Leaving the dry heat of northern California to go work in Berlin had one very tangible benefit. My job in Germany afforded me, from the get go, six weeks of paid annual leave.
I was not a CEO. I worked full-time as a managing director at a small research non-profit and also as a freelance writer. I earned a middle class income. But I did not have to work for years to earn what is considered a given across Europe: meaningful time off from work, an understanding that leisure is an essential part of the good life, for everyone.
In May, I returned to Sacramento to be near my aging and recently widowed mother. It's good to be home, but returning to work here means just two paid weeks off per year, a full month less than I'd had in Europe.
Summertime, alas, and the living is not so easy.
Why is this so? Why do Americans work so hard? Why is it that when we go on vacation, Americans often take their work with them?