BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK

Should Europe shut down in August?

"No I don't think so... the businesses you expect to be able to call on are closed, so you can't do anything, then others are open so you never know which ones are going to be available!"
Charo Odescalchi

"In France, the month of August is the only sure month when you will get sunshine and warmth."
Helene Veret

"Click here to listen to both sides of the debate"
Listen to our debate hosted by Laurence Zavriew. Do you agree with the views of our contributors?

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

The Background:

Have you tried to phone your friend in Paris this week? Or get in touch with a German government official? How about that helpful woman working as a researcher in Madrid?

Talking Point - Europewide
Yes, it's that time of year again - August, the silly season they call it here, the month when you can never find anyone or get anything done.

Are YOU part of the exodus - or does it drive you mad with frustration?

Should Europe continue to shut down in August?

For this week's Europewide debate, Laurence Zavriew is joined by Charo Odescalchi, a Basque journalist with the Spanish channel Canal Sur, and from Paris Helene Veret of Life magazine.

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

Your Reaction:

Shut down in August?? Lose an entire month in national productivity so you can take a break? Hasn't anyone in Europe got a work ethic? Get a clue!!!!
Jeff C, US

August is the best month to be at work in Europe, most people (who have children) take the month off, taking advantage of school holidays. In the office, the phone is quiet, you get a chance to get a lot done without constant interruptions of "normal" working periods, around town, the streets are quiet, parking is easy, restaurants are not full. This is the best time of the year!
Jim, Belgium/Denmark

I think all of Europe should take August off. Practically all of the countries within Europe apart from the UK do, so why not claim it a national holiday? It is very hard to work in an office environment when you know that most of your European counterparts are lapping it up on a beach somewhere. Besides, it is so much better to come back in September, relaxed, sun-kissed and, more importantly, rested.
Kate Singleton, England

Most UK companies given between 4 and 5 weeks holiday per annum, and I would hate to have to take any of that time off during August. I raised my children - I don't want to listen to other people's offspring scrapping and yelling into the late hours! Someday, hopefully, I'll be a grandma, and I look forward to playing with my grandchildren on holiday. In the interim between my own growing up, and they producing their own children, I'd like to take my holidays outside of school vacations please!
Trish, UK

Well, it probably shouldn't, it has no reason to, it is horribly spoilt, lazy and undeserving, but....WOULDN'T IT BE FABULOUS!? Just imagine how pleasant and chilled out everyone would be; crime rates, road rage et al might even go down! I think the whole world should join in...
Wendy, UK

I think it should all close down from May to October. In addition to this workers should get an additional 4 weeks off to take any time they please. As if anyone should be working at all, it's 1999 what happened to the robot workers? Anyone remember any World's Fairs? What happened to the world of tomorrow?
Gideon Stargrave, USA

When I listen to some of the comments written here, I feel like so sad for some people.... "It's a competitive world", "Working hard is relaxing"... What a load of rubbish. If the whole world took August off, then there would be no competition in August, no business/profit/money lost... And don't forget people, we were not born merely to be slaves to the economy...
Matt Law, UK

One should enjoy life throughout one's lifetime and not wait for retirement, many never make it at all. For those who do not live in sunny climates you will not understand what a blessing the sunshine in August is. If one's lifestyle and working patterns can revolve around working for 12 months with one month off, this may bring about a healthier population which in turn produces a healthy economy.
Melvyn Fernandes, UK

If people feel that they can't take their vacation in a continuous block then what's the point of having it? My wife had to fight her employer to get just ten days off to attend my Brother's wedding in England. When I go on such a trip so far away to visit family the biggest cost by far is the airfare, so it makes sense to make the most of it by staying for three weeks or more. Why are so many people so materialistic that they don't want to take time to enjoy the fruits of their labour?
Martin, Englishman in USA

YES, because despite the fact that work is good for the soul, most people live souless lives and work many years. In August paint a picture, ride a bike, whatever you do take the time to enrich your life. Most of life is someone else's illusion. Make August your own.
Mike, World traveller

