Did you enjoy the recent August bank holiday? Perhaps you were indulging in some precious quiet time, trying to ignore the spectre of the next day’s work looming. Or maybe you were stuck in motorway traffic, daydreaming about returning to the daily grind as you tried to ignore the squabbling kids? Or perhaps you were simply wondering why the UK rates very lowly in the international holiday stakes compared to the 47(!) or so other countries who are looking down on us from the comfort of their overused hammocks.
Let’s think about that for a moment. This means that the Russians, the butt of many a Western joke, actually have 6 more days a year than us to contemplate that huge pile of ironing that needs doing. Japan, a nation whose reputation of iron efficiency is often ridiculed, sits even higher, slacking off with a whole week more than us to enjoy barbecues with the in-laws. So who sits at the top of the table? America, you say? Actually, they only have two more days than us, with a piffling 10. In fact, that’d be Columbia, which currently enjoys 18 days of national holidays a year to spend on its equivalent of the M25 arguing with los ninos. Who said that coffee makes you go faster? And whilst we’re continuing with this convenient stereotyping, it’s interesting to note that for a country whose Empire dominated so widely in Victorian times, we spend less time enjoying national holidays than the likes of India, who recline top of the list along with Columbia. Maybe that rampant colonial spirit of old has filtered through to our modern working practices.
So that’s bank holidays. But what about longer mid-year breaks? Blame this late-summer languor on the French, perhaps. It was in 1936 that the left-wing, populist government of the day instituted Europe’s first paid summer vacations. After World War II, most other European governments followed suit. Nowadays, all workers in Italy get four weeks of vacation, minimum – plus the automatic tredicesima bonus. Equivalent to 13th month’s salary, it’s shelled out in December to help people buy Christmas presents!
Lengthy school holidays are an antiquated relic of the Victorian era – a necessity for the agricultural economy of the nineteenth century when schools needed long summer holidays so children could toil in the fields. Which is a handy reminder to offer the kids next time they complain about having to mow the lawn!
So where does this leave UK delivery services? Well, as they actually grind to a halt over bank holidays, perhaps we ought to be grateful for our comparatively meagre national breaks. Otherwise, how on earth would we cope with the build up to Christmas?
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