The United States is notoriously bad for work-life balance. Seriously bad. Standard paid vacation is 10 days and 5 days is the standard for sick leave. 10 days doesn’t go a very long way… especially when you need to visit family and friends in various parts of the country. That leaves about nothing for actual travel to new places.
Work-life balance is just one of the many reasons why I moved to Australia. 20 days is the minimum paid vacation in Australia – twice that of the US – but note that my company allowed me to opt for 30 days with a slight reduction in my fortnightly paycheck. Sweet! My sick days are also twice the US – at 10 paid per year, though I only ended up taking 1 last year. That was foolish of me.
Did I mention that working hours are shorter? Most people work 9 to 5 here, and I managed to keep that up for a year until my team at work rapidly shrunk. We’re building it up again and I’m determined to get my 9 to 5 back before year’s end. But even with that, my hours back in Seattle were generally long on a normal basis – more like 8 to 6. That just rarely happens here. 5pm rolls around and people start heading out the door. When the clock hits 5:30 the office verges on becoming a ghost town.
Of course, this all varies by industry and individual and such, but you get the general idea. The best part of all of this – for me at least – is the travel. I worked in Seattle for four years, and by the time I went to Florida to see my mom, Houston to see my college friends, Dallas to see my grandma, and New York and DC to see my high school friends who had moved up there, my 10 days were pretty much gone. As for proper vacations – not counting random weekends away to Los Angeles or Vancouver – I had one real one during the course of four years. I went to Israel and Jordan for 3 weeks and most of that ended up being unpaid vacation. Thankfully my employer liked me and allowed me to do it.
By comparison, let’s take a look at 2011 working in Sydney. I took a week and a half in January to head to Perth, another week in April to head to Adelaide and Melbourne, and yet another week in July to head to Melbourne and the Northern Territory. And I’m nowhere near done yet. Tomorrow, I have the luxury of taking two weeks off and heading to Asia for the first time. I’ll be hitting up China: Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and a few places in between, along with stops in Macau and Hong Kong at the end. This would never happen in America. This could never happen in America. But it’s fairly commonplace in Australia.
And the icing on the cake: I still have another week to use. Maybe I’ll carry it over to next year. Woohoo!
Of course, I’ll be busy seeing as much as possible in China – and avoiding squat toilets at all costs – so I won’t be blogging until I return at the end of the month. Don’t forget about me.