wait after they scanned our passports (wife & I are retired military, Republican, NRA); a “random” search of course, yeah, right.
While in Canada I made a list of all the things we left behind. Billboard French was everywhere in Ontario; the Anglophones truly hate the forced bilingualism.
Have not yet gotten the travel bug. And when I find it, I’m going to smash it.
If you normally vacation at a place like Hilton Head which people travel hundreds of miles to get to (two hour drive for us), aren’t you `already there’?
You think that’s bad. I’m retired. You ever tried to take a day off when you’re retired. Technically, it can’t be done.
Back in the pre-internet days, I had a job where I worked 3 1/2 days a week putting in forty hours, and was off 3 1/2 days a week. It was okay, but you could spend yourself broke trying to stay entertained.
Have you arranged the “ten hour day” four day workweek yet?
Travel used to be for the well-off, then the middle-class discovered it an only do it because they are supposed to like it.
The getaway that's close to home, where you know the restaurants and have some favorite activities, and a nice place to read all those books downloaded on the iPad
now, that's relaxation.
Is your wife retired, too? Most housewives never get to retire.
So, you're already married?
Stay home at your beautiful French home. Learn to garden, eat at great local restaurants, visit your local farmers market and read and write. Invite friends over for American barbeque. Sounds like a great book in the offering - Those Crazy French!