• France's news in English
 

'I can't cope with all these vacation days in France '

Published: 18 Jun 2014 16:38 GMT+02:00

I have too many vacation days.

Just because I live and work in France I get five weeks paid  vacation, ten public holidays in 2014 plus scores of other days that I’m apparently entitled to because of the country’s 35-hour work week.

This weekend I tried to explain my problem to a French friend, who thinking I was joking, just laughed and said, “Well, you’ll get used to it.”

I know this sounds like the sort of divorced-from-reality thought that turned people off to Gwyneth Paltrow, but I persisted: “I’m not trying to say there is anything wrong with all this time off, but seriously what do you do with it?”

My French friend, obviously stunned by my question, just gave a marvelous Gallic shrug and said: “Nothing.”

That was of little help.

If I were storing my vacation hours around the house they’d be leaking from under the closet door like a dirty secret. At night, I imagine them staring angrily at me like unused exercise equipment.

I guess the problem is that I’m American and have always had just two weeks vacation. And because I’m a reporter working even on Christmas Day was just part of life.

I’ve generally taken a week in the summer and one around the holidays and it’s always been enough. But since arriving in France I feel like I’m off all the time and these days are turning into a burden, not least financially.

I just spent a couple of hundred euros for a long-weekend train trip to visit my in-laws. Then there are the hundreds more I spent on a trip to Sardinia in May. Not to mention the Moby Dick of French vacation season: August. I'll be left penniless.

In the US most people take short and infrequent trips, so they don’t get too concerned if they’re a little expensive. It’s a special occasion and a moment to splurge. In French terms, it’s a shot glass full of espresso, to the watery bowl of American coffee.

It seems like my wife and I spend an outsize amount of time trying to figure out where to go. It’s a conversation that’s on the bottom of the to-do list of unpleasant domestic tasks like tax paperwork and washing the bathroom floor.

But in the back of my head I know if I don’t figure out our travel plans, everything will be booked up or too expensive. Or worse I’ll end up at home on a sort of unintended staycation that is good for organizing closets.

And then there's the stress that comes with deciding where to go for each holiday or extended weekend called a "pont". It’s already provoked fights in our house.

All that trauma just to decide which beach we are going to lie on. I mean it's not a decision that will affect the future of our kids.

These vacation days are lots of work too. Let’s say you take the cheapest option, a simple long weekend at a low-cost municipal campground. You’ve still got to pack your bags, get yourself there somehow and then proceed with the effort generated by living in a way our ancestors moved indoors to avoid.

The simplicity of the mere two weeks I had in the US now feels akin to some kind of post-modern exercise in streamlined living, like people who are perfectly happy to have only one piece of furniture.

Don’t get me wrong, the time off is nice. It’s great to have a break, especially with the stresses of moving to France and the daily combat of taking the Metro and RER and so on. And now all these countries' capital cities like Rome and Stockholm are less than a two-hour plane ride away.

A two-hour drive in the United States is not enough to get anywhere, I mean some hardcore commuters are in the car that long just to get to work everyday. But maybe I’ll just hold on to my quickly multiplying vacation days and cash them out someday and give the money to somebody who really needs it. 

My French friend who listened to me whine this weekend thinks I just need to change, adapt to my new surroundings. The American lifestyle is unhealthy. People are overweight, they work too much and for what?, he noted. He's right, but feeling that I was bordering on one of those "whose country is better" discussions, I decided to just let this one go.

Joshua Melvin

 Have you come to France from the US? Can you sympathise with Joshua Melvin? Is there a downside to too much vacation?

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Cannes race wide open on eve of awards
Cate Blanchett in Cannes. Photo: Valery Haché/AFP

Cannes race wide open on eve of awards

The competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival wraps up Saturday with a clutch of favourites jockeying for one of global cinema's most coveted prizes. READ  

Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?
A Waterloo reenactment. Photo: AFP

Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?

France stood accused this week of "sulking" because it failed to nominate any high-ranking official to attend the gigantic commemoration for the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. READ  

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed
Holidayers in Nice, southern France. Photo: AFP

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Paris is the most expensive region in France to spend a summer holiday... but where is the cheapest? A new study has found the answer. READ  

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs
The tyres are hauled up from the seabed. Photo: AFP

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs

Tourists and film stars hitting the beach at the French Riviera resort of Cannes may be blissfully unaware but lurking beneath the sparkling waves are tens of thousands of now troublesome scrap tyres, sunk deliberately to boost marine development. READ  

French films
The best French films you've never heard of
French actor Tahar Rahim in a scene from A Prophet. Photo: YouTube/Screengrab

The best French films you've never heard of

With the Cannes Film Festival nearing its end and with everyone talking about everything film - we take a look back at the best ten French movies you've probably never heard of, thanks to French cinema expert Judith Prescott. READ  

Tourism in Paris
Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets
Tourists at the France's iconic Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets

The Eiffel Tower was closed on Friday morning, as workers protested over the scourge of pickpockets around the famous monument, who they say have threatened and attacked them. READ  

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit
Photo: AFP

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit

A woman, who was reportedly pregnant, was found dead with her throat slit in a Paris apartment on Friday while her partner was left in a critical condition. An electric sander was found running beside their bodies. READ  

Cannes Film Festival
Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes
Sophie Marceau is a member of the Feature Film jury this year at Cannes. Photo: AFP

Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes

French actress Sophie Marceau is surely the undisputed queen of the Cannes wardrobe malfunction after her plunging jacket gave photographers more than an eyeful once again this week. And it's not the first time she's given the paparazzi palpitations. READ  

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform
UK PM David Cameron will hope to convince François Hollande that Britain should be allowed to renegotiate its relationship to the EU. Photo: AFP

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is to visit Paris next week as part of his charm offensive as he tries to persuade European leaders to allow Britain to renegotiate its ties with the EU, ahead of a planned In/Out referendum in the UK. READ  

Homes in northern France shaken by quake
The quake was felt across the Channel in the northern French departement of Pas-de-Calais. Photo: France's Central Bureau of Seismology (BCSF)

Homes in northern France shaken by quake

The tremors from a 4.4 magnitude earthquake were felt in northern France early on Friday morning, prompting several worried calls to the emergency services. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Eurovision is around the corner - and we don't fancy France's chances
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Who's to blame? Trial after Frenchman dies downing 56 shots
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Business & Money
Why May 2015 is the best month in years to work in France
Five great outdoor bars in Paris to check out this summer
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
Five reasons we should be worried about France's new snooping laws
International
The French don't seem to care about the UK election and that's normal
Culture
Only in France? Naked comedian stuns French culture minister
Migrant camps spring up in the heart of Paris
International
France bags another fighter jet deal but should Paris thank the US?
Society
French elevator protocol: Greeting, flirting and yes, even sex
Travel
Getting from CDG airport to Paris by road should now be a lot quicker
Politics
Why all the dodgy ties? A French view of the UK general election
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se