Who on earth have ever proved that more time at work would improve your productivity????? It is simply not true that the number of hours at work indicate anything about a country's (or continent's or even person's) productivity. Work smarter, not longer!!!!!!!!
Just take a look at the automation in the US. They have people doing work that robots and machines do over here... I feel sorry for those people, no one should have to work under those conditions (but hey, they do provide the country with a lot of work hours!).
Jonas Fjallstrom, Sweden/Netherlands/US

Forcing people to take their holidays in the summer is hardly sensible in view of the high risk of skin cancer at that time of year. Those of us with very fair skins, find the summer a very difficult time to take our holidays because of the extreme discomfort it gives us.
Alister, UK

Hey Tom (Australia) - spend August in Scotland, it never shuts down!
Heike Bley, Scotland

I have worked both in the UK and the US. I see here in the US that holiday time is and taken on the basis of economic effectiveness. In Europe I see that holiday time is taken despite economic effectiveness. That's may be why I can buy a lot more, for a lot less in the US but see European value for money slipping farther and farther away from average incomes.
K. Jackson, USA

Just one point. If the whole of Europe shuts, who is going to provide the services required by all these holiday makers? Hotel and Leisure workers will have the same right to time off in August as everybody else. So, Tom in Australia, stay where you are, we are all coming over there.
Brian Lee, England

We shouldn't forget that the US shuts down from Thanksgiving until after the new year. It is impossible to get anything done in this period.
Tom, Addition.

Certainly not. Here in the UK, we work longer hours than anyone else in Europe and as such are wealthy and successful. It is the southern countries that tend to work less, have most afternoons off (summer or winter), and get less done. The French love to strike when the British are on holiday and freely admit so. The sooner the UK makes closer ties to the US in terms of trade, and we forget about Europe, the better. The once great power houses of Germany and France are now decrepit and should not be allowed to pull the hardworking countries down.
Tom , UK (not Australia - fortunately)

Has anyone considered what an August shutdown would do to the price of summer holidays? Living on an island makes it expensive enough, without the whole of the workforce trying to be abroad at the same time. We are all different and like different types of holiday, forcing us to take time off at the same time would be wrong. Leave it up to individual countries to choose their holiday time. Also, if we all holidayed in August - who would clean our hotel rooms, cook our dinners etc?
Siobhan, Norway (Brit abroad)

No way! I have to be in Milano for the 2 following weeks working and I am quite scared to find out that shops, offices and so on will be shut down...a typical shameful EU habit; especially in Southern not keeping shops open on Sunday (Italy & Germany are Teocracies and not Democracies...)
Roberto Balistrieri, Italy

There is more to life than working too hard. However, in a competitive world, one can have only so much leisure time. The real question is how we can be innovative in our work lives to strike the right balance, which would be to remain competitive while having adequate time off. How can we be as productive with less effort and stress in our lives. Improvements in worker productivity, flexible work hours, flexible vacation planning. For those days that there is little work, get your work done and leave early, etc. Perhaps there will come a time that the world at large can agree that the right to work should include the right to have time-off.
Nicholas Wright, United States

Yes, it should shut down and it should be the standard the world over! With US business trying to squeeze every bit of productivity out of workers, its no wonder people shoot their co-workers over here!
L. Clifford, USA

I would suggest that there is no great disparity in the amount of holidays taken by national populations. Yannick Vaillancourt has somehow acquired the belief that the whole of Europe takes 6 weeks holiday, if only! I work for a large US company and they provide 5 weeks vacations. Yes, this is longer than the average US holiday which Vaillancourt quotes. However, add on to that the disproportionate amount of public holidays which the US get and the times are about the same. One distinction I would like to make is that the idea of an extended holiday across summer is a peculiarly continental European thing. I don't know of anyone in the UK who takes more then three weeks holiday across summer. Whether this is reflective of the fact that the British summer is not too dissimilar to the British winter I am not sure, but none the less I have found business in the UK equally responsive across summer as at any other time of the year.

