The United States falls behind other industrialized nations on a lot of issues, including the work and life balance. As the saying goes, some work to live and others live to work. You can guess which category Americans are in.

The pursuit of the American dream is an obsession that takes its toll on health, personal relationships and so much more. Plus, it’s a lot harder to take substantial time for travel, compared to Europe and elsewhere.

Americans hesitate booking that flight to Turks and Caicos, even if the cost is a bargain. And if they do follow through with the trip, they’ll still check work emails. It’s a sad, unfortunate compulsion.

Each site of employment has its own standards. But as of right now, American workers aren’t guaranteed paid time off by federal law.

All Work And Very Little Play For Americans

Americans are so fixated on work productivity, that they hinge their value on it. Working to finance the basics needed to live like shelter and food is one thing. But straining our eyes in front of the computer for hours on end, day after day? That’s not living by any measure.

The Atlantic writes, “the American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.”

Will this change in our lifetime? Unlikely. All we can do is be staunch about our boundaries, and enjoy as much down time as we can.

Other Nations Guarantee Paid Time Off

In no particular order, here are some of the nations where paid time off is sacred.


The French are all about enjoying the finer things in life, and this includes taking breaks.

According to Finance Buzz, “the standard work week in France is 35 hours compared to the 40-hour workweek in the U.S. If workers choose to work more than that many hours a week, they sometimes can get additional time off. France also has 11 public holidays.”

If you’re working with a French-based company, you probably won’t reach them after 5 p.m. on Friday. The same goes for the weekend, with some exceptions depending on the industry. In 2016, the French government enacted a law that allows citizens to disconnect from work emails after hours.


If you want the Spanish to do something outside of work hours, or during the siesta period, they’ll tell you to find somebody else to do it.

Spaniards get a guaranteed 22 working days of annual leave. According to Remote, “in addition to the month-long leave entitlement, Spanish labor regulations grant national, state and local public holidays as mandatory paid time off for employees.”

Employees can expect their typical salary while they’re away.


Finland holds the top spot as the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. Their approach to the work/life balance could help explain why that is.

Finnish employees are guaranteed 30 days of vacation, which many of them might put toward the summer.

Info Finland explains, “if you work at least 14 days or 35 hours per month, you accrue annual holidays. If you work less than that, you have a right to leave and to holiday compensation, which is paid during leave.”

For clarity, “holiday” in this context means vacation.


“Down Under” takes vacation time seriously as well. Australians can thank those who participated in a union campaign in the 1970s for that.

Employees who work full time are granted four weeks of annual leave. Australian Unions notes that, “part time employees are entitled to the same amount of leave, proportionate to how many hours you work each week.”

Australian workers accumulate annual leave days from the first day they start working. If, by the end of the year, some of that time isn’t used, it will carry into the next year.

During the leave period, Australians are paid “at least their base rate, excluding extra payments like allowances, penalties and overtime.”


The Germans aren’t interested in being worked to death.

Whether they need a vacation, are sick, or need to care for a newborn, they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. It’s understood that when breaks are afforded, the employee feels better, and can return to work refreshed.

I Am Expat writes, “full-time employees in Germany are entitled to a statutory minimum of 20 days of paid holiday per year, based on a five-day working week, or 25, based on a six-day working week.”


Once Brazilians have put in a year of work, they are entitled to up to 30 paid days of annual leave. They are free to break up that time however they choose.

However, Skuad notes, “one period must be at least 14 days long, and two of the periods need to be at least five days long each.”

Brazilian employers pay their staff regular wages during leave. Moreover, Skuad writes, “the vacation bonus must be equivalent to one-third of the employee’s monthly salary. The bonus must be paid out by the employer at least two days before the start of the vacation. “

Skuad writes, “the employer must pay out this bonus at least two days before the start of the vacation date.”