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Born on the Wrong Continent Vacation Blues

When it comes to vacation time off from work, many Americans might feel they were born on the wrong continent as compared to the rest of the developed world, especially Europe. A quick look at the numbers reveal the cause of distress. The average American earns 14 days of leisure from his employer over the course of a year, though only uses 12 of them. Now let’s hop across the pond and take a look at the highs and lows of vacation time in Europe.

On the low side, Germany workers log the equivalent of about 35 working weeks each year, assuming a 40 hour workload. That leaves a full 17 weeks worth of vacation! The obvious question becomes, “How does anything ever get done around there?” The reality may surprise you. Germany is humming along at less than 7% unemployment, and boasts an economy that is the envy of the European Union right now. Heck, it just might be the envy of the world also.

Compare that to the relatively dedicated work ethic of Greece, where the average worker puts in almost as much time on the job as America, earning about two weeks annually for vacation. And how is the Greek economy doing right now? In a word – abysmal. Unemployment is over 20% and only bailout after bailout have kept the country from becoming officially bankrupt.

The German life of leisure seems to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom of some, who have always claimed that too much vacation makes for a lazy, anemic economy. With Germany and others clearly outperforming the American workforce, maybe it’s time to revisit that assumption. Tom Geoghegan, an American labor lawyer and author of the book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent, claims that the difference between average amount of annual vacation time can be traced to labor unions.

It seems that rest of the world has long decried the European sloth work ethic. Consider this remark from Jin Liqun, the chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund, who claimed Europe’s economic troubles are a result of “the sloth-inducing, indolent-inducing labor laws.” Ouch. A few months later, Republican presidential nominee candidate, Mitt Romney, warned that European-style work benefits would “poison the very spirit of America.” But the real point is this. Maybe Europeans are incredibly lazy and maybe they aren’t. The whole concept seems to be based on subjective opinion and would be impossible to prove by scientific research.

Though many Americans believe labor unions in this country are too strong, these organizations don’t hold a candle to their counterparts across the ocean. Without being too Yankee-centric, we can’t help but acknowledge the historical work ethic that is blatantly American. This is the country where, unlike the perception of others, you could always work your buns off and get ahead. At least you COULD work your buns off and get ahead until a recent succession of presidents seemingly intent on destroying the economy through the truly idiotic economic policies. We’re starting to get a little nervous, wondering if the event horizon has passed, that the United States has already been remade in the image of socialist Europe and we just haven’t noticed yet. Apparently, the concept of individual liberty is offensive and threatening to some.

It seems to us that the cultural reason Europeans have arrived in Uber Vacationland may be that the dream of getting ahead by hard work has withered on the vine. Maybe the idea that working hard actually leads to financial success is too hard to believe any more. Perhaps this is what Romney was referring to, but it’s pretty tough to claim that the famed American work ethic is getting us anywhere these days. When the current president trumpets the news of unemployment dropping to 8% as an achievement, whoa Nelly, we’re in trouble.

As presupposed a few paragraphs back, the real problem may be that European-style socialism has already infiltrated the American economy to a large extent. To those with resources, now might be a good time to get acclimate yourself to the notion that America’s days as an economic superpower are numbered, if not vanished already. Rather than counting how many vacation days you do or do not have remaining, better start researching topics like:

  • dual citizenship
  • foreign investments
  • shifting Wall Street investments to real estate and foreign markets
  • have an international “bug out” plan

Are we Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling? Not at all. We’re merely looking at the world around us and wondering WWOFT (what would our framers’ think?). Chances are, modern day America might send them running for the nearest ships and setting sail back to Europe. It’s something to think about.

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