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French get most days off but feel 'holiday-deprived'

Dan MacGuill · 19 Nov 2013, 12:25

Published: 19 Nov 2013 12:25 GMT+01:00

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For anyone struggling to get through the cold days of winter, the thought of a two-week break in the sun can be enough to keep them going.

The good news? Workers in France get more holidays than anywhere else in the world, according to a recent survey by travel website Expedia called "Vacation Deprivation".

With the average of 30 days' paid leave per year, the French top the table of 24 countries that were covered in the study. What’s more, The French, quite rightly most people would say, tend to take every last one of those days leave, which stands in contrast to some of their European neighbours. 

The Italians, for example get an average 28 days off, but only actually use 20 of them. 

The European region is spoilt, however, by comparison with Asia. Workers in South Korea, for example, get only 10 days' leave a year.

Even more surprisingly, those two weeks are apparently more than enough, with the South Koreans only using seven of their days off.

Similarly, Japanese workers are reasonably well provided with vacation leave of 18 days, but on average they opt to take only seven each year.

TOP 10: What drives expats mad about French working culture

You might guess, then, that the workers who feel most “holiday-deprived” are those, like the Malaysians, for example, who get 12 days off each year, but are only able or prepared to use 10 of them.

The workers with the keenest sense of “vacation deprivation”, however, are the French – the same ones who get and use the most holidays.

Fully 90 percent of French respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement: “I feel vacation deprived”.

Compare that to the 59 percent of Americans, who receive 14 holidays a year on average and use 10 of them – one third the number taken by the French.

This is far from the only major difference in working culture between France and the US, it's worth noting.

With multinational retailers like Apple and Sephora being forced to close early in Paris, one French union leader told The Local in September: "I'm not concerned with what happens in New York or any other country. It's not up to them to say what the rules and laws are in France."

'This is not New York, this law is for France'

Story continues below…

The most satisfied workers from the 24 surveyed? The Norwegians, of whom only 17 percent said they felt deprived of their place in the sun, as it were.

The workers of Mexico (38 percent), Denmark (39 percent) and Sweden (44 percent), were also quite pleased with their lot.

As deprived as the French feel now, however, they may be even more aggrieved in future, amid recent debate about the famous French tradition of the “grandes vacances” - the two-month summer break from school.

Back in February, Education Minister Vincent Peillon floated a proposal to cut the eight-week school break down to six weeks.

In response, tourism industry professional Didier Arina told The Local: “The French are really attached both socially and culturally to the long summer holidays. It’s a tradition that goes back a long way.

“It’s in our blood to go away in the summer. Any minister who attempts to change it comes up against a mini-revolution,” he added.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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