When asked what I like most about living in Germany I smile gleefully and say it’s the endless holidays. 30 days statutory holiday and some 12 public days off (compared to 8 in the UK or 10 in the US) has to hit world top spot. The nice thing about Public Holidays here is that’s exactly what they are: the vast majority of the working public is free.
Emergency and other essential services apart, virtually the only people working on public hols are in the catering industry, dishing up mountains of Kaffee and Kuchen at touristy hotspots Deutschlandwide. OK, you might spend half the day in traffic jams getting to your top-of the-mountain or by-the-lake hangout, but no one forces you onto the roads.
This paints a stark contrast to the UK, where Bank Holidays are more about Shop Till You Drop. As I write, another August Bank Holiday Monday draws to a close in Britain. And yes, the tills in virtually all stores and corner shops throughout the nation have been ringtingtingling like one-arm bandits on a jackpot roll. With millions of sales staff parted from partners and family for the day this surely goes against the originally social-spirited Great British Public Holiday Act of 1871.
Just in case you wondered, Bank Holidays are so called because they were enforced by a banker, Sir John Lubbock. Sir John, like every good English gentleman, was an enthusiastic supporter of cricket. He believed that bank employees should have the opportunity to participate in matches whenever they were scheduled. Interestingly, since 1971 all British bank holidays have been held on Mondays. This was to circumvent the problem of employees missing their day’s holiday whenever it fell at the weekend. Unlike in Germany….
A propos Germany, the next Public Holiday is Tag der deutschen Einheit, or German Unification Day, on 3 October. No prizes for guessing which day it falls on this year. No offence, Bob Geldorf, but I for one do like Mondays.