Vacations/Holidays -- do the Brits and the Americans feel differently about them?
Do Americans look upon vacations differently than the Brits? I think they do.
Speaking for myself, I have been on far more vacations (or holidays, as we say here) since moving to Britain seven years ago than in the 46 that preceded them. And we’re not talking about the American hesitancy in going abroad; we’re talking about going anywhere.
My family, and the families of all my friends, rarely, if ever, went away for a break during the year. Our fathers got one or two weeks of vacation per year and, as in my father’s case, the time was often chosen for you. If vacation time was looked forward to in my household, it was because that was the time my father could volunteer to work in the mill during “shutdown week” and earn a second pay check in addition to his holiday pay. And we were not the exception among my friends and acquaintances.
But in Britain, my wife tells me, they always went away somewhere. Even her parents had holidays when they were young. None of them were wealthy, but they considered vacationing important.
At least some of this may have come from the proximity of vacation-worthy destinations. From where we live in Sussex, the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth and, in a pinch, Brighton are within easy reach. And, if all else fails, there is a Butlins in Bognor. I lived in Columbia County, New York. Where were we going to go for a cheap holiday that was so close by? Binghamton? Utica?
So I think if the idea that a holiday break is important and worth investing in is more ingrained in the British psyche, it is likely due to the fact that affordable holidays have been a part of life for several generations and are seen as a normal part of the year.
Add to that the five weeks of holiday leave and the availability of inexpensive yet desirable destinations and it’s not hard to see why Britons are not content to sit home during their time off.
I remember when I moved to the States in 1990 and got my first corporate job - with a whopping two weeks holiday/vacation per year. Ten whole work days. To add to the shock, I had to earn at least half of that before I could take any time off. Vacation was accrued at just over a day per month, so even if I wanted to take the one week break that is more typical here, I still needed to work for six months first.
As Mike says, there's no doubt that Brits (and Europeans in general) have a healthier attitude towards down time than Americans. Most Brits I know wouldn't dream of going anywhere for less than two weeks, skiing trips being the exception. Anything less than about four days isn't even called a vacation/holiday.
And with the UK being so close to countries that are, well, completely foreign, Brits are quite well travelled compared to Americans. A four hour plane ride from London takes you to many exotic and culturally diverse places, while the same length flight from Chicago takes me to Florida, California. Oh yes, and Canada.
I often wonder though, if the UK had a guaranteed summer, how many Brits would venture overseas? Although many of us do indeed seek out strange and exciting places to visit, the majority of Brits just want a "bit of sun". (And who can blame us?) In the US, even those families who do go out of state for a bit of a break don't have to worry about finding the sun. And with the huge range of scenery on offer here, (think beaches, the Rockies, the dessert, Montana's Big Sky, etc.) I really don't fault Americans for wanting to see bits of their own country. Admittedly, there's less adventure when you know that there'll probably be a Wal-Mart nearby, and you won't have to worry about getting money out of the machine, or losing your passport; but this country is bloody vast and no two regions are the same.
My advice to Americans is to lobby for more time off, learn to chill a bit more and take to the roads!
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22 hours ago