I don't see why Europe should shut down in August. But I do think it would be a wonderful idea for the European Union to shut down. In fact, it should shut down from the beginning of July until the end of August, every year.
D.J. K. Carr, England

I worked hard to be transferred to Europe, so that I can enjoy the long summer vacation which you can never get in Japan! Please don't let me down through becoming like USA or JAPAN.
Kaku Suzuki, Japanese in Belgium

Enjoy it while you can. For the last 10 years my husband's job has dictated his holidays, 10 paid days off per year taken over Christmas/New year, whether we like it or not. We haven't had a warm weather holiday since 1984!! US business vacations are the worst! Don't let anyone take away your August tradition. My kids could do with a beach holiday that includes Dad!
Pauline , US ex UK

There is more to life than working too hard. However, in a competitive world, one can have only so much leisure time. The real question is how we can be innovative in our work lives to strike the right balance, which would be to remain competitive while having adequate time off. How can we be as productive with less effort and stress in our lives. Improvements in worker productivity, flexible work hours, flexible vacation planning might have some of the answers. For those days that there is little work, get your work done and leave early, etc. Perhaps there will come a time that the world at large can agree when the right to work should include the right to have time-off.
Nicholas Wright, United States

Some people take things too seriously. If August is the silly season with loads of people off so be it. The work will get done in the end and the world wont come to an end if August is a bit "slow". Life is too short folks, enjoy the weather while its here!
Matt, Ireland

I get 20 days holiday a year, which I can take whenever I can. It just happens that I've decided to take the whole of August off, it's too hot to work and I deserve a break. Anybody who thinks otherwise can take a jump.
Ben Synnock, UK

Unfortunately, here in Sweden, not only do we lose the four weeks of July there is also a "run down period" of two weeks either side. This equates to 1/6th out of your programme year lost and thus, 1/6th of wealth generation activity lost. Having to wait 4 - 6 weeks for an answer from a supplier is very frustrating. Sweden's economy is heavily overburdened with high social benefits, high tax and high unemployment and can not afford the loss of 1/6 of it's wealth creating potential. Apply the same approach across Europe and the ECU will have very little chance of recovery against the "mighty" Dollar.
In the US, the so called "Work" ethic is something of a myth - being at your workplace for longer periods does not necessarily make an individual more productive. Corporate America's greed in minimising employee Vacation to 5 or 10 days a year is far too extreme. As with everything in life, there's a balance to be struck. Yes, 4 - 6 weeks vacation per year helps maintain a healthy, happy and productive workforce, but at least allow the individual to spread that vacation time through out the year. That way when you need goods or services at least you'll be able to get assistance throughout the year without having to wait 4 - 6 weeks!
Chris Dover, Sweden

The European Union is a reflection of the people of Europe, and as most countries (Italy, France etc) do close down in August, then the European Union will do the same. But then the Commission could close down for three months and nothing much would change and certainly the citizens wouldn't notice a difference.
Jonathan Harford, Belgium

Yes, shut down for an entire month so the next multi-national company or ultra-competitive third world country (with cheap labour prices) can steal even more of your jobs and force even more of your companies to relocate. This mindset is amazing!!

"Click here to listen to both sides of the debate"
It is high time for Europeans to start looking inwards rather than outwards (read: USA) for the roots of their woes. The global economy is a tough place which will require tough action in order to be successful. Is it any wonder that more and more successful citizens from India and other third world countries are choosing to work in the USA over the UK and the rest of Europe?
Ravi Patel, India

Why not? Surely one month a year people who are slaves to capitalism the rest of the year can have a bit of leisure time. I think it is extremely civilised and the UK and USA should learn from it. After all our Parliament shuts from July to October so why begrudge time to the rest of us?
Barry Tregear, England

Current situation is ideally suited to the few that remain at their respective work stations. The enormous overtime payments made during the month of August enable me to take fantastic vacations in the peace and serenity of September without paying the inflated "high season" prices. Long live the silly season.
Henry Parsons, Netherlands

It seems that the continent that brought us the scientific and industrial revolutions is ready to hit the bench at the dawn of another revolution. With globalisation and the explosion in information technology, Europe can ill afford to take a break when it has already fallen behind America and is losing the distance between a resurgent Asia. Europe can avoid the temptations of comfort and reinvent itself or it can follow contentedly in the path of Ancient Rome.
Dave Gates, US

The decision to remain open in August should remain with each organisation, free from government interference. However, given the high unemployment, Europe needs as much productive work as possible.
Mark Frederick, USA

