Are you guys on holidays yet?
Seems like it. It’s pretty quiet these days, except in malls throughout the city where people apparently have a blast buying the gifts Santa didn’t bring them.
Alright, let’s talk about holidays then!
The other day, I was reading Priyank’s blog, who wrote his “9 clue I’m becoming Canadian“. He noticed the following in Canada:
Holidays that are conveniently placed on certain days of week (as opposed to fixed dates) no longer surprise me. For e.g. Labour day is first Monday of September, Thanksgiving is second Monday in October, Family Day (ON) is third Monday of February, etc. I love talking about looking forward to the long weekend, planning trips for the long weekend, etc.
After reading, I paused and realized it was true — one of these funny little cultural differences I hadn’t noticed.
When I first came to Canada, I had been warned: there are much less holidays on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, and no public strike will change labor laws. Looking back, I can say the system is different but not in a bad way.
France has 11 Public Holidays per year. With the exception of those associated with Easter, public holidays are fixed and can’t be attached to the nearest week-end. That said, if the holiday is on a Thursday or Friday, many French “font le pont” (“make the bridge”) and just take the whole period off.
In Canada, the number of Public Holidays is a bit harder to calculate because some are federal while others are provincial. That said, the average calculated by Stats Can is… 11 days. That’s right, the same as in France. And in Canada, like Priyank noticed, a lot of holidays are placed at the end of the week so that people can have a long week-end. Oh, and if a Public Holiday occurs on a day that is normally not worked, then “… another day off with pay will be provided.” Cool, eh?
Alright: France 1 — Canada 1.
On a side note, most public holidays in France are related either to Christianity (Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Whit Monday) or to history (Bastille Day, Remembrance Day and Victory in Europe Day).
In Canada, some public holidays were just proclaimed as such and have little significance other than “yipee, I don’t work today and I still get paid”. For instance, Family Day and Civic Holiday. Québec also has the funny “vacances de la construction” (Construction Holiday) which takes place during the last two weeks of July. It applies officially only to the construction industry but many take their vacations during these two weeks.
How about for vacation? There is indeed a big difference between Canada and France. Labor law is complicated but most employees enjoy as much as 5 weeks paid vacation time a year. For some reason, the only time French ever consider to take their holidays is between July 14th and August 15th: resorts and beaches (especially in Southern France) are packed at this time of the year and this is the worse time to travel because freeways can be jammed for kilometers. Nonetheless, few French even consider not taking holidays during the summer and the country is said to be divided between “juilletistes” (people taking holidays in “juillet”, July) and “aoutiens” (people taking holidays in “août”, August).
Nearly all Canadian provinces require at least two weeks of paid vacation time a year. When taking their holidays, Canadians are more flexible. Well, for a start, a lot of people want to escape winter and week long sunny getaway in Florida, Mexico or the Caribbeans are popular from November to March. Some do take a vacation during the summer, especially to go camping or stay at the cottage.Others just take a long week-end here and there.
Granted, two weeks a year of paid vacation time isn’t much. It actually scares a lot of immigrants: going home overseas for only two weeks isn’t very realistic. The solution? Unpaid vacation time. Some employers are quite flexible with that. It is also worth noting that workdays are somewhat shorter and less stressful on this side of the Atlantic. In an office environment, it’s common to start between 8am and 10 am and to finish no later than 5pm. Working overtime isn’t usually praised: it can actually be not well thought of because it means you are not efficient!
Alright, I let you enjoy the rest of your holidays… if you have some! I’m in Toronto for a few days… before going back to work next week.