What Made America Great

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Made America Great

There are no Parisians in Paris right now. That's an overstatement, of course, but not by much. In the fashionable district I was walking through at lunchtime today, it seemed that probably between one-third and one-half of all of the business were closed for a summer holiday. Most of the city's denizens have left town for vacation.

The situation is similar in Amsterdam, where the school holidays are regulated so that everyone in each of the three sections of the country heads for the border en masse.

People in many European countries get 5 or 6 weeks of vacation, plus a much larger number of public holidays than we have in the U.S. (I think there are something like 18 holidays in Germany).

The sloth and decadence over here piqued my curiosity, so I headed over to the OECD's website and found the statistics for average annual number of hours worked by people who are employed. In ascending order, the four countries I checked came out thus for 2004:

United States1825

These are not trivial differences. Between the top and the bottom, Americans put in 34.5% more hours than Dutchmen.

This doesn't even take into account the fact that the Dutch retire at a younger age.

I have to admit that it's frustrating sometimes to live in the Dutch environment. Stores aren't open when you want them to be. Secretaries take off the second the clock says it's time to go, even if they're in the middle of an important task. That kind of thing.

On the other hand, I haven't turned down the 29 (IIRC) vacation days I get, nor did I turn up at the office on Pentecost (a public holiday).

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