10 Things Americans Can Learn From Europeans About Enjoying Time Off

Americans are notorious hard workers. What can we learn from our European counterparts to enjoy time off?

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) surveyed its North America-based members on what they can learn from Europeans about enjoying time off from work.

1. Don’t Rush Home

Nathaniel Broughton

Having just spent two weeks in Stockholm, I noticed how often businesspeople popped into coffee shops and pubs in the late afternoon. Avoid hopping in your car and speeding home – or sitting in traffic. Go for a short walk, poke your head into a bar, and take 30 minutes to wind down. It’ll feel like a vacation no matter the day of the week.

– Nathaniel Broughton, Plus2 Capital

2. Avoid the Sad Desk Lunch

Sam Saxton

Europeans understand the need for a midday break. Spain has its siesta and Italy its riposo, but too many Americans enjoy their lunch hunched over a keyboard. Take your sandwich outside this summer; you’ll enjoy it.




– Sam Saxton, Mylen Stairs

3. Work Is But One Part of Life


Jay Johnson

In my travels to Europe, I always find their mentality to be that of work is a portion of life.  As Americans, we tend to define ourselves by our profession, but in Europe, it is but a part of who they are. Transitioning this idea to time off helps you enjoy your time off much more, whether you are by yourself, with friends or with your family.


– Jay Johnson, Small Lot Wine

4. The Germans Nail It With Separation of Work and Private Life

Pratham Mittal

As far as working hours go, Germans, who were full-time employees in 2011, worked an average of just 35 hours a week while maintaining a high level of productivity. This is mainly because they have a conservative outlook on out-of-hours work, i.e. it doesn’t exist in principle. They nurture the value of separating work and private life. This is a great ethic to imbibe at our workplaces.

– Pratham Mittal, VenturePact

5. Be Present

Robby Berthume

Since I co-founded a company in Belgrade, Serbia nearly 10 years ago, I have had the opportunity to travel across Europe extensively and I’m always struck by many Europeans’ abilities to be present and in the moment. Whether it’s an afternoon coffee, a brisk walk or their holiday, they are present. Americans may be hard workers, but we don’t know when to shut it down. And it’s killing us.

– Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard

6. Vacations Should Not Be The Only Time Off

Giuseppe Stuto

To most people, “time off” has to be in the form of a vacation. Although full days off consist of the most downtime, it isn’t the best way to actually de-stress long term. Training yourself to both prioritize and optimize pockets of time when you can “turn off” is the ultimate solution and something that our European counterparts do very well.


– Giuseppe Stuto, SmackHigh

7. Turn Off All Notifications On Your Phone

Anshey Bhatia

Notifications for emails, text messages, social media platforms and everything in between are huge distractions for the mind. Make sure all of your notifications are off when you’re on vacation, and only check one or two times per day. Going a step further by integrating this technique into your day-to-day schedule will allow you to have a clear mind and accomplish much more in a shorter time.

– Anshey Bhatia, Verbal+Visual

8. More Vacation Days Don’t Mean Less Productivity

Magnus Simonarson

I’m originally from Europe, but I run a business in the U.S. I grew up with my parents having five weeks paid vacation and 24 sick day allowance each year. This article summarizes my thoughts. It’s important to remember: More vacation doesn’t mean a less productive workforce.



– Magnus Simonarson, Consultwebs

9. “La Dolce Far Niente”

Bryanne Lawless

On a typical day, we barely have time for a quick lunch break, which is why I’ve begun to schedule 10-15 minutes each day to something as small as a breather on the balcony, and encourage my team to do the same. This is something I learned when I was in Italy last year and was told that one of the most important things to cherish is “dolce far niente,” or the sweetness of doing nothing.

– Bryanne Lawless, BLND Public Relations

10. Long Hours Don’t Mean Greater Productivity

Justin Blanchard

While it’s true that America has a culture of hard work, it sometimes lacks a culture of smart work. I want long-term consistent productivity, not the productivity theater of 16-hour days and crunch time. The most productive employees work hard, but they also have rich and rewarding personal lives, with a barrier between work and personal time that’s respected by employers.

– Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.



Young Entrepreneur Council

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective (http://businesscollective.com), a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

  • Siniša Šašić

    Nice observations. I’d also add that European countries/cultures may differ a lot in their perception of time-off. In my opinion, Mediterranean, southern and south-eastern countries are more natural in “getting” the leisure and incorporating it in their daily life than north/western countries.

    Unfortunately, with the increasing influence of harsh reality of liberal capitalism in their economies, particularly in less developed European countries, this perception has started to change.

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