“5 to 7” or “Cinq a Sept”? The American Culture Clash

For Americans “five to seven” is when most bars offer discounted drinks and food. In France a “five to seven” or “Cinq a Sept”, refers to the time of day when Frenchmen visit their mistresses.

That’s not the only difference between American culture and other nations. When an American worker stays at her desk to 11 pm to finish a critical proposal, and then shows up in the workplace early on a Saturday to “catch up on some paper work”, we consider her to be a hard worker, and an “overachiever”; someone who’s “going places”.

But in Denmark she might receive a reprimand. They consider someone who puts in long hours at work as not an ideal worker, but someone who is inefficient.

The European Union prevents workers from exceeding 48 hours of work in a week, requires at least 11 consecutive rest hours a day, and guarantees four weeks of paid leave each year. In the U.S. there’s no paid leave at all, and while we’re given an average of 15 vacation days a year, most of us take only 14 days. That may mean Americans are more diligent and productive, but there is a price.

The ranking of the USA in work vs. personal life balance factors is 23rd of 23, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.

That may make the USA number one in efficiency, but rather poor in personal satisfaction as a whole. Europeans know how to play, but Americans seem to take more pride in what they produce, earn and acquire. Europeans embrace the work-life balance but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 5% of working Americans took vacations in July in 2014.

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