America is the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the nation of the stressed.

We work somewhere between 35 and 45 hours per week on average. Around 80 percent of us report being stressed.

Even when Americans have the chance to take vacation time, many of us choose not to. In 2014, nearly 46 percent of Americans chose not to take vacation time. Why is that? Do we feel obligated to stay? Are we afraid of losing money?

Whatever the case, many workers in advanced countries around the world report having better conditions than Americans and being less stressed. So here are some of the better conditions workers have in foreign countries.


  • Danish workers usually spend about 1,440 to 1,540 hours at work each year while American workers spend about 1,790 hours at work per year. That is about 27 hours versus 35 hours each week.
  • Employers in Denmark use the low power distance philosophy when giving orders. A direct order is hardly ever given, and Danish employees tend to view direct orders as suggestions. This gives Danish employees more autonomy at work.
  • The Dutch practice active labor market policy which is essentially a push for life-long learning at work. Danish workers are allowed and encouraged to attend paid training to pick up new skills needed for the workplace.
  • Perhaps one of the most important reasons Danish workers are less stressed is a word that exists in Danish that does not exist in English. This word is arbejdsglæde. It means “happiness at work.” It is that simple. Perhaps the simplicity is another reason the Danish are happier at work than Americans.


  • In France, workers are guaranteed 30 days of paid vacation time per year in addition to 11 public holidays. Vacation time is viewed as a right, not a privilege.
  • They are paid overtime for working more than 35 hours a week. In fact, French employees, excepting managers, must request to work over 35 hours.
  • Average US dollar amount paid to French workers is $64 per hour. This is more than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s average of $49 per hour.

As a result of these working conditions, only 18 percent of French workers report being stressed.


  • Working late is not an option. This company in Amsterdam cannot work past 6 p.m. as their desks are retracted into the ceiling to make room for “creative community uses.” It is highly encouraged by the workplace and the government that a worker in the Netherlands work only 40 hours per week.
  • Breaks are strictly enforced. Workers in the Netherlands are given a 30 minute break after completing 4 to 5 hours of work each day.
  • Legally, four times the number of working days per week should be given minimum in annual leave. For a 40 hour work week, that is 20 days.


There are negatives to living in these countries not covered in this article such as income tax and strict employment laws. However, Americans can still take a lesson from our fellow humans from abroad in learning to love life and take a break.

We know what hard work means, but what we need to learn is how to work hard and play hard. Here’s to learning happiness at work, leaving work at work, and remembering we are an independent person who exists for more than working!




Americans need way more vacation.

Posted by ATTN: on Saturday, August 13, 2016