European Mentality

When a colleague heard we were going away to the beach for 15 days, she was all, “OMG, you are SO European. I’d love to have one of those long vacations, like you Europeans do.”

“You could,” I said. “We aren’t back to teaching until the end of August.”

“No,” she said. “I don’t have the mentality. I’d feel guilty all the time.”

I just stared because I can’t begin to imagine feeling guilty about a staid family vacation on the beach. It’s not like I’m suggesting she go shopping to Paris with a lover for 2 weeks while the husband is home with the kids. How European do you have to be to allow yourself a trip to the beach with your family?


25 thoughts on “European Mentality”

  1. Maybe it’s a money-related guilt? She could probably afford the few thousand dollars for a beach vacation, but maybe in her mind that money could be spent on other things like house-repairs, bills, paying down credit cards, whatever.


  2. I think it’s the 15-day duration. I know that many Americans find anything longer than a week in a stretch to be very self-indulgent and plain wrong. I know because I feel guilty now, too, even though I know two weeks is about what you need to really truly relax. Years ago, when we did it last, anyone who’d hear about the two weeks would be “Wow, two weeks..!” They were definitely incredulous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With all one has to pack and organise when traveling with a toddler, it doesn’t make sense to go on a shorter trip. We’d gladly do 3 weeks but N doesn’t get enough free days.


    2. ” I know that many Americans find anything longer than a week in a stretch to be very self-indulgent and plain wrong.”

      The old Puritan work ethic? Anything that looks like too much time off work equals idleness and debauchery which is a sin?


  3. This sounds like a humble brag (similar to false modesty).

    The meta-message is: “Oh, I’m such a hard worker, Im’ so industrious, I could never just lie around like a deadbeat good for nothing.”

    Remember, that workaholic isn’t often not really an insult in the US (unlike almost every country of Europe).


  4. I usually end up going for week long trips (but a couple of different ones to different places). Part of me likes the idea of a two-week vacation (and I’ve done that) but I’d worry a little about getting bored with the place.


  5. I’ve gone on a two-week vacation a couple of times. For my family the problem is usually getting time off all at once or the cost for staying so long. There are other factors, too, but guilt isn’t one of them.


  6. I always go back to my European country of origin during at least 4 weeks during the summer. Sometimes, even 6 weeks. So that I can visit my parents. On the other hand, I always work through thanksgiving and spring break.

    I donΒ΄t get the “I am always crazy busy until I drop dead” American mentality. For me, it means poor planning or over commitment.


  7. I cannot imagine going on a two-week vacation that didn’t involve work, because we’ve never been able to afford any vacation besides our honeymoon that wasn’t somehow co-sponsored by my job. (For instance, taking the family on a research trip.) We traded future vacations for student loan debt that got us jobs that would afford us lots of vacation time that we’ll never be able to use.


  8. Two weeks is a long vacation??? When I was stationed in Europe (Germany and Italy) eons ago, literally half the population in both those countries would go on vacation for the entire month of August. And if I remember correctly, most of it was subsidized by the government.


    1. You want a long vacation in America — join the military!

      All branches of the U.S. military give active-duty members 30 DAYS A YEAR OFF, and this includes your first year of service.


    2. Yes, it’s the usual thing in Europe. We get 5-6 weeks vacation time per year, of which usually 3-4 weeks are spent in the summer.


      1. N would be so happy to get 5-6 weeks. He wants to travel in Europe, for instance, but he doesn’t get enough time off for that and for a beach vacation. So he always chooses a beach vacation, which I totally understand.


  9. I must be incredibly American because a two-week vacation would make me feel incredibly lazy and useless. I don’t know a single person in this country he gets so much time off.


    1. \ I don’t know a single person in this country he gets so much time off.

      Don’t you know any school teachers? πŸ™‚


        1. Where can one take courses in the summer? Colleges only offer remedial introductory courses in the summer.

          I never took summer courses as a student, much as I’d have loved to because nothing but intro courses were ever available.


      1. I guess I do know teachers, but I was just thinking of people in my own age group (early-mid 20’s). All of the teachers I know are 50+


      1. \ Lazy and useless are the best things to be, aren’t they?

        At first, I thought you were joking.

        But aren’t you reading even during this vacation, even if not writing? Even if not, rest is a must for future productivity (see first link below).

        As for courses for school teachers, they exist in Israel too. One doesn’t take them from colleges; there are special courses for teachers from special organizations. However, in Israel one is required to take not more than 60 hours per year (you can take more, but courses above this limit won’t affect your salary) and the courses can be taken during school year. One is not required to take them in the summer.

        I hope David’s info about American school teachers is of the same sort as the info about college professors having no vacation and working 60 hours a week.

        Regarding long work hours, Israelis work more than OECD average and more than Americans (second link below) :


        Israelis work more hours than in West

        Taub Center study reveals new findings on primary factors underlying Israel’s low labor productivity, including longer working day, low capital investments, cumbersome bureaucracy,7340,L-4427136,00.html



  10. Europeans have more vacation in general.

    Two weeks of vacation are considered standard. I actually own a career advice book written before the recession that point blank says never to take more than one week of vacation at a time because two weeks is more than enough time for the company to realize they can do without you.

    Tell a European you only have two weeks of vacation and they’ll be aghast.

    Perhaps your academic colleague has absorbed these norms even though academics have vacation time?


    1. This advice reminded me of one of those Franco-era manuals for wives: “Never go away on an overnight trip or your husband might realize he can do perfectly well without you.” πŸ™‚


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