10 Ways Americans and Europeans Differ


Vacation Time

couple on moped in Italy
A couple looks at a church painting in Florence, Italy. The average American has two weeks of vacation per year while the average European has at least four. Sofie Delauw/Getty Images

Sure, some American-based companies like biotech firm Amgen, Inc. and Google offer generous vacation packages (three to five weeks) [source: Glassdoor]. But by and large, when it comes to the amount of vacation time the average employee gets, the U.S. lags way behind many other wealthy nations, particularly those in Europe. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor doesn't require employers to offer any paid vacation time to employees. Most companies offer two weeks' (10 days') vacation per year, with that figure rising at some firms for longstanding workers. But 25 percent of American workers get no paid vacation at all [source: Center for Economic and Policy Research].

This is a far cry from Europe, where the European Union requires countries to supply a minimum of 20 vacation days every year for full-time employees, with some companies going above and beyond that offering as many as 25 to 30 days off. The paid holiday situation is just as disparate, with most industrialized countries guaranteeing between five and 13 paid holidays every year, while the U.S. doesn't promise any. Sadly, the Americans who are most affected by lack of adequate vacation days are low-wage or part-time employees, as well as those who work for small businesses [sources: Ray, Mohn].

Several pieces of U.S. legislation have been introduced in Congress to mandate some type of paid vacation time for American workers, but all have died in process so far [sources: Govtrack, Congress.gov].