Five weeks of vacation, recurring cigarette-espresso breaks, and two hour lunches are among the stereotypes perpetuated about French work culture and I can say from experience, only two of three are still true today.
Reserving time for travel and personal time is as entrenched in French culture as those extended lunches that once helped define the workday. Vacation time begins at 5 weeks but can reach anywhere from 10-12 weeks depending on RTT days (paid days off resulting from the reduction in statutory weekly working hours from 39 to 35 hours). My husband has colleagues who have saved an entire year’s worth of vacation to take it the following year in one go. Can you imagine a U.S. company allowing someone to take an entire month off, even if it is owed to them? This does not, however, mean that the French are unproductive. They simply understand that to remain productive they need time to relax and recharge. They’re also not the only Europeans with generous holidays – Germans, Danes and Italians average more off days than the French.