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Why do Americans Suck at Taking Time Off? (If they’re even given any to begin with)

After dinner one night at our B&B in Italy, we started chatting with a youngish couple from the UK. They were there on holiday and were enjoying their first visit to Lake Como.Menaggio - Lake Como, Italy

We asked them how long they were staying.

“Two weeks.” She replied. “How about you?”

We said we were only there for 3 nights and then were moving on to the Dolomites. At that, the girl shook her head, a tiny look of disapproval on her face.

“Why do Americans always rush around?” She asked us. “You never seem to stay in one place very long.”

And then she went on to say how she was frustrated that her job only allowed her 6 weeks’ vacation. “Only” 6 weeks? Are you kidding me? Do people really not know that Americans get the shaft when it comes to total vacation time? (Apparently not, because even the B&B owner chimed in to say Americans usually only stay 1-2 nights when everyone else stays longer.)

You see, I’d say the majority of Americans have less than 3 weeks of vacation in a year. And even if they had more time off, chances are they wouldn’t actually take their vacation. I know far too many people who will work an entire year and maybe, maybe, take off 1 week total. It’s ridiculous.

Both the guy and the girl each had 6-7 weeks off – and no, they hadn’t been at their jobs for 10+ years (which is the only way you can possibly accrue even close to that much vacation at a typical job in the US). They both were actually surprised that Americans had so little time off and finally could understand a little bit more why we just don’t have the time to stay very long.

So yes, Europeans definitely travel differently than Americans.

The subject of how much vacation time Americans get versus other developed countries is a sore topic for me. It was the main reason why I hated working in the corporate world so much. You can’t really give someone 2 weeks off during an entire year and expect them to not burn out. But then as I mentioned before, some people don’t even take all the time they’re given. Blame it on the “work ethic”, blame it on the bosses who frown on their employees taking time off, or blame it on the workaholics who just like their work that much. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I think it’s a travesty.

Soooo, if you’re not from the States, next time you come across some frazzled Americans traveling around at a whirlwind pace, please give them just a little bit of slack. At least they managed to escape – if only for just a moment.

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