Human Resources News & Insights

Why Germans get more — way more — vacation time

How is it that Germans get the same amount of work done, while taking more vacation time throughout the year? You can find the answer around your company’s coffee machine.

On average, Germans work around 1,436 hours per year. Americans, on the other hand, work 1,804 hours per year. Yet studies have shown Germans get roughly the same amount of work done.

How is that possible? Americans may be at the office longer, but they’re not working longer. In other words, Americans spend more time socializing at work. Meanwhile, Germans socialize less, and they tend to head straight for the door once their work is completed.

One place where this is most noticeable: the coffee machine. Research has shown that in the U.S. it’s normal to see several co-workers huddled around the coffee pot chatting while sipping their joe. In Germany, the office watering hole is less of a hang out.

Of course there’s some good in the American way — the workday is more relaxed.

Vacations are a must

It could be argued that Germans need to get more out of the normal workday because, by law, they have fewer of them.

Germans get six weeks of federally mandated vacation time every year.

And therein lies a huge difference: Americans tend to view vacation time as a bonus — something they can take if they can get away from the office. Germans view it as a necessary aspect of life and know its coming — and thus may feel the need to get their work done despite it.

Which workplace do you think would suit you best — the American or the German? Share your opinions in the Comments Box below.

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  • Marcus

    As a german I can recommend our way of work (but to be honest, we spend some time at the coffe machine, too. We are humans and no working machines). It makes sense to take some weeks per year to refill our batteries. In some companies it is a must to take 3 weeks in a row. The result is that you start your work after vacation with better concentration, increased creativity and motivation. Not to forget: the happy feelings in the weeks before vacation.

    Try it – you will love it 😉

    Greets from Bavaria

    Marcus

  • SM

    Whoa, whoa, whoa…the American workday is NOT more relaxed. We are over-stressed and over-worked. There is nothing at all relaxing about an American corporate work day. I’m pretty floored by that comment.

  • CLFMTMS

    I also disagree that the American workplace is more relaxed, especially at this point in time. American management treats their employees like paid slaves. They think, and are quick to tell an employee, “quit, if you don’t like it. There are hundred more monkeys waiting on your job”. Employee loyalty, longevity, and work ethic mean nothing to the new American management teams.
    I would move to Germany in a heart beat.

  • R. B.

    I haven’t tried the German way, so can’t say for sure. But I do know in America, though employers often tell you that you need to take your vacation because it’s good for you, the overall message is that only slackers take all of their vacation. It’s given with resentment even when you only take a day here and there. There is no real concern for employees or what the stress and long hours are doing to people’s lives. I would like to try the German way. I can’t imagine it could be any worse and it just might be better.

  • Jordan

    I’d love to try the German way. I’ve seen the stress here (in the US) actually disable people, and even kill a few. Of course some people don’t deal with stress as well as others, and then if they have stress outside the workplace – well, they just never get a break – and that takes its toll.
    My cousin has been living in Germany, and I’ve spent some time there with her — and we both love it. I work hard here, but am not totally stressed (like I was in my former job) — but I totally agree with what R.B. says about the feelings over taking vacation time. They act like the place will fall apart without us for a day. My thought is if we’re so indispensable — we should get paid accordingly!

  • CJ

    I believe int he German way. I, like many people, used to work sun up to sun down, especially when I had a work issued Blackberry. However, after having a complete zone-out experience at work one day I decided that no amount of money was worth that feeling. It was then I made it a point to disconnect from the office at the end of my 8-hour work day and NEVER feel guilty about taking my vacation, which I AM ENTITLED TO. When I go on vacation, NO WORK only family time is the rule. I look at it this way. If I were to die today, the company would not shut down, they would be inconvenienced until they hired my replacement, but they would go on. How many times has your company inconvenienced you when you had plans with your friends or family; do you think they felt guilty, I DON’T THINK SO. This is not to say that I never give any extra to my job but I just don’t give until it hurts. I also put in a FULL 8 hours each day. Just food for thought. Take your vacation and don’t feel guilty.