Vacations – Who gets the best weeks?

“What shall we write about, as there are no traditional events for the next weeks?” Francesca asked. 

“Vacations”, I said. 

When the row of traditional events is over, Germans make their own events. In January, they plan their vacations. In every office, there are heated discussions who will be on holiday leave at what time of the year. Heated only by German standards, of course. Nobody watching would realise that livelong feuds start over who can take vacations over Fronleichnam or Christi Himmelfahrt this year.

Germans like to make the most out of what they get.

They get five to six weeks of paid holiday leave by their employers, and another 8 to 10 days of national holidays. By taking vacations in weeks with national holidays, one to two extra vacation weeks can be carved out of working time. Thus, the ritual January-office-battles are fought about who gets which week around what national holidays.

If all participants of such a planning session obey to the unwritten rules of holiday taking, chances are that damages to the office climate will only be minor. Those unwritten rules say that

– Parents are allowed up to three weeks vacations during school holidays in summer and can take the Christmas holidays.

– Non-parents have to take their holiday leave outside school holidays in summer, but are allowed Christmas holiday leave if they alternate with another non-parent.

– Parents should leave weeks with national holidays outside school holidays to non-parents, like Pentecoast (Pfingsten), Workers day (1st May) or Reunification day ( 3rd October).

– Never, never take leave both on Christi Himmelfahrt and Fronleichnam. As these National holidays always take place on a Thursday, one can get four days off work in a row for just one day of holiday leave.  If you don´t alternate leave taking on these days, you are in deep trouble. Nobody will complain openly, but you are marked as “unkollegial” forever.

– The acceptable span of time you can take for holidays is 3 weeks maximum, though two weeks are better. You are allowed four weeks when you go on an adventure trip to faraway places, like riding the Transsibirian train.

Add to this set of unwritten rules a set of outward restrictions like day-care  center holidays, changing rates at the holiday ressorts, fixed dates at work and – worst of all – a significant other whose vacations rhythm at work isn´t synchronized with your rythm yet, and you will understand why I  feel a wave of panic rise in writing about vacations. And I haven´t talked about “Resturlaub” yet. 

Resturlaub is what you get when you leave part of your vacation planning to chance. This always happens to me and never to my sister. I work in media, she as a civil servant. She plans the whole year, I only the first half. Then, in the second half, I never seem to have time for a holiday leave. Thanks to Resturlaub, I can take part of my Urlaub the next year. 

When I counted last week, I still had 2 weeks Resturlaub, adding to my 5 weeks this year. What shall I do? I have no time to take holidays.

Deine Sorgen möchte ich haben-I would like to have your problems”-we say in Germany when we think that somebodies problems are mere trifles compared to all the serious problems of the world. 

I like my sorrows and want to keep them. A few more weeks into the year and I´ll allow myself to look forward to the pleasures of vacations. Then I will tell you about sandcastles at the Baltic see, liver paté in France and organic sausages in London.

I intended to do it already this time. Everything was set in my head, but when I put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keys, this eulogy on vacation planning came out.

At least,  I live up to my name. As a true German, I put work first, and pleasure later. 

So, the tale of vacation´s pleasures will be another story.



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