Why should I be forced to take my holidays in the sweaty season when I'd rather take them in the skiing season?
Ahmed Arif, France

To Tom in Australia. Yet more evidence of Australians with chips on their shoulders concerning Europe. How sad - Get over it like we have in the US
Mark Parish, USA

It is a quality of life decision. In the US, I could probably negotiate having August off in exchange for a smaller salary. This premise holds true for nations and "common markets" as well. If a society chooses to have an entire month of leisure it shouldn't expect to create wealth at the same rate as a society that works twelve months. In conclusion, I am very jealous. Enjoy your holiday!
Joe C, USA

Europe is already not very competitive, and is has a huge welfare state. Let the ones who want to work - work and earn money, the others can take time off with no money or benefits from the state. And another thing, those who work in August don't have to pay the massive taxes, yipee all of Europe will then be like America, nothing like money to get you going.
Chris Oberou, USA

It boggles my mind that someone would think to set the vacation policy for an entire continent.
PJ Harsh, USA

For many businesses, it is highly convenient to close down at some well-defined period. For example, manufacturing plants can perform maintenance on otherwise occupied machinery. The last few years I worked in Europe, July and August were always the busiest periods of the year since that is when many large organisations issue RFPs, expecting responses to be on their desks at the return from vacation. The problem, though, is that governments and companies are trying hard to spread the vacation period so that problems in contacting personnel now occur from June through September.
Graham Nash, USA

It's splendid! Life is to enjoy and what better time to spend with family and friends. I've just recently started full-time work, and I definitely miss having the summers to play.
Amishi Gandhi, USA

This is just another example of differences in the work ethic between Europe and the Americas. Europeans seem to enjoy cushy benefits. The trade off is high unemployment. In contrast, here in the US the unemployment rate is down to 4%. My advice to the Europeans is to watch out - immigrants who are willing to work much harder for less just might take your jobs someday!
Darrin Higdon, USA

If Europe closed down in August what would happen here in Sweden. It is already closed for all July.
George Dryden, Sweden

Why work throughout the best month of the year? It is not idleness, but a will for the better things in life. What is the point of working yourself to death if you cannot enjoy life? Let's take time off to relax, and we should do it whilst we are young enough to enjoy it! I don't want to have to wait until I'm 65 before I take time out!
Tony Little, United Kingdom

Would the last person through the chunnel turn out the light?
Chris Meadows, USA

One good thing for sure in Europe is that you have 6 weeks of holidays. This is something one can appreciate. Here in America we go more for 2 to 4 weeks and you're never sure you can take them when you want. It sure is tiring. Why not shut in August, if no one works, who will suffer from not reaching other people? I say it is a good thing for you, Europeans, that not many people can enjoy so you should stick to it.
Yanick Vaillancourt, Québec

In answer to Tom of Australia, if you believe Britain is a "rip off" and "yuk" then do us a favour and stay at home. August or any other time.
Henrich, Germany (living in London)

And you guys accuse AMERICANS of being lazy!
Nathan Stewart, USA

I think Europeans should certainly take August. Americans are far too retentive when it comes to taking vacation. DO not be influenced by the terrible work ethics of the Americans!
David, USA

Yes Europe, go on with your idleness and one day you'll be shut down for ever. It was hard work that made Europe a leading and creative factor/power over the past odd 400 years, not idleness.
Wulf-Dieter Krüger, Thailand

No! I'm coming over in August, if it is shut down, I'll be marooned in rip-off Britain, yuk!
Tom, Australia

Should Europe shut down in August?

Final Votes:


Yes: 44% No: 56%

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Live Talking Points

Is Boris Yeltsin the trouble with Russia?

Should Europe shut down in August?

Are player demands ruining soccer?

Should German be one of the EU's working languages?

Should the European Union try to solve the Northern Ireland question?

Should there be quotas for women at work?

Should Europe be afraid of genetically modified foods?

Should there be an independent Kosovo?

Should Europe bother electing a parliament?

Is the Euro fatally flawed?

Are referendums democratic?

Should men be forced by law to do half the housework?

Should Europe be alarmed by Boris Yeltsin's Russia?

Can Serbia reform itself?

Was the Nato intervention a mistake?

Should the bombing